I’ve been relatively silent in this stream for a number of months now. Huge changes unfolded over those months, including important perspective shifts and closing of chapters that had served their time. There has been grief, transition, experimentation, re-starting and stripping down to the basics.
I spent a period of time putting a degree of time and energy I barely had into a workplace that turned out to be toxic for me.
I left the home I thought I would never leave, after hard evaluations about what level of collaboration and interdependence homesteading takes and the realities of living remotely with a small kid.
It’s now been six months since I stopped feeding Sea from my body, 4 since the housing downsize and almost 2 since cutting the toxic job.
Yesterday I looked down at my body and saw me again. Over the past year, often what I saw when I looked was just a frame. I was gaunt, a walking skeleton.
Photos by Colleen Langford
I tried to delay adjusting my diet until I had confirmed that Sea was getting allergic reactions from proteins I was passing through my milk. Once confirmed, I really had limited choice. If I wanted to keep nursing, which I did, I had to cut back hard. But for a full year I was completely dairy free and breastfeeding night and day. If I put cream in my coffee, Sea would itch for 2 days. I got so cold last winter, as I had no body fat to keep me warm. I became more and more resolute in the belief that my winter warmth can be attributed to butter and cheese sauce. I lost too much weight, cutting this fat out of my diet and then being drained. When I eventually had to stop breastfeeding so I could go on a very needed round of antibiotics, I hoped it would help me gain enough to start feeling me again.
As I was struggling to deal with a toxic job, I didn’t have the capacity to prepare food. I was grateful to folks who came over and helped, filling my fridge, buddying grocery trips and reminding me the harm reduction of eating out, even eating trash. It seems that I have a recurring pattern where as stress levels rise, the attention paid to the basic needs of my mortal form get dropped or ignored. And as people who have spent time pushing through hunger, or being legit malnourished know, that state is really shitty at reducing and managing stress. So it feeds itself. By not feeding. I guess this is where the dis-order comes in.
Body image stuff is strange for trans folks. If we are to measure our bodies on cisbinary criteria, there will probably always be things that stand out to us as failures. If we want to get healthy, looking to resources about healthy eating, exercise and even psychologically based supports we find the resources largely written for cis-binary folks. Trans folks who are held up as athletes and body builders have largely had to conform very rigidly in order to have the opportunities to train or play. Examples of non-binary people existing as well and active in their bodies are still largely underground, self created and tbh, non existent. Add in trans pregnancy, or a disordered eating history, or disability and we are left with …. well whatever we see in the mirror.
While I was on vacation, trying to pull the pieces of all this together, I came across this interactive video tech install at the Ontario Science Centre. I stood in it through a few cycles. And then recorded what I saw. Because I’ve attempted to explain what body dysmorphia feels like, to limited success to people without lived experience. This video effect came close to what it’s like for me, the grotesque and unstopping undulation, refractions and self critiques.
So all this to say, yesterday I looked down at my naked body. I felt my belly full of delicious and nutritious food I had lovingly cooked and saw the way my hips sit wider now. I had a moment of acknowledging the confidence I have regained in the kitchen and appreciating all the delicious things I had fed myself with recently. I saw the ways that hormones, and coming off, and going on, and growing a baby, and feeding that baby, and restricting my diet with that baby, and the disorder that erupted in response to toxicity at home and work. I saw the positive and affirmational outcomes of a “If you think about food you have to eat” strategy.
And I offered love to this body for going through all that. And a gentleness and compassion for all that will still come. Whatever happens with my fertility, or my hormone levels and medical transition options, I am a human living in a mortal corpse. I mark another year of being here this week. I know that my body will continue to change as I age. Seeing the industries selling antidotes to age, also so heavily gendered, I’ll take my transferable body appreciation skill and apply it in resistance.
I have seen my body change. Obscene huge amounts. I’ve looked at what I have become and felt hatred, disgust, fear, discomfort, amazement, incredulity, but more recently, I’m trying on love and gratitude. I wish to honour and love my trans body as something that has incredible abilities. I can grow a mustache and a baby. My trans body is an incredible gift. And I know that it takes a lot of work, my own and the support of those around me, to take good care of it.
Today. As the work that lays ahead of me is a special sort of self love that can include cream filled donuts, Sea safe meals with “just-for-papa” toppings, working out and jerking off; I’m happy to rise to the task.