An Open Letter to My Fat Father, From His Fat, Trans Son: Or, Fatherhood, Fatness, and Family

by TheDeviantE, a queer, poly, atheist genderqueer trans man and social worker, trying to muddle on through.

[Content Note: Discussion of body image and internalized fat bias; weight loss and diet talk.]

Dear Dad,

I love you. You are the only father I've ever had, and frankly, I feel pretty damn lucky with this particular roll of the dice by the universe.

I love you, and I love your fat body. And I know you don't.

When we went out to dinner, I told you I was happy and ok with being fat, because these days, the way my body looks when fat, it looks like your fat body, and it makes me feel closer to you, makes me feel more like the man I am, and like one day I can be a man like you, someone worth looking up to.

You grew quiet. You became withdrawn. You told me you were ashamed that I would look up to your fatness. But I already knew.

I already knew because you've spent my life youth dieting, counting calories, going to meetings, and exercising with the direct purpose of losing weight. I already knew because when I started to get fat(ter) as a teenage girl, you tried to get me to do those things with you. You wanted me to watch my calories, to write down everything I ate, to exercise more. For my health. You told me when I was only a teenager about how you wished you'd learned healthy habits as a young man, because then these days you wouldn't be fat, and that you were simply trying to help me learn them. You and mom (who is what those of us in the FA movement would call an "in-betweenie" but what she always considered "overweight") were never ok with your bodies, and you in turn were never ok with mine.

We used to fight a lot about this, dad, a LOT. Until I finally started to put a stop to it. I told you I didn't want to hear it. I told you that it stressed me out and that it made me not want to talk with you. I told you I was starting to get into Fat Acceptance. I told you that there were studies out there that showed that constant dieting and restriction and focus on weight were unhealthy. I reminded you again and again that you'd been pressuring me my entire pseudo-adult life to lose weight, that I'd been constantly trying in some way to do that, and that it hadn't worked. I even sometimes reminded you of the fact that you've been trying my whole life to lose weight, and that it hasn't made any lasting change. I moved away from home (because that's what adult children often do), and the lectures became less frequent.

But it all came back when you told me you were ashamed that I would look up to your fatness, that I would embrace my own fatness because it made me more like you.

Dad, I love your fatness, because your fatness is part of you. Your fat body changed my and my sister's diapers. Your fat body sat next to me on the couch when I was just a tiny child and watched Star Trek, both the original AND The Next Generation with me, making me the geek I am today. Your fat lap was the one that, when I was a child and computer games were still pretty damn young, would let me sit upon it as you played (for both of us, me shouting directions gleefully), Designasaurus, and, I admit, often I'd laugh so hard that I would pee my pants with excitement, WHILE IN YOUR LAP. And your fat self was ok with it (not thrilled, but it never stopped us from playing again). Your fat body was the body of the man who let me and my sister put scrunchies, elastics, bows, ribbons, and sparkly hair gel in his hair. Who let us give him terrible comb-overs and pig tails, because you loved us. Your fat self taught me subtraction better than I was learning it in class, and your fat body was the one that helped me learn about algebra (when I was still in 4th grade, and the teacher assigned a project that we went way overboard on, setting up complex algebraic equations to determine supermarket food prices). Your fat body was the one that cooked up all sorts of meals throughout my childhood and adulthood; Indian food, and steak, and eggs just the way I liked them. Your fat belly was the one the cats have used as a springboard all these years, and where they curl up and annoy you (but it's really cute). Your fat self, along with my mother, paid for a substantial portion of my chest surgery when I got it together to start the process. Your fat body is the one on the other end of the phone when I tell you my exciting news (I've been asked to write a book chapter by a professor!), and when I have disappointments (I've been fired).

Your fat body is, frankly, you. You are not merely a brain housed in a body, you are a brain and a body, interacting and growing and changing as you move through time, always part of each other, always in sync, always connected. It's pretty damn poetic, actually, when you think about it.

When I think of you, and of who you are to me, who you have been my whole life, your fatness is part of it. Your fatness is coded in your genetics (c'mon, your mom was fat, your grandmother was fat, this is not rocket science). Who would you have been if you hadn't been fat? Would you have been as kind? As geeky? Would you have married mom? Had me and my sister? Would you be someone I would look up to now? Possibly, but not definitely. Because you wouldn't have been the you that exists, the you that I know. You would have been different.

If tomorrow you woke up and weren't fat, were magically skinny, I'd still love you. But I'd miss the way your belly bumps mine when we hug, the way your arms feel when you say goodbye, the way you sit in your chair, and the way you walk. I'd miss your round face, and all the little sounds and movements that have developed over a lifetime of fatness, the shifts and groans of getting settled just right, the shifts and groans of getting settled just right that I am starting to develop too, as I become a fat man. I'd grow to love your new way of moving and sounding, but it wouldn't be the same as the movement and sounds that were there when I was a child. It wouldn't be the same.

So yes, dad, I love your fatness. And because of it I love my fatness too (sometimes. Sometimes the weight of the world is too much and I sink into those places that you seem to live so much of your life, those places of hating ourselves for not looking like how we've been told to look.). As a trans man, I've spent much of my life feeling like my body was foreign, and wrong. Before I came out to myself, I was envious of those slight, skinny, trans guys and I didn't know if I envied them their bodies or their identities more. I came out, and I still envied them, now because they could be recognized as men so much more easily, because their chests were more bindable, because the curves on their hips weren't so pronounced, because their faces were angular, and spoke of manhood, not womanhood. But now? Now, after YOUR fat body helped me get the money to have my surgery (a class privilege I am constantly aware of), now that I have started to take testosterone, now that my fat has been redistributing itself so it looks every day more like your fat? Now that I have a large, round belly, like my father's belly? Now I know that I don't envy their bodies. Because I get to have a body that looks like my father's. My father who I love. My father who is you. My father who is fat.

I love your, and my, fat bodies.

I love you dad. I wish one day you could too.

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