The dreaded bathing suit and it’s impact on my learning to love my body

When I was in 6th grade I had a girlfriend, my first in fact. Her name was Sara Ferguson. She was also the first person I kissed. After our “relationship” ended, as in when summer began, I used to run into her at the town swimming pool all the time. It was a small town. The girl looked amazing to me and all my friends who had huge crushes on her. She was pretty cute. I lived in a small country hick town in Kansas. She had just moved there from the exotic and foreign land of California. She had his mystery about her that drove us geeky kids wild. Of course she had a flaw.

The girl thought she was fat. She was very thing let me tell you. I got to see her in that bathing suit and let me tell you she was not fat. I was, absolutely mom and gym teacher plus bullies all reminded me of that near constantly. So were two of my other friends who idolized this girl. None of us could believe how she could possibly believe she was overweight. 

That’s the thing with body dysmorphia and other disorders where you learn to hate yourself for your appearance. It is an unfortunate side effect of a western culture obsessed with looks and beauty, aka sex appeal. It is a society that rewards those with sex appeal and tortures those deemed to not. 

I, on the other hand, was very much overweight. I had a protruding gut, “man boobs” and a double chin. Things that other, athletic aka thin kids picked up on, and picked on quite a bit. 

I began secretly crossdressing at the age of 11. The first time, let me tell you I still remember the feeling of euphoria that day when I put on a girl panty and dress. It was the greatest day of my young life. One of the first articles of clothing I discovered was an absolute necessity was a swimming suit. I needed something to not only cover up the ugly fat body I was cursed with, but to hide the boy parts and help shape me into a slightly more feminine look. I insisted on wearing this swimming suit in the shower or bathtub. It caused me anxiety whenever I was in a situation such as camp or a school away trip where I couldn’t bring my swimming suit but was still expected to shower or bath. I couldn’t explain to my parents the reason I refused to shower so often, which led to more bullying because let’s face it I smelled and had crusty hair not going to lie. The truth is I hated looking down and seeing that penis staring me in the face. It sure had an ugly face too. If I could bring my bathing suit I was fine. I intentionally called it a bathing suit internally to remind me it was for taking baths or showers. It was something I needed to perform a basic human task because gender dysphoria is so extreme at times. I’ll say it, having one probably helped keep me alive. 

By the time I was into my teen years I was semi athletic. I had gotten into breakdancing along with some friends, male and female so it felt gender neutral enough for me to enjoy plus it gave me an excuse to listen to disco music publicly. I was also in track and field as a shotput thrower and distance runner. I wasn’t getting into great shape but at the urging of my peers, this time in a positive manner, I was trying. Something happened that pushed me back into panic mode and depression yet again. I stepped on a scale and had lost nearly 30 pounds. I was getting fit. My muscles were expanding and hardening. My gut was flattening out. So was my chest to my horror. Even though they were just “man boobs” I needed breast tissue to push back the dysphoria. I needed to have fatty tissue because it helped keep me soft and feminine. I went on a binge eating spree. I gained 60 pounds back to erase the “damage” I had done. I would stuff myself silly, gorge on junk food, drink nothing but soda and Kool Aid and kept pushing myself. I couldn’t lose weight. If I did, I risked looking too much like a guy. 

Of course now at nearly 39 years old I am transitioning and once again trying to lose some weight. This time it is for the right reasons not peer pressure. Health reasons. My doctor diagnosed me with prediabetes and high cholesterol. He said it was imperative I lose weight. Also there is the transitioning benefit. The more weight I burn from my belly the more it will redistribute to the places I want it to be, like my breasts, inner thighs and maybe my booty. 

Yesterday I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts, Frigay The 13th. It’s a show where two gay men talk about horror in real life and horror in the media. The topic that got me was body image. I broke down into tears. I have long struggled with hating my body. Either because it had too much fat on it, or when it didn’t have the right fat in the right places. My choices were harmful. Even now my constant throwing up could be a psychosomatic manifestation of that internalized hatred of my own body. I have been to doctors and even the ER and they can’t find anything physically wrong with me causing all the puking. I know it’s not bulimia because it’s not conscious and I do resist the urge to puke but I can’ help it I’ve thrown up at least a third of the meals I have consumed in the last two months. Even if it’s subconscious or not I have in the past considered puking as a method of weight loss.

Listening to those two men read stories of women who starved themselves to death broke my heart. I have friends in the spotlight. Good, intelligent women who have to maintain a certain body image to preserve their careers. It is a disgusting world we live in where women are valued by their sex appeal. As a woman who feels very unsexy most of the time I can tell you it is indeed a terrible feeling hating your own body.

Do I want to be thin and pretty? No I like being fluffy. I enjoy eating. I want to lose enough weight to stave of further damage to my body. I want to redistribute the weight I have left to the places I would prefer it to reside. I want to adjust my diet to intake foods that will help me live longer. But I don’t want to be thin. No offense to those who are, you are beautiful no matter what. That is where I want to get into my head, find my own beauty and ignore the haters calling me fat, even the voices that whisper it to me in my own head. Because I a beautiful and nobody can tell me otherwise.

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Stephanie Bri

A transgender writer who also does podcasts and videos.