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Working Out & Gendered Exercise

July 5, 2009

I started working out at home recently. I have gym class twice a week and realized all those situps were paying off: my stomach looks slightly more defined. If I could achieve that much with a not-so-strict gym teacher, then who knows how far I can get if I actually apply myself? I know that my biceps could be in a much better state than they are right now, and it would be awesome if I could burn just a little fat off my hips.

I’m not aiming to be a bodybuilder. I’ll probably be a scrawny shorty thing for the rest of my life and I’m ok with that. But it does feel good to be in control of what I look like, especially since I won’t be able to get on testosterone for a year or more. I can’t force my face to grow a beard, but I can make my muscles look the way they would if I had more T coursing through my veins. And a little exercise can’t be bad. (Well, it could be bad if I totally lost it and started working out all day. But somehow, I doubt that’ll happen.)

I googled a few exercises focused on hip muscles, but mostly I stick to situps and pressups. Our gym teacher told us that girls should kneel to do pressups, which requires less effort. I never know what to do when she gives different instructions for girls and boys (thankfully I’m in a mixed-gender class). I usually try to do the “boy” exercises but stop if I feel I could hurt myself.

I know that “male” bodies tend to have more muscle mass, but I don’t know if that justifies differential workouts. After all, not every “male” or “female” body is the same. Maybe there should be two sets of exercises to choose from, requiring different levels of effort/fitness, so we could choose. Or the teacher could recommend one set or the other to each individual based on body type, instead of lumping us into gendered (or, more accurately, sexed) groups. I guess it’s simply easier to divide us by gender.

I just realized that body building literally means constructing your body. Which is exactly how I relate to my corporeal existence: I think of physical transition as constructing the body that fits me best. It feels great to start that process, finally, even if it’s only by developing a few muscles.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. July 7, 2009 8:47 am

    The issue of exercise is interesting when it comes to trans bodies, because athleticism or its lack are so gendered (notice how the Williams sisters often get described as being masculine simply because they’re muscular).

    I underwent the opposite process. I had been in a gym for six months, which was a great achievement for me (I rarely do any exercise or sports, I am terrible!). However, once I came out and other things happened I totally stopped.

    It’s funny. I do find athleticism attractive in women. A lot. But in me, it just screamed “man” and I just couldn’t take it. I’m hoping to get over this hurdle soonish.

    It’s great to know that exercise has brought you more in tune with your body.

    • July 7, 2009 3:03 pm

      Ariel, thanks for bringing this up. I can’t believe I hadn’t really questioned why I wanted more muscle mass!

      Now that I think about it, it’s like all the other changes I want for my body. They’re all based on typical “man” characteristics, like beards and a deep voice, although there are tons of women with muscles and low voices and tons of beardless men.

      It’s good to understand that, although there’s a point where feelings and desire are stronger than theory (and I guess that’s ok, as long as we don’t hurt others). Still, I think it’s important to think about the implications of our actions, so thanks again for making me reflect on this!

      It might be possible to overcome these gendered prejudices through critical thought, eventually. I wish you well on your path to overcome preconceptions about athleticism.

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