I wanted to write a bit about body positivity and trans masculine people. While it is super important than women (and especially young girls) receive body positivity messages, I believe it is equally important that trans masculine people do as well. To society, trans masculine people are still perceived (often) as women. We’re aren’t, obviously, but to others (and to ourselves, sometimes) we are still female regardless of our presentation. I feel this causes problems with body positivity messages for trans masculine people.
I’ve been having mixed feelings about sharing photos of myself through my transition, and here’s why. I think it’s fantastic that, through hashtags like #transandshirtless, trans masculine (and some trans feminine!) people have a way to celebrate the changes in their bodies. We go through so much pain pre-transition, it’s a relief to start to finally feel at home in our own bodies. There’s nothing wrong with being happy and proud of how far you’ve come. But if you go through that hashtag, what do you see?
Thin dudes. Buff dudes. Young dudes. Dudes. Dudes that pass. Like, really, really pass, really, really well.
Where is the body positivity for the fat dudes? What about those who don’t pass (like me)? If you’re lucky enough to find a curvy dude on that hashtag, you’ll sometimes see positive comments, but you still see the “ew” and “WTF?” comments too. Or their pictures get buried, ignored, or deleted (gotta have at least 350 likes!). I have yet to see a fat guy on “top posts” on Instagram.
Guys, that’s not okay.
If you support trans people being happy with their bodies, you need to support ALL trans people, fat, skinny, passing, non-passing… all of them.
Here’s the hard, ugly (internalized transphobic and misogynistic) truth: trans masculine people are still policing their own and others’ bodies as if they were women’s bodies. Cis men are allowed to be chunky. We call those guys “coach” or “bears” or “big daddies.” If you just look at Instagram, fat trans men just don’t exist. Why? Because we still think our fat bodies are not worthy of being shown and celebrated (just like the women who get fat-shamed whenever they dare to show their bodies). I’ve never posted a shirtless pic on Instagram where you could see me from the waist down (because I have a big belly). If there is one, I was sucking it in as much as possible.
I feel like I’m invisible because I’m not Super Buff Trans Dude or Super Skinny Trans Dude (who can pass without even a whiff of testosterone). Let me make this crystal clear: there’s nothing wrong with being either one of those. I wish I was Super Skinny Trans Dude. But I never will be. It’s not in my genes. I have a big butt and “birthing hips” (which I was literally told I have by an OBGYN, who would know). Even were I to lose my spare tire (working on it!), I’d still have wide hips that will easily peg me as being “female.” I might never, ever pass easily, which is crushing to admit. I’ve been on testosterone for almost a year and a half, consistently (but not religiously) going to the gym and teaching hours of dance classes a week, and I’m only just now getting masculine shoulders. I do not build muscle easily or quickly. Testosterone is not an “easy button” for everyone, and it’s damaging to assume it’s the same for us all.
We need to show trans masculine people that it’s okay to have big hips. That they (me) aren’t any less trans or masculine for having some curves they won’t ever get rid of, even on testosterone.
Think on this: what messages are we sending “baby trans” people by only celebrating passing, thin, or buff bodies? That if they are fat, they can’t be trans men, because no one has ever seen one (except maybe Chaz Bono before Dancing with the Stars). How is that not the same violence cis people perpetrate on us by denying us hormones or surgeries needed to feel comfortable in our bodies? How is that not the same violence done to cis and trans women who are crushed under unrealistic expectations about how their bodies should look? That they aren’t “real” women because they have rolls instead of a thigh gap? So am I not a real trans man because I have a gut instead of pecs and gainz?
Trans people naturally seek validation: do I look masculine enough? Do I pass? Do other people find me attractive? (Because cis people constantly remind us what freaks we are and how grateful we should be if we’re considered dateable.) We’ve been denied that validation due to our own dysphoria, and now that we’re transitioning, we feel like we can celebrate our bodies for the first time. I’ve seen guys say how relieved they are to finally share selfies they are proud of, that they finally love how they look.
Imagine if you never felt you could celebrate your transition, just because you’re fat. How would that make you feel? How do you think I felt when I thought I’d escape the constant body shaming by no longer identifying as a woman, only to find it hiding in the trans masculine community? It hurts. I feel invisible, like no one cares about me or my transition.
Sometimes I wonder if I hover more comfortably in the “trans masculine” and “genderqueer” liminal spaces because I don’t look like a man, so I don’t have the right to claim the label of “trans man.” It doesn’t matter that there are fat men. That’s just what my dysphoria whispers to me whenever I scroll through #transandshirtless and #transman tags: You are fat, you are too femme, you are not a man.
So next time you’re on Instagram, maybe scroll through and show some support to the bigger guys. I do, when I can find them. We all need body positivity, no matter what our shape, size, or gender.
Find me on Instagram.