Transgender Body Image
In the documentary Boy I Am –about the relationship between trans men and lesbians– several people mentioned worries about teens getting hormone therapy: they held that every female-raised person goes through body issues during that period.
This bothered me a little since the people saying this, for the most part, were not trans. And it actually clashes with my own experience. I didn’t grow up with any body image problems because, for most of my teen life, I’ve done a good job of ignoring my body. Whenever I did look at myself, I didn’t see anything wrong: my body fits pretty well into society’s standards of “normal”. I just didn’t identify with what I was seeing. I avoided mirrors because I was better off thinking of myself as a floating brain. Eventually, I started really looking at my body and thinking about how I perceive myself, and I realized that I would feel much more at home in a male-ish body.
What about you: do you think that being transgender is comparable to having body issues? I consider this comparison to be inaccurate because it implies that you can shoo away the desire to physically transition by improving your self-esteem. It seems common for transphobic people to insist that we, as trans individuals, should “accept ourselves” — accept our bodies. But is it less “noble” to change one’s body instead of changing one’s mind? Some people say it’s the easy way out; yet is it really easier? The process for getting surgery or even hormones is hard and full of hurdles; accepting oneself as a trans person in the first place, in my experience, can be even harder. In any case, choosing an easier path doesn’t make you a lesser person; in fact, in can leave you more energy to pursue other worthy endeavors.
Still, I’ve been wondering: would it be possible for me to accept my hips, my chest and my beardlessness? It’s hard to look at myself naked, but it would also be fairly hard to get a prescription for testosterone, and it would be even harder to explain to my extended family why my voice suddenly dropped an octave. If I didn’t do anything permanent to my body, I wouldn’t have to worry about changing my mind in the future.
But I don’t think I would ever be truly comfortable with the way I feel in my own skin. If testosterone can make me feel beautiful, sign me up. Like I usually say to people who don’t understand the wish to transition: we all deserve to be happy, in any way we can.
Edited to add: I wrote this 2.5 years ago and I no longer believe that physical dysphoria can be neatly separated from other kinds of body issues; for instance, my past frustration with my curves might have overlapped somewhat with the feelings of curvy cis men. Now I think that all of us are exposed to images of “ideal” body types, and gender is a big part of that.