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from small to extra large

Seeing Lisa post about weight/size got me thinking about the whole size issue. I have talked about this before but I don’t think in quite this way.

One of the hardest ~transitions~ about changing my presentation from butch to femme has to do with clothes (and size in general). For various reasons using the BMI has never been all that useful (between lifting weights and how long my body holds onto muscle it just was never very accurate – beyond the fact that is bullshit anyway). I’m currently at my fatest even though my overall weight is only about 20lbs heavier than when I was going to the gym a lot – and I’m learning the fact that fat does take up more space per pound than muscle. At this point I generally just think of myself as overweight, edging towards chubby.

The thing about my body though is that despite the additional 20lbs of fat, its more or less the same. I’m the same height. I’m not that significantly heavier than before. I think I might’ve only gone up one or two sizes for men’s pants (though I haven’t tried).

Except that….

I went from wearing a small to wearing extra large.

Clothing shopping before was a trial because it was hard to find clothing that was small enough for me to wear. There was a certain set of stores I typically went to because their size small was something that generally didn’t look horrible on me. But… clothes rarely ever fit me right and I generally hated how I looked.

Now… I have a few stores I go to because I know their extra large size for women will actually fit me okay. And the problems for finding well-fitted clothing are just as difficult and limited but for generally the opposite reasons. Yet… clothes still rarely fit me right and I hate how I look in most of them (compounded by the fact that my poverty means that ugly clothing is about all I can afford).

Ever since my first bout with either disordered eating or a full blown eating disorder, I’ve had issues with food. Not so much my size – although the fact that I basically stopped eating contributed to that psychotic breakdown I had when I was 19. The last 10 or so years of my life has been slow yo-yo dieting in the sense that, I’d gain some weight and then work to lose it – usually slowly and mostly just via exercise and cutting out the baked goods I love so much.

Much like body hair, size has a lot of complicated layers in my life. As a young asian twink it was expected that I’d be smooth and slender. This is what predatory white men with yellow fever want. And since they were about the only people who paid attention to me during my formative years in the gay community, this is the body I thought I needed.

Later, in my mid-20s, this whole thing was compounded by the fact that online dating/hookups were becoming a Big Thing and I very much learned why the only people who paid me any attention were predatory white men with yellow fever. Being a femme asian in the gay community is one of the most undesirable things you can be. If I’d been fat, then I’d have had the golden trifecta of repulsiveness. Everyone knows the jokes about ‘no fats, no femmes, no asians’1.

And now… Well, I’m still a femme asian but I’m presenting as a woman most days and, wow, its interesting to see how pretty much all of the same beauty standards apply to me. To be a beautiful asian girl, you need to be small and slender. By this new set of standards I’m too big. Too tall. Too fat. Just too.

Its funny. Being 5’7″ I’ve never felt short in my life, in part because I’m the tallest person in my atomic family. I still find it mindboggling that people think men my height are short. But I know I feel absolutely G I G A N T I C as an asian girl. And… at least compared to my sister, I kind of am (she’s 5’1″ and is slim and petite enough).

Maybe if I’d grown up around my white family I wouldn’t feel like such a huge girl. But… I didn’t. With my recent switch I’m probably the tallest girl in my entire extended family. Straining my mind I can think of maybe one cousin who might be just a few inches shorter as the next tallest.

The fact that I can only fit into some extra larges at non-plus sized stores doesn’t help. And I wish it only stopped at the racial stuff…. but let’s toss in some gendered aspects.

Even if I were at my slimmest, I still wouldn’t be able to wear many of the smaller sizes for women. Noted above… I used to lift weights and my body holds onto muscle for a very long time. This means that despite it being more than five years since I lifted a weight, I still have big beefy arms. They’ve lost some definition but they are still mostly muscle (very little is jiggling). So too with my calves and thighs (my thighs have gotten a nice layer of fat over the muscle but the muscle hasn’t significantly reduced).

At new stores I will usually try to see if I can fit into a large. Sometimes I can… at least in terms of my belly. But often I can’t even fit my arms through the sleeves. Or pull the pants past my calves. Toss in wearing size 12 shoes…

Yes. I feel huge. Massive. I’m not… Lisa mentions plane seats and I still fit very comfortably in them. People don’t cringe when I sit next to them on the bus. The only people who generally ever tell me that I’m overweight are medical professionals (which is a Thing but not as bad as dealing with it every single day).

(I got distracted and have no idea where I was trying to go with this post, so I’m stopping here.)

  • Depending on your geography the race listed might be different. In the city where I did all of my online dating, it was always asian since the asian population was very large and white men needed to be very clear they wouldn't touch us.  </fn></footnotes>