This column first ran in John Paul Brammer’s Hola Papi newsletter, which you can subscribe to on Substack.
So, I realized I’m a guy. Yay. Unfortunately, I’m also British.
I’m looking at being postmenopausal before I get testosterone. I’m fat and very feminine looking. Can I flirt with gay guys? Will any of them want me back? My tits weigh about two stone. I’m loved, but with fatness and surgery, will I ever be desired again? The gap between the desirable woman I was ten years ago and the invisible, never-seen-as-a-man current self is considerable. I sometimes wonder about not transitioning, because at least as a fat woman I’d keep the only “hot” features I have (the aforementioned tits. People love ’em. I don’t)
I guess I’m just scared and alone and wanting to know I’m worth something.
Hey there, SV!
I’m sorry to hear that you’re British. I will do my best to look past it, but I appreciate your patience as I work through my deeply entrenched biases.
As for the heart of your issue, I should note up top that I am not trans, and I’m sure there are aspects of the journey you’re embarking on that would go right over my head. If anything I say here doesn’t serve you, please chalk it up to my cluelessness. That said, I do see a lot I can relate to in your letter.
Like most people, I want to be wanted. Being wanted feels great, especially as a person who always felt locked out of beauty. I grew up with a pretty sister and two pretty girl cousins I went everywhere with, and people would stop them on the street to ask if they were all sisters because they were so beautiful. Meanwhile, I stood back in my XXL Pokémon shirt from Walmart wondering why God allowed me to be born. I couldn’t even step into Claire’s! Dreadful.
This feeling of ugliness led me to a lot of behaviors that some might call “destructive.” I fasted, I whittled myself down to skin and bones, and, you know what? I did get a lot of positive comments from people at that time, along with the occasional “Are you sick?” question. I was, like, low-key dying, but that didn’t seem to matter! I got what I was after, albeit at great personal expense.
I think, SV, when we do that, when we prove that we’re willing to harm ourselves for the sake of validation from other people, we’re sending ourselves a dangerous message. We’re saying, “Other people’s opinions are more valuable than your well-being,” or even, “Other people are more valuable than you.” And that kind of thing sticks with you! It makes you trust yourself less, and makes you resent yourself more.
When that fundamental relationship is damaged, it colors absolutely everything else in our lives. Yes, SV, it’s possible to edit yourself into something that other people might see more value in, but when it comes at the expense of your own needs, when it demands that you deny your true self, that’s when it stops being worth it, and that’s when you need to consider if you’re prioritizing strangers over the person you’ve been charged with taking care of every single day (you).
And, look, I know. It’s not as simple as saying, “Screw everyone else, I have to be me,” and it’s not like we can or even should totally avoid doing things to make ourselves more appealing to others. This stuff is complicated. Yes, it can bring us pleasure and increase our confidence to, say, dress ourselves up real nice, or take some steamy photos, or hit the gym to get a nice chest pump (a personal favorite of mine. Fella to fella, I’m here to tell you guys can have nice chests too).
But ultimately we have to recognize that we were not put on this earth to accommodate other people’s desires, and you can’t live your whole life worrying about if other people will want you. Is it a factor? Yes! That much is inevitable, and I won’t pretend otherwise. But there are more important things than being considered conventionally attractive.
And, who knows? You’re pursuing a massive change, one that will put you in closer alignment with your truth. It will come with its unique challenges, yes, but it could very well open up avenues of love, expression, and confidence that were previously unavailable to you. What if you find new things to appreciate about yourself? What if it leads to you looking at yourself in an entirely different way? Something to consider!
As for flirting with gay guys, look, I’ve been a gay guy for a long time now, and I still can’t predict gay-guy behavior beyond general reception to a new Kylie Minogue song and broad financial habits that trend toward “In debt, but with hot pics in Mykonos.” When in doubt, just be like, “Poppers.” That always gets a little giggle or two.
In any case, you should recognize, SV, that there’s a decent chance we only get one shot at living. One thing I’ve always admired about the trans community is the acknowledgment that while there’s a lot we can’t control in this world, there is also self-determination. That there is in each of us the ability to create a future that holds more happiness, more truth, and more beauty than the one that was foisted on us. That’s something everyone, regardless of identity, should embrace.
And I hope that as you go on your way, you’re able to prove to yourself that you’re willing to put yourself before the approval of strangers. Yes, approval can feel nice, but it can also hem you in. Sometimes, the good stuff lies beyond other people’s expectations.
Con mucho amor,
Originally published August 29, 2023.
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