Sunday, 22 August 2010

Exploring my height issues courtesy of my mother

    My mother and I had a Long Chat yesterday. Since I came out to her as you might imagine we've had one or two Long Chats. I feel very lucky to have a mother with whom I can talk about this stuff.
    In particular yesterday she returned to a theme she's touched on before, while she's happy to accept me for what I am she really doesn't like the idea of my dressing, physically presenting female in the real world or otherwise is beyond her comfort zone. Not really surprising, it's a hell of a lot for a mother to have to contemplate.
    What I found interesting was her reasoning, it relates to my height. You see, my mother knows what it's like to be the tallest woman in the crowd from the days when the average female height was much shorter than it is today. She's in her eighties now, but back in the 1940s and 1950s as a young woman who stood over six feet tall she found herself the butt of many cruel jokes and insensitive comments. My quest for size 15 girl shoes pales into insignificance compared to her quest for size 9s back in the Austerity years, her feet were so seriously harmed by ill-fitting shoes that she had to have corrective surgery on them. She's been a customer of Magnus and Long Tall Sally for decades. Great. I shop at the same places as my mother.
     In short, she speaks from a position of authority when it comes to people's reactions to women of height. And she does not want me to experience what she had to, but with the added twist of being rather obviously transgendered. She's had her fair share of misgendering too, for that matter.
    I haven't confronted her directly with Jenny mode. She has to have guessed I dress, but she's never asked me directly and I haven't told her specifically that I do. But I have surprised myself with how well I have managed at it, and I told her yesterday that if going out dressed was what I chose to do then I'm sure I'd be able to do a good job. I know my passing skills are weak - at best I struggle at feminity, at worst I have something of the bloke about me - but the effect for which I have striven is one of having made an effort to look presentable. I tried to put that into words for her because I was worried she was imagining me going forth as a grotesque parody of a pantomime dame, this was when she went into depth on her height concerns.
     I think my insecurities about my height and presenting female can be attributed to a mixture of my mother's reaction and my own experiences as an oversized bloke. I've certainly heard her on this theme before, though not until now directed at me. Stupid really, it helped keep me in the closet for years during which I really should have come to terms with everything. It's a wall from which bricks are slowly falling away, but it's not quite gone yet. I wonder whether my mother's version of that wall, for herself or for me, will ever lose any bricks.

9 comments:

  1. My mother had a similar experience, and from the sound of it at about the same time (she was born in England in 1928). Always the tallest in her class, she took up smoking when she was twelve - and already close to six feet tall - because she heard it "stunted your growth". She topped out at around six feet, and with short hair and androgynous clothing was often "sir'ed" while I was growing up. With osteoporosis, she's shrunk a few inches since then.

    I know she worried I'd follow the same pattern as I too was always the tallest in the class. However, I never took up smoking (beyond a few experiments) and came to a natural halt at 5' 8". Although on the high end of average for women, I'm fine with it. Most of the women I hang out with these days are taller than me anyway. ;-)

    Your mother sounds like a kind, genuinely concerned woman. Who wouldn't want to save their own child from the kind of abuse they suffered through themselves? That's not to say I agree with her, but I can empathize with her feelings.

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  2. Its amazing how walls do take some removing. But brick by brick they can come down if thats what you feel is the right thing to do.
    xx

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  3. There's no doubt heightism is a real thing, even today, for both men and women, but especially for women. At least with guys there are some privileges that come with being of size, but for women, who are expected to take up as little room physically (and socially) as possible, it's a real problem. And then throw in little cultural things, like shopping which so many women love to do as a social event, but which you can't participate in fully because culture isn't built for you...it can have quite an othering effect.

    I'm often approached by tall women who just want to talk and be around someone like them. It's like an instant bond; in the same way we always say cis people can never understand what being trans is like, people who aren't tall just aren't aware of the myriad ways that society snubs you and it's nice sometimes to see a face in the crowd that reminds you of yourself.

    I agree with Liz, your mom sounds great. She's trying to protect from the pain she went through. She just doesn't understand the pain you go through as it is.

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  4. It's good that she's concerned for you, though I wonder if here vision of you as a pantomime dame owes something to the pervasive influence of media portrayals of trans folk? -I recall being described in those terms by an old friend who hadn't actually seen the 'new' me... Maybe encountering you in female mode and happy would go a long way to loosening up the bricks in that wall...

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  5. To be fair to my mother, she's atypical of her generation (yes, she was born in the late '20s) in her views and has always been very different to the(often much younger) over-censorious parents of my contemporaries. The pantomime dame comment was mine not hers, expressing my unfounded fear on that front.
    It's true, she simply doesn't want to see me suffering the issues she had on top of the whole trans thing.
    Funny, people of height interacting. Since I've been safely married and thus not so liable to hit on them I've found myself falling easily into conversation with women of height too. The opposite is generally the case with blokes, who seem to see others - particularly ones who are a little taller than them - as competition. Guess I've done my fair share of that too in my time, back when I had a little more testosterone swilling in my veins.
    I have never met anyone who is achondroplasic. I would be interested to see the view from the other side of living in a world designed for people who are 5'5".
    I'll offer my mother the chance to see a picture of me as Jenny in due course. Maybe that'll dislodge a few bricks. Of course, first I have to ask Mrs. J to take a few, something I've never really been big on.

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  6. hi Jenny
    I think your mum is worried about you being hurt emotinaly while your out as your true gender and she is thinking back to her own experiences from when she had trouble as a tall woman.

    She is talking to you and it seems exploring things with you and this is a good start.

    All trans women worry about "passing" and i seen some smaller then you and with so called femenine shapes not pass due to masuline body lang etc.

    I do understand your fears about your size and height as you write about them so well, all I can offer is be happy with who you are inside as a person and the world can go kiss your tits!

    Genuine people will see the real woman inside of you.
    Always here if you need support
    lucy
    xx

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  7. Thanks Lucy, I appreciate that.

    It's true, she's not doing this from any malicious intent, she's not like that. She doesn't want her child - son or daughter - hurt.

    I must remember, tall girl, great legs! :)

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  8. I love that you can even discuss this stuff with your mother. I do believe my folks would have disowned me.

    Calie xxx

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  9. I am extraordinarily lucky in my parents. Simultaneously instinctive small-c conservative yet permissive, there has been very little over which they have been censorious with respect to me or my sisters. I was originally worried about telling my parents, though not because I thought they'd have disowned me, I simply expected it to upset them to such a great extent as to damage them.

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