Body Positivity & Self Acceptance (when you’re queer, trans, non-binary, intersex)

Queer, trans, non-binary and intersex people are taught to hate their bodies.  As queer people we are told that our instincts are wrong, the way we use our bodies for sex and romance is wrong, and that we are ‘unnatural’.  As trans people we are interrogated about surgery, we are told that we were ‘born in the wrong body’ and our intentions are questioned, all while we are told again, that we are ‘unnatural’.  As non-binary people, we are forgotten in discussions of binary trans people, we are told that we must conform to the binary and that if we don’t hate our bodies, well, how dare we also identify as trans?  As intersex people, we are often forcibly put through surgical and or hormonal ‘treatments’ for a condition which is perfectly natural, we are lied to and assigned genders which we may not develop into and, despite the fact that we were born, or developed this way, we are told that we are unnatural.   

Age nine or ten, when I started developing differently to the people in my class, I didn’t know how to respond.  I didn’t look like a girl, I didn’t look like a boy.  I was developing in a whole new, different way; one which I hadn’t been taught about in the fifteen minute, primary school ‘development’ class.  I had acne, and ‘excess’ body hair, then my facial hair grew in, all by the time I was eleven.  There was something wrong with my internal organs and hormone levels, but my doctors refused to send me for tests, instead putting me on different hormones in the hope that it would ‘balance out’.  I was constantly being told, through the actions and words of others, ‘you should hate the way you’re developing, and you should change it’. 

For a long time, I tried to change it.  I shaved my whole body and face almost daily, wore a push-up bra to create the illusion of something other than a flat, undeveloped yet fatty, chest.  My high testosterone and early puberty meant that I was gaining weight quickly.  I developed an eating disorder which lasted for almost ten years.  I was unhappy no matter what and no amount of changing myself made it any better.

Over the last year of my life, I decided to challenge my thinking and asked myself, ‘what am I changing about myself for the benefit of other people?’.  I experimented with cutting different elements out of my life, initially I stopped shaving my body.  Then my facial hair.  I realised, suddenly and all at once, that it hadn’t ever been me who had hated my body.  I had been told to hate it by equally uneducated school-kids and medical professionals.  It turned out that I didn’t hate the way my body looked and that, as long as I feel strong and healthy, I love my body.  Finding out that I might be intersex has given me explanations, rather than questions, and has simply added to my body’s unique complexity. 

Talking to people about being trans and non-binary has brought up many misunderstandings about trans bodies and has caused questions and even debate about my trans and non-binary body.  The overarching question is always, how can you be trans and love your body?  Sometimes, it’s a statement: you’re not trans if you love your body.  To which I would respond:  I have been told to hate my body and I complied with that hatred for too many years.  Being trans and non-binary is not another reason to hate my body and any decision I make regarding my body makes me no more or less trans and non-binary. 

This is my singular experience, I don’t speak on behalf of all queer, trans, non-binary and or intersex people!  If you feel up for it, tell me about your experience with your body in comments, how is it connected to your gender?  What is your understanding of body positivity and self-acceptance?- AB

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