Now that I’ve made my ebook “Who Cares? Life for an Irish Transgender Teen” free to the public (you can download the full thing here), I’ve decided to publish the chapters here on my website. Below is a chapter from this book which was published in April 2016.
This chapter will be rather difficult to write in an honest fashion, but I think that I can do it. I’ve always had an odd relationship with food. I suppose you could say that I’ve had some form of an eating disorder, something that probably never goes away. It never got dangerous, but it did get kind of scary. I’ve never thought that I was fat or anywhere near being fat. But there was a time when I thought that I could not be skinny enough. I suppose that it started when I was around 15. I had a major growth spurt at this time and as I grew upwards I also grew inwards. I didn’t even really notice this happening. I’d never been fat and weight really wasn’t a thing that I thought about. The first time that someone pointed it out to me was a strange experience. At first I looked down at myself and thought, “she’s right, I am really skinny.” But then I started to think, “isn’t that a good thing though? Isn’t that what everyone wants? Isn’t my body like the ones we all look at in magazines and envy.”
Just like that my outlook changed. Just like that I thought that being thin was beautiful. This is how impressionable I was. God knows what would have happened if it was never pointed out to me. Perhaps I never would have noticed and put the weight back on quickly. Or maybe it wouldn’t have made a difference. I’m not criticising the person who pointed it out that first time. They certainly weren’t the only one. And I know that they only did it out of concern. I’m just pointing out how impressionable teens can be and how we never know what effect something we say will have on an individual. Looking back now I know that I was extremely unhappy within my own body. I loved myself but I could not love the body that I was in. I didn’t know that I was trans but I knew that something deep-rooted was going on. Perhaps I was doing it to try and control my body, or to feel more like the girls in the magazines. Perhaps I needed attention, after all it used to thrill me when people would point out how thin I was (note how I say “used to”). Maybe there was no reason behind it that any of us can understand. Maybe it was a combination of a lot of different reasons.
After that first time noticing how thin I was, another person appeared beside me. It was a dark version of myself. One of those horrible voices that criticises you. There she stood, in the flesh, staring down at me. A part of me was horrified but mostly I felt joy. She was a new frenemy, someone who criticised me, but who was a lot more real than those around me. I still don’t understand why she appeared that day. Was she always waiting there for me to notice that I could be extremely thin? Or did she manifest for the first time at that moment? From then on when I ate she sat beside me. She watched me. If I stopped she approved. The more I ate, the more she made me feel shit about myself. If I went a day without eating she was very happy. She told me about how I could lose so much weight. She stood with me in front of the mirror. Pointing out how the bones that stuck out through my skin were beautiful. Pointing out areas where I could lose more weight. She had me absolutely convinced that I had a really fat ass when it was actually non-existent. I knew that she was wrong when she said these things but somehow I listened to her anyway.
I won’t go into too much more detail about it but I will say this: I tried my hardest to eat during this time. I had loved food up until that point and didn’t understand what had happened. Food no longer brought me pleasure. I tried to force myself to eat sometimes and would spend the next few hours feeling extremely sick. It really concerned my family and they would blame me, but I was helpless to understand it. I didn’t know why she was there. Why she was so cruel. How could I tell people that there was a girl in my head who never left? I know myself very well and I was terrified of her. One huge thing about me is that I hate to feel out of control. I decided to confront her head on. I’m not sure how I did it but I won the battle. She left. I began to eat again. It wasn’t easy and it still isn’t but slowly, I learned to love food again and to love my body.
I would be lying if I said that it was all fixed now but I am okay. Occasionally I hear a faint echo of her voice but I don’t let it stop me. Very rarely I will skip a meal or two but it’s never returned to the point where I’ve been out of control again. And I hope it never does. Although, next time I will know how to ask for help. So what do I do now? I eat delicious foods. I eat burgers and I eat salads, I eat Chinese food and I eat healthy pasta dishes. I make myself convenience foods and I make myself proper dinners. I fry foods in coconut oil and I fry foods in butter. I drink green tea and I drink coffee. I drink smoothies and I drink fizzy drinks. I vary my diet and I allow myself everything in moderation. I don’t know if I will be able to continue to uphold this kind of diet in my future, when my metabolism slows down and my ability to resist temptation possibly lessens, but I will certainly try.
It’s hard to know what kind of attitude to have towards food. If you eat lots of unhealthy food you risk becoming obese and putting yourself at risk for any number of diseases. But if you eat healthy you risk becoming an asshole who can’t stop talking about what they’re eating or their latest diet. To be honest I don’t know what’s worse. How do I think we should break this obsession with food? We could try not being so obsessed. We could try looking at food for what it is. Something that’s necessary in order to survive and in order to have energy. It’s not something to be feared or hated. It’s not something to spend our days talking about. You should have an active interest in your health and you should be well informed on what’s good or bad for you. But you don’t need to spend your life thinking about it. If you decide to eat something, eat it. Enjoy the taste of it, digest it, shit it out and get over it. Who cares if you ate something full of fats? You’re not a bad person, you’re not a monster for snacking. I reckon if we stopped obsessing about weight it wouldn’t really be an issue. But what do I know? I’m still lucky enough to have my teenage metabolism.
Read more Who Cares? here.
Buy Who Cares? here.
Watch my video where I strip down to discuss body dysmorphia below: