I found a good and interesting article by Sam Dylan Finch entitled “How Can Trans Folks ‘Do’ Body Positivity?” It laid out some quite compelling arguments about some ways in which the body positivity movement can be exclusionary of trans and gender non-conforming folks, and how it’s hard for us to fully feel like we can participate. It’s worth a read.
On one hand, I agree with the writer, who says:
“I’ve always loved those beach campaigns, where bodies of all sorts are hanging out in swimsuits. But it’s a privilege in many ways to be able to wear a swimsuit without dysphoria or revealing your surgery status. I can’t participate without exposing myself in ways that would trigger dysphoria. I can’t proudly display my body in fierce and fearless tight clothing, because showing off my curves is the exact opposite of what makes me feel secure in my body and gender. Revealing my body in all its chubby and lumpy glory might be liberating for me, except hiding my curves in my clothes is what helps me to survive a body that doesn’t align with my gender. Exposing it is not empowering for me at all.”
I think many trans and gender-expansive people might feel the same way. I certainly have felt that way myself. What I’d like to talk about, though, is not as much the question of how we navigate what our outer appearance is to the world, but how we navigate our internal state about our bodies as they are right now.
The writer also says:
“I can’t really love my body right now, because sometimes as a trans person the trauma of being in a body that feels wrong means that the best we can do is call a truce. Even that is hard enough and, for some, impossible.”
I absolutely understand how it might feel that one can’t love one’s body, and even calling a truce might be a challenge. But the cultivation of love for our bodies, as they are now, not as they might be after surgery/after hormones/after we lose weight/after fat re-distribution/after … is part of the path to happiness. It doesn’t mean that we are going to necessarily arrive. It doesn’t mean we don’t still have dysphoria. It doesn’t mean we are not going to have moments where we hate our bodies, hate the dysphoria, and feel defeated. I have those moments, and I haven’t yet fully arrived in that place of love and acceptance.
But I do know that the careful, daily cultivation of compassion for my feelings about my body, re-directing negative self-talk about my body, and also the daily practices of paying attention to my body, and care for my body have made my experience of life much easier for me.
And it’s important to say – it’s not about the destination. I may well never get to that place of fully loving my body as it is. And that’s OK. For me, body positivity means the cultivation of deep compassion for myself in this body, and working toward that love makes living a lot easier.
May you love your body. And if you can’t love your body right now, may you be able to love your body at some time in the future.