(Trigger Warning: mention of self-injury and disordered eating)
The femininity of pregnancy is almost undeniable. The acquisition of soft curves, the roundness of growth replacing hardness and angles. Breasts grow fuller, hair and nails thicker and longer. We, the child-bearers are expected to embrace this femininity in preparation for motherhood. With my first pregnancy, my discomfort with this notion came from my two-year struggle with disordered eating. The growth of my body was a betrayal after meticulously planning my life around food and the denial of food for so long. But I accepted it as a necessity.
But now, at twenty weeks pregnant with my second child, I am slightly uncomfortable and intrigued. I am female. I also possess all of the physical attributes that make it possible for me to carry and birth a child. My body swells, expands, softens as this child grows. As with my first pregnancy, I experience cravings and mood swings, aches, tiredness, and insomnia that hits, always at four in the morning. I am, once again, becoming a mother.
But I am not a woman.
There are terms for people like me. Agendered. Non-binary. I prefer genderqueer. Sort of an all-encompassing term. I am still learning. Still adjusting. Still figuring out exactly who I am. My life does not follow what the media deems the typical trans* narrative. I did not, as a child, tell my mother that I was a boy. However, I did not either feel particularly like a girl. I did not eschew dolls for toy cars but rather combined the two or abandoned them altogether for a good book instead. In my head, dolls and cars were toys, not indicators of “boy” or “girl.” And I still think that.
I have, perhaps, always been at war with my body. It was not a war that I intentionally waged. In fact, my body was the first to lob a bomb, that quick, ugly explosion of puberty: a face reddened and scarred by early acne, breasts and hips too defined for my age, and the unwelcome sight of blood that pooled between my fleshy thighs. I existed in a state of perpetual confusion, wondering constantly what sin I had committed to look and feel as I did.
Many (though certainly not all) trans* adults tell tale of feeling “wrong” in their body as youths. I did feel “wrong” in my body. I was too large, too visibly awkward for late childhood and teenhood. I never felt as if my body quite fit. It was a too-large winter coat. Or a shirt pulled to the side due to a missed button. It hated me, and I, it. I found ways of fighting back, over the years. First, it was cutting. The discomfort expanded, multiplied until, at the age of nineteen, I starved myself thin.
But now, the mirror hangs, smudged and lit by the iridescent bulb that swings above my head. A towel fits snugly around my body, tucked around the breasts that I wish were not there, the curves of womanhood and pregnancy that speak of femininity that I do not want. I press firmly on my chest hoping that if I push hard enough, the unwanted mounds of flesh will sink into my body like putty. Instead, I remain as I am, in a body that does not belong to me. The reflection in front of me embodies my confusion. She is a stranger, an interloper. For twenty-three years, I have lived inside her body. For many of those years, I did not understand. I did not know why she seemed a stranger. Why I felt nothing when I pressed razor blades into her forearms and wrists. Why the pain and rumble of hunger were merely distant, thrumming annoyances.
But now, I do know. Now, I understand. And though the fight continues, the struggle waxing and waning depending upon the time of day or a hurtful comment from a stranger, I am bringing the pieces together. I am steadily connecting mind to body as I sculpt my hair just so, adjust the collar of my shirt, and stare at my face, free of make-up. I smooth the fabric over my growing bump and remind myself that for now, it is a physical reality I must deal with but soon, it will be a planned and very much wanted child. I see the discord between my swollen middle and my close-cropped hair. For some reason, it makes me smile. Perhaps, I am finding peace at last.