The body positive movement has ventured into many different avenues and dominates a large amount of the mainstream media. With its foot firmly wedged in modelling, the music scene, activism and public affairs, the body positive community has shown that it will speak up when those opposing us try to bat us down. In spite of this forward moving positivity, there are still some areas of body image insecurities that need to be addressed – many of the existing body positive activists are either fat women, myself included, reclaiming their bodily love; ED recoverers offering support and guidance to those suffering; and pretty much anyone and everyone who, rightly, wants to declare the love that they have for their body in spite of what society deems acceptable.
But, although the work that I and others do towards encouraging a better body image mentality, there is still more that can be done for those who remain marginalised. We live in a progressive society, but occasionally that society needs a helping hand in the right direction. The aforementioned body positivity movement is moving towards an acceptance of all body shapes and sizes, but what about those who suffer with low self-esteem that isn’t related to how fat or thin they are? What about those who are denied the right to exist in harmony with their own body, because they were born into a gender that doesn’t correspond with their mental state?
The body positive movement, although passively inclusive of all body types, is yet to actively extend the arm of support to those struggling with body dysmorphia. By and large, the area of body positivity that focuses on self-love relating to body size, has garnered public attention and social media is rife with men and women advocating body love. But the representation that trans* individuals have in the public eye is relatively non-existent and doesn’t accurately portray their experiences.
For, with each Caitlyn Jenner or Men’s Health cover model that the mainstream applauds, there are still hundreds of trans* individuals who are suffering at the hands of society. Where trans* experiences are concerned, there appears to be no middle ground – the stories that reach the mainstream media often concern trans* celebrities such as those mentioned and tend to place emphasis on their physical appearance. This can potentially be detrimental to those who are struggling with their own gender identity, as to see the only public role models they have made a mockery of could contribute to a collapse of self-esteem. Whether a celebrity “passes” or not is often discussed and inevitably, this makes it difficult for them to shed the ties they have with their biological gender.
Wider society needs to recognise that identity and how someone chooses to exist within their own skin does not concern them if that body does not belong to them. If someone feels that they are a gender that isn’t their biological one, why does society feel the need to slander them for not “passing”? For many trans* individuals, the ultimate goal is to “pass” as a binary male/female gender. But this, in itself is undeniably detrimental to self-esteem.
As much as social acceptance shouldn’t hinge on the size of someone’s body, it shouldn’t hinge on the gender that someone appears to be either. Wider society shouldn’t care if someone’s jaw is too angular, hips too cushioned or muscles not defined enough to be seen to be male or female – if someone declares that their intrinsic gender is male or female, then society needs to allow that person to exist in society without it being an issue. But so many people who struggle with their gender identity find it discernibly difficult to blend seamlessly into society.
On the other end of the spectrum, although rarely reported on in the mainstream public eye, are the hundreds of trans* individuals who have lost their lives because they have been rejected, bullied and disowned by society. It’s saddening, more than that, it’s despicable, that reports of these lost lives slip under the radar with little acknowledgement.
Those who suffer with body dysmorphia have so few platforms available to them to look for support, and accurate role models are few and far between. When the only representation that you have in the mainstream media is mocked or shunned, the effects on self-esteem, body confidence and your mental state can be deeply dangerous.
Trans* lives matter, and all movements and communities could do more to acknowledge this. It needs to be recognised that gender binaries are fluid, you can move outside of expectations of who and what you’re supposed to be to live a more authentic life – as trans* advocate Laverne Cox says: “we are born as who we are, the gender thing is something that is imposed on you”.