Big, Burly, and BeautifulPosted: August 29, 2016
This piece was first published in the zine, Not Trans Enough. Written by Rhiannon Robear; reprinted with permission.
One night this summer, I was at the gay club looking glam, and having a smoke break outside with my friends. A cis gay guy came up to us and started talking about trans things in that “you’re a visibly trans and/or gender non-conforming person so I’m about to lay down all my trans knowledge, thoughts, and critiques for you” kind of way (a.k.a. completely unasked/unwanted). Overall it was a real drag, and I brushed him off mostly, but then he held my hands and looked me in the eyes and said, “baby, I know you’re trying to be the belle of the ball, but the reality is you’re built like a 6 foot amazon linebacker, and you need to work that.” I was taken aback like where the fuck do you get off telling me who I am and what I should do. But as much as I hate entertaining cis-notions of what trans people are or should be, what he said was true, and deep inside me I knew I felt that and it was the first time someone told me that I could &should be a woman on my own terms.
The reality is: I’m 5’11, probably between 250-300 pounds, hairy as all hell, and I wear size 13 women’s shoes: I’m a big girl. I spent years of my life identifying as a gay man, and trying to work at accepting and loving my body & myself in a culture that taught me that being fat & being femme made me undesireable, unattractive, and inferior. It took me YEARS to be comfortable with who I am, and that process has changed me, and how I value myself – simply put: I don’t do things for other people anymore, I do things for myself.
I identified as non-binary for the past two years, and over this time, I’ve slowly began to come into myself as a woman, and I’m currently in the process of coming out as a transgender woman. It’s very exciting and liberating and I’m now out at work and am ‘test driving’ my new name and pronouns. This being said, what I am most dreading about coming out isn’t being faced with disapproval or abandonment (I am privileged with supportive family and friends), but more about those in my life forcing feminine ideals upon me when I start to identify as a woman and not strictly non-binary.
In a perfect world, would I like to wear a full face of make-up, have minimal to no body hair, have a feminine physique, and be read 100% of the time as a woman? – SURE! But the reality is, I work two jobs, I’m a full time student, and I’m involved in a couple different organizations, and I don’t have time for that. My emotional well-being is like, “you work at 8am, you don’t have time to put your face on for an hour every morning,” “you literally can’t even reach your back hair, how are you supposed to regularly keep that shaved,” etc. Luckily for me, I think that the resilience I learned as a fat & femme gay man allows me to be comfortable in my own skin regardless of others’ perceptions. I also recognize the privilege of being comfortable enough with myself & my gender to not be dysphoric to an incapacitating extent wherein I need to hold my body to a standard for public consumption.
Why yes! I AM a woman with a hairy back – if it bothers you I’ll hand you a razor and you can shave it for me! Until then please fuck off with your gendered policing and let me live my life on my terms.
Rhiannon Robear (she/her) is a 24 year old white trans woman living in Halifax, Nova Scotia. She is a social work student, and is involved in many different campus and community organizations devoted to trans, queer, and feminist justice. In her spare time she likes to knit, crochet, and watch tv shows. Feel free to follow her on twitter @haliqueer or email her directly firstname.lastname@example.org