Monday, April 26, 2010

Transgender Women and Body Image

Transgender women, and other transgender individuals, face intense pressure from society about their non-binary gender identity. Many trans women internalize the feeling that being transgender is wrong, and it takes a lot of time and effort to overcome this feelling and be comfortable with who you are. But this is far from the only pressure trans women face.

I know from personal experience that one of the other major barriers to a trans woman being comfortable with who she is in public is the feeling that you could never "pass" or even look decent as a woman. I did not pursue living as a woman for many years because I belived I could never look like a woman. When I looked in the mirror, all I saw was a man in a dress.

As I've discussed in previous posts, I've reached the point where I feel like a woman and see myself as a woman but seeing myself as a "man in a dress" hasn't entirely disappeared. When I catch my reflection in the mirror at a certain angle or see a picture of myself, sometimes all I can see are the parts of myself that scream "man!" I know many other trans women have felt the same way. We also worry about our weight, whether or not our feet look too big in a certain pair of shoes, if our hair and makeup look okay, etc.

To me, these are the same concerns with body image that all women share. There's nothing different from a trans woman and a "real" woman looking at herself in the mirror, taking note of the flaws she sees in herself and debating if it was really worth spending $50 on a new dress "because it just makes me look fat anyway."

We've all internalized society's standards of beauty, whether you were born a woman or just learning to be the woman you are. And thinking that trans women somehow escaped this pressue to fit into certain standards for body image because they weren't born women is ridiculous. There is currently no acceptable trans body image, no place in-between male and female. To be trans is to try to fit into society's standards for that sex. Some through trial and error develop the self-confidence to be who they are. Some, particularly genderqueer individuals, actively challenge society's standards. And some never leave their houses.

Trans women need to recognize society's body image standards for what they are: socially constructed standards. Every woman is a unique individual; very few people fit into the supermodel/Barbie standard that society has established for women. If you fit into this category, great! But most people don't. Trans women need to learn to see themselves as the unique individuals that they are. So what if we don't all fit into society's image of women! It would be a boring place if we were all the same. Be confident in who you are as a woman, not what someone else expects you to be!

I know this is a lesson I'm still trying to learn myself.

No comments:

Post a Comment