[Taken from: https://trainingbytarabrunet.wordpress.com/2017/01/26/health-at-every-size/
Description: A graphic with a title that says, “Body size is not an accurate indication of health” Below the title shows four silhouettes of people presumed to be women of various sizes and shapes. The only thing in common is that each one had their left hand on their hip and they’re all wearing what is presumably a suit and heeled boots. The silhouette is filled in with various fruits, vegetables, grains, and other food items.]
Going into surgery, I was terrified. Intellectually, I know that thousands of trans women have come before these doors and had their surgeries done. This is an exacted art. But I was still plagued with fears of bad results, death, dismemberment, and the gravity of what I was about to undergo. The message I got was that because I was fat, it was going to go badly. But still go and get surgery! Everyone is super nice and supportive!
When I met with the anesthetist, immediately he made me uncomfortable. He was brisk and wasn’t particularly patient. He (man)splained to me his preferred method, the spinal block. But it would be more difficult because of my obesity and that it would also make it harder to heal from surgery, but he was confident in his abilities in spite of my weight. I gave Cath a horrified look and turned to him to tell him to just knock me out. I didn’t want any memory of the surgery. (That way, he wouldn’t have to interact with my fat body beyond sticking an IV in me)
Then I was taken to the waiting room for surgery (alone). I met with Brassard, expressed my anxieties, and he reassured me to the extent he was able to. I didn’t really have any support or way to get calmed down in the waiting room since loved ones weren’t allowed there. But I somehow managed to at least not fly off the handles. When I entered the operating room, I focused on the nurses. Especially the male nurse who was beside me during everything and let me hold his hand. If it wasn’t for the nurses and especially this guy (who was incidentally, the only other person of colour in the room to my knowledge…) I don’t know if I could have gone through with surgery. The anesthetist was at least good at not causing much pain while he found a place in my hand to stick an IV.
I was woken up in the operating room after the surgery was done by another nurse. I promptly told her I was going to puke which she caught in one of those little plastic basins they have on hand for this purpose. I was informed about the success of my surgery and that I was going to be taken back to my room. The male nurse was one of the two nurses that helped pour me into my bed and I kept on thanking him for everything.
The day was spent in part, sleeping, drunk texting friends, and gaming. Unfortunately for me, the drowsiness wore off after a few hours and I had a lot of time to kill on my own after Cath left me for the day. I didn’t feel that much pain which was great beyond a general soreness in the crotch. I was helped up to my feet once in the evening probably for circulation reasons. That night, these two devices were attached to my legs that massaged my calves to help keep the blood flowing. They restricted my movement and were hard to sleep with going on the time.
The second day, I became more agitated after not sleeping much (again). I hated being cooped up in a bed and not being able to move or shift positions. I found out that I was healing well and that there hadn’t been much blood during Brassard’s morning visit. I was encouraged to walk which was both painful and exhilarating. After being stuck in bed, I had a lot of excess energy and I wasn’t nauseous or in too much pain. Each walk I took around the floor, I did without any support or much pain. I had to awkwardly crab walk and it was hard getting up, but I was able to walk. The stories I’ve heard about how horrible this walk was didn’t apply to me. I did feel tired after a walk, but I was excited to do it. I met up with the trans women who got surgery at the same time as me and found out that I was doing the best out of everyone. I didn’t have any of their pain complaints. I was the first to have my IV removed because I didn’t experience any nausea.
Day 3, we were moved to the resting house. I was anxious to leave having gone out and visited people during my early morning walk. I had a lot of frustrated, anxious energy to burn from being stuck for days without much movement or sleep. The worst thing that happened to me that day was that I overextended my capabilities walking around. In the house, some of the trans women were envious of my ability to just walk down the stairs without much trouble. I was also the first person to have a bowel movement at the end of that day. In post-op experiences, having a bowel movement so easily and soon is practically unheard of.
Day 4 was pretty uneventful. It was my rest day to get used to doing stuff on my own around the rest house.
In all my checkups, my vitals were all healthy. I haven’t bled much. I have excellent results. I don’t feel a lot pain. I’m active and eating well. And I’m the fattest person that has had surgery recently. Regardless of all the indicators that my fatness is unhealthy, distasteful, is diseased, I’m still the trans woman with the best health at present.
The fatphobia I experienced was gross. It terrified me and made me second guess my choice. My fat is not a disease. I may agree that it can increase the risks of certain conditions, but it also protects against others which goes unsaid.
I’m a pretty healthy person. I inherited my dad’s constitution. I don’t get sick nearly as much as my friends. I heal pretty well and usually pretty quickly. And I’m fat. The fact that I’m fat according to the doctors should mean I experience shortness of breath, heal slowly, and will likely have bad results. Instead, I’m healthy and fat. My fat has made me feel so strong during my healing. It makes me feel like I have a lot of energy and power. These scare tactics into weight loss are shitty and perpetuate more violence against many trans folks.
I don’t need to remind people that a lot of fat people are people of colour. A lot of fat people are disabled. A lot of fat people are trans women.
And I wish that the medical community would acknowledge that fat people’s perspectives need to be taken seriously. Fat is not a death sentence. Medical prejudice is a death sentence.
The narrative of fat as unhealthy needs to stop. As I’ve demonstrated, I’m hearty and hale. And fat. I don’t want to be put on a pedestal as a good fatty, I’m really not. I don’t exercise much and while I eat well, I also eat junk pretty often. The focus needs to be more about what’s going on in someone’s life instead of what their waistline looks like. While it has its issues, the Health at Every Size movement had some really good points. It’s possible to be healthy at any size. I want to see fatness and medicine divorced. I want fat de-pathologized.
What Surgery Could Have Looked Like
The anesthetist could have asked me what method I wanted and could have given me more information about the different methods. He could have talked about the risks and benefits of each one and his concerns. The reality is that fat bodies are bodies and thus he might not have the experience working with us and let’s say find a vein to stick a needle in. This way, the focus is more on what I want and what his capabilities are, not that my body is going to kill me.
They could have talked about my results differently. They might have concerns about breathing and healing ability, but that’s just it. They’re just concerns. It’s not set in stone. Fat is not a death sentence. All that negative talk didn’t help me feel good about going into surgery. Instead of focusing on weight loss, they could have talked about how better physical activity leads to greater lung capacity and better healing abilities without making it about being fat.