The story below was written as a part of my graduate thesis. The thesis was completed in May of 2005. These actual events occured in February of 2005.
This wasn’t the first time I would be trying on suits. Rather, it would be the first time I felt like I was legitimately trying on suits. With a weddings and job interviews coming up and now that my breasts were gone it was time to own a suit that fit. Instead of running off to the thrift store and making do with the cast offs of others, I was going to be buying a suit that had never been worn by anyone else before. The fabric wouldn’t give me a rash, the pockets wouldn’t pucker at the hips, and the jacket wouldn’t pull over breasts that were no longer there. As Anna and I walked up Chestnut street I looked forward to finally being a man buying a suit and not a boy playing dress-up. I opened the door to Men’s Warehouse and with a deliberate gait walked directly towards the nearest rack of clothing. Navy blue and gray wool enveloped me to near claustrophobia. It was then that I realized I had no idea where to start, or even what size to look for. My sense of purpose waned considerably. I flagged down the first salesman I noticed and looking down at my shoes said, “I need a suit.” I then raised my head to see a very tall, lean redhead with a barely detectable smirk. I fought back the urge to point out every part of my body that was less than perfectly masculine. I wanted to tell him about my wide hips and big ass. I wanted to mention that I had short arms and really short legs. I wanted to let him know that I was really “curvy” for a man and when I saw him pull out a tape measure and kneel before me to measure my inseam I cursed myself for not packing that day and wanted to tell him why I didn’t have a penis. Instead I merely said, “I don’t know what size I am other than short.”
“Alrighty,” he said, looking me up and down. He measured me and said, “Well, you’re definitely short, and probably a 46.” He led me over to the seven suits that constituted the 46” Short section of the store. “You’ll probably want more of an executive cut.” I looked over at Anna, and we uncomfortably chuckled at the euphemism. “It’s a nice way of saying portly,” he went on to explain. The clarification was neither necessary or desired. He pulled a few suits off the rack and held the first jacket out for me to try on. I slipped into it and looked in the mirror. Unlike the thrilling experience I thought this first look would be, it amounted to nothing more than a hurried glance. I was terrified to look any longer. I don’t know if I felt like I wouldn’t look at myself “correctly,“ or if I simply wouldn’t like the reflection I saw in the mirror. I knew I should have taken a good look, but with both Anna and my tall, non-executive fitter expectantly staring, all I could think of was escape. I didn’t even know what to look for. Anna felt the fabric, and the fitter tugged and smoothed and tugged some more before ultimately informing me that this fit was no good. He then pulled out another jacket with the flourish of a man working on commission and had me slip it on. After repeating this same routine four more times he stated that this was the best fit I was going to find. It had “A generous cut in the front and a vent in the back for extra comfort,” which in laymen’s terms meant, “generous room for your hips, stomach, and ass.” Anna did her customary touch of the fabric while I looked around the thousands of suits and digested the fact that this was my best chance, this boring gray suit. I looked at Anna, ready to pull out my credit card and have the whole ordeal over with, but saw the hesitance in her face. I asked him if he could hold the suit so we could look around a little bit more.
He agreed but now with his less than positive pitch, a last ditch effort to make the sale. “Well, you’re always going to have trouble.” I nodded, knowing I probably was a difficult size. “You’re never going to find something right off the rack,” he continued. “Maybe you could try a children’s store and see if they have a ‘husky boy’s department.” I kept nodding, hoping he’d realize that what I was really saying was your help is gradually becoming the biggest slap to my self-esteem that I’ve experienced since elementary school. He didn’t stop. “I mean you could try a big and tall shop, but you’re not tall, just big.” My face began turning a deep shade of red when it finally hit me. I was no longer experiencing the soft pat on the shoulder that a woman gets while shopping. He saw a man before him and he was giving me the honest truth. Instead of trying to ignore every salesperson in the room thinking they’d direct me to the women’s department, I was asking advice and getting it. I was short, I was big, and I was going to have trouble finding a suit that fit. Although you’d never hear a salesperson telling a woman, “I’m sorry but you’re just too short and fat for all the clothing in this store,” to tell a man essentially the same thing was perfectly acceptable. Before transitioning, while not identifying as a woman I was still aware of what expected of me as one. The size and shape of my body was supposed to directly relate to my self worth. Today, while preparing to buy a $300 article of clothing that I was trying to believe I was enough of a man to wear, I was told that being fat was just a fact. It didn’t mean I was any less respected or any less of a man. It took changing my gender to hear the truth about my body that I had longed to hear my entire life. My body, whether it be fat or thin or something in between, was a vessel that housed who I was. It wasn’t what I was. I looked up at him as he handed me his card and thanked him for his time and honesty, man to man.