Why Body Positivity Makes Me Uncomfortable

4 Reasons Why Body Positivity Makes Me Uncomfortable

Body positivity started as a reaction to fatphobic diet and weight loss industry. These days, on Instagram and online magazines, “body positive” is a celebration of self-love and fatness. That’s a good thing! I’m all for representation, respect, and self-love for people! But body positivity makes me uncomfortable. There are aspects to the movement, as it currently swings, that make me feel the same way I do from diet culture, fat shaming, and bigoted society: unworthy.

For a time on Instagram, I followed one of the largest body positivity accounts in an aim to expose myself to the movement. This was intended to challenge how I’ve been socialised to value thinness, whiteness, and privilege. But as time went on, and the more I saw the posts, the more uncomfortable I became. The pictures of these (cis) women didn’t bother me. Their bodies didn’t bother me. (Except for the #glitterstripes, which legitimately triggered self-harm urges because of how the lines reminded me of abstract or fresh scars.) But the captions did. The way they talked about their bodies, and other bodies, made me feel like shit about me and my body.

No matter how much the movement intends to be all-inclusive, its origins did not start as a revolution for total body acceptance for everybody. The current language and focuses are not all-inclusive. Fat acceptance is important, but it’s also important to notice where that acceptance is limited. There are four patterns to the current body positive movement that cause discomfort for me.

1. The focus on cis women.

As inclusive as body positivity tries to be, it’s still focused on cis women. The movement came out of fat acceptance for cis women, so of course the focus is still on that demographic. There are body positive cis men out there. Articles and websites exist for other genders. But the movement still focuses on fat cis women feeling positive about their bodies.

As a woman who is not cis, I feel very much excluded. The movement did not arise for my benefit or for my identity. (See also: feminism for white women, and womanism for black women.) The fat acceptance and origins for body positivity did not come from intersectional understanding and support for fat experiences for everyone. My fatness and fat experience are very, very different from those of a cis woman.

2. The equalisation of “fat” with “feminine.”

Goddess. Tiger stripes earned from carrying babies. Glitter on stretch marks. The strength of a body to breastfeed. Mother Nature. The symbols and language used to discuss fat cis women in the body positive movement all relate back to femininity. Body positivity is gendered, as it is a reaction to a gendered market of dieting culture. It feels difficult to separate #bodyposi from femininity. And as someone who oscillates between feminine, masculine, and neutrois, I can’t feel comfortable in a movement that genders its empowerment. I know it wasn’t intended to be a feminine-only revolution. But that’s how it is, for the most part. Diet culture and fat shaming are largely misogynistic structures, after all, and that’s what body positivity reacts to.

3. The misconception that eating disorders are only caused by diet industry.

Eating disorders are multifaceted mental illnesses that affect millions of people. Eating disorders are not caused by one singular aspect of society. Diet culture and misogyny play a huge role in eating disorders—especially for cis women. But eating disorders for cis men? Consider toxic masculinity. Eating disorders for transgender people? Consider their gender dysphoria. Because eating disorders are mental illnesses, more is at play than just food culture. Blanket statements about how dieting causes eating disorders, or diet culture causes eating disorders, are a disservice to people who have eating disorders.

My eating disorder doesn’t come from the market and industry telling me I need to be a thin woman. My eating disorder comes from cissexist society telling me that I need to be a woman. It also comes from my bipolar disorder. I can treat my eating disorder by acknowledging and treating my comorbid mental illness (bipolar) and my gender dysphoria. I can’t treat my eating disorder by embracing fat acceptance and body positivity for myself. Doing so would gloss over the incredibly huge struggles I have with my identity. My self-hatred, after all, doesn’t hinge on my fatness. It hinges on so many other factors.

4. The policing, judgement, and values imposed on my body.

The pursuits of happiness, joy, or positivity currently invade society. If we’re unhappy, that’s seen as a problem. If we’re feeling kinda neutral or whatever, that’s seen as an opportunity to bring in positivity. Feelings are fleeting. They should be honoured as temporary experiences that deserve space and time to process. Feelings and emotions are not a state of mind—including positivity. It’s just another way of uplifting optimism and valuing that perspective more highly than everything else.

The title of the movement is “body positive”—it wants me to be positive about my body. But I can feel however I want about my body. I can hate it. I can want to change it. When I can look at myself in the mirror and think, “Eh, I don’t think I’m sexy,” I’m allowed to have that thought. I can also look at myself and feel completely apathetic about what I see.

Body positivity wants you to feel a certain way about your body, but only under the movement’s conditions. It cares more about where your positivity comes from. “Good” positivity comes from self-love and rejecting societal norms. “Bad” positivity comes from fitting in with society and being seen a certain way by others. But for trans folks who want to be seen as the gender they present? They’re trying to fit into a societal norm. (That societal norm is the whole concept of “gender”, by the way.) I want to lose weight. I want to look a certain way, too. Body positivity doesn’t allow me to want those things, let alone do them, unless they’re for the movement’s reasons.

Body positivity values people with a specific attitude on their corporeal self. But only when that attitude originates from the movement’s perspective of what is “good” or positive. That’s a little fucked up to me.

Do I fit in body positivity’s standards?

The fact that I don’t like my body, sometimes and in some places and on some days, does not mean that I’m a lesser human. If I’m negative about my body, am I a bad person to #bodyposi?

If I want to lose weight in order to have a certain lifestyle, does that mean I’m being fatphobic? I currently cannot exercise in a way that makes me happy, and it is directly because of my fatness. Simply put, my fatness hinders how positive I feel about my body. I will be hurting myself if I try to go jogging. My knees can’t carry the weight and impact. So am I bad for wanting to lose weight? Am I contributing to negative body and food culture by doing things to help me lose weight? Those things are also making me happy on their own, regardless of weight loss. If I wanted to place in competitions for marathons or sporting events, I’d have to change my body for that lifestyle goal. The consensus is that weight loss and lifestyle changes go hand in hand, with lifestyle changes coming first. But people will get into a hullaballoo if I say that I need to lose weight to take up a certain lifestyle.

They will also get concerned when I speak negatively about my body, like when I express thoughts that come from my gender dysphoria. Some days I don’t like my eyebrows and eyelashes. That has nothing to do with my fatness—but it has everything to do with gender dysphoria, gender expression, and one aspect of my body. I’ve recently started to watch and read trans activists as they go through transition and surgeries. They reach body peace by means of changing their body. The root of their self-hatred or discomfort does not come from fatness—it comes from dysphoria.

When it comes to being body positive, I don’t think I’ll ever get there. And I think that’s okay. It feels like a box I won’t be able to fit into. Body positivity feels like another standard I have to meet perfectly in order to be valuable. I don’t think I’ll ever love my body. I don’t think I’ll ever be happy with my existence. Instead, I choose to value certain aspects of and attitudes toward my body. I choose how to exercise, what to eat, and where I place worth. There’s no point forcing myself to ascribe to something that makes me so uncomfortable just by its name.

I am more than my body. But my body is mine, and nobody can decide what is best for it—including the body positive movement.

What is body positivity?

The links below, mostly opinion pieces, discuss the movement, its origins, how it is practiced, and the sham trend of policing bodies through body positivity.

The Body Positive – This website and organisation was founded in 1996 in the realm of eating disorder recovery. See their FAQ for more information on what “body positive” means to them and how they define it.

3 Reasons Why You Can’t Have Body Positivity Without Feminism (Melissa A. Fabello on Everyday Feminism, 2017) – This article discusses how body positivity is linked to feminism, women’s issues, patriarchy, socioeconomics, race, and politics.

Here’s Why the Definition of Body Positivity Isn’t Up for Debate (Kaila Prins on Everyday Feminism, 2017) – This article discusses the incorrect usage of the term for non-bodyposi aims.

Weighting to Be Seen: Being Fat, Black, and Invisible in Body Positivity (Sonya Renee on Everyday Feminism, 2015) – This article discusses blackness and body positivity in media attention of the movement.

15 Definitions of Body Positivity Straight From Influencers & Activists (Bustle, 2016) – The title says it all! Quotes from notable activists and influential people in the movement, and how they define the movement.

Is the Body-Positivity Movement Going Too Far? (Amber Petty on Greatist, 2018) – This article discusses some of the extremes, a few of which I mentioned, that exist in the body positive space.

Body Positivity Is a Scam (Amanda Mull on Racked, 2018) – This article overviews how capitalism hijacks “body positivity” for their means, such as Dove’s advertising campaigns, and ignores core issues of widespread body negativity for women, fat people, black people, and trans people.

My Spectrum Identity Struggles

This post is going to get very personal and very much about me, so if you don’t connect with it, that’s okay. Welcome to a diary-esque post!

I am on two spectrums: romantic attraction and gender identity.

In the last year, I’ve discovered that I fall in the aromantic spectrum. I am gray-romantic and in the aromantic spectrum (aro-spec) because my romantic feelings are on par with platonic feelings. There is no such thing as “just friends” when it comes to how I feel about my friends or the non-family people who I love. I love them the same way that I’ve loved people I’ve dated. I wrote a blog post exploring my experience with this: Questioning Part 2.

My identity as gender non-conforming means exactly that: I don’t conform to a gender. I’m not non-binary, I’m not cisgender, and I’m not genderfluid or genderqueer. My gender fluctuates, but not fluidly–it’s really all over the place. I’ll feel like I’m a binary gender as either a boy or a girl, or I’m agender, or I’m bigender as both a boy and girl in varying degrees of boyishness and girlishness. (The fact that I ascribe to a binary means I don’t feel comfortable being called non-binary.) I’m transgender by virtue of the fact that I don’t agree with the gender I was assigned at birth all the time.

So those are brief summaries of my experience on the spectrums of gender and romanticism.

But being in the spectrum, where there is loads of variation, is a bit of a strain on me. I don’t “fit” anywhere nicely. I don’t feel fluid. Fluids can fit into bounds of some kind. Water fills cups, etc.

Spectrum is a little harder. I feel like a rainbow–the whole rainbow, not just a few colours, and not just the ones that are visible to human eye. A rainbow can’t fit into a cup, y’know?

One issue I have being gray-romantic/aro-spec is people mistake it for asexuality very often. And one thing with gender non-conformity is that people will label it as non-binary. People misunderstand and lump together a lot of identities because they “seem similar enough” (see also: bi and pan). And that’s one of my biggest problems of being on a spectrum: it’s devalued compared to “picking a side” but it’s not as wiggly and “free” as being fluid.

I like being able to say “It depends,” because I have the freedom to choose from all the different options that make me comfortable. It’s not the same as being unsure or saying “I don’t know”–I do know, but, as I said, it depends.

It’s hard to find a community, too. That’s the biggest problem I’m having. I’m sometimes agender, or bigender, or boy, or girl; I’m transgender, but not transitioning; my romantic feelings are present, so I’m not aromantic, but they aren’t the same as romantic people.

I want to be a cookie in a cookie cut plate of cookies, y’know? I want to be with other aro cookies and bigender cookies, but we’re not from the same batch of cookie dough. I’m a tasty snack on my own, but one cookie isn’t always enough and it’s lonely to be a unique cookie.

Questioning

Two tree trunks with spray-painted question marks and a text overlay reading Questioning

Lately, I’ve been in that hellish stage of questioning.

Again.

I was here at age 13 and here I am again, and it sucks.

I’m still not comfortable enough to do a broad “coming out” or “here’s what I’ve been questioning” post, but I’m putting this up for a very specific reason.

I’ve written about the fluidity of identity, in a way, when I discussed fluidity in sexuality. I intend to write a follow-up post to that one where I discuss gender identity. But I’ve always been a firm believer of supporting changes in the way people label themselves. There are some parts of your identity that can’t change, like your skin colour and ethnic heritage. There are others, however, that can only change or come about when you find out they exist, like gender, sexuality, romantic attraction, and religious beliefs—and you’re allowed to change your mind based on how much you learn about them.

So I’m posting this to say that I’m wondering if I need to change my mind, too. I’m unsure of the labels I once used. I’m unsure of the identity I once claimed. I’m being intentionally vague here, because I’m not entirely comfortable (let alone certain) of all of this and what labels are accurate. It doesn’t matter which ones I’m specifically questioning. What matters is that I’m back in this space and filled with uncertainty. Part of me is scared—as is normal when something changes—and that part right now is big.

When you question your identity, it often has a domino effect: it can change your relationships, your expression, and your interactions with society. You may have thought you were cisgender, but then you start to question that… and your life changes. There can be small changes or big changes, but it’s not going to be the same after you realise whether or not you are what you thought you were.

Thoughts On Being Transgender

A pink balloon attached to the string by a white chair in a grey setting.

I’ve hesitated posting this, because it’s part of my identity that I’m still… coming to terms with. The whole reality of gender identity and gender expression and biological sex—it’s a mess in my head, but there are a few things I’m certain of: I’m bigender. I’m gender non-conforming. I’m queer. I’m still questioning. And I’m just as transgender as the Trans Poster Child who plays with “opposite-gender” toys and transitions with surgeries and full social transitioning.

I’m keeping my breasts and my given name and my female sex reproduction organs.

And that doesn’t make me less transgender than someone who would have sex reassignment surgery or another type of surgery to alter their body.

I do not have to hate my body to be transgender.

I do not have to feel like I was born in the wrong body to be transgender.

I do not have to identify with the opposite gender on a polarised scale to be transgender. I do not have to go from female to male, or male to female, and then stay that way to be transgender. I am not zero or one. I can be infinite, but I’ll choose the numbers that fit best.

I do not have to be out of the closet or ashamed of being in the closet or proud of being out of the closet.

I am trans, I am trans, I am trans. I am gender non-conforming and I identify with multiple gender roles constructed by society—sometimes multiple, sometimes only one, sometimes none.

I am transgender and I exist within the changing social constructions of gender.

Gender is not an inherent part of existence. We make it. We shape it. We create it the same way we create our identities. We express ourselves in certain ways. We express gender in certain ways. It is a category that societies use.

You are not born with a gender. You grow into one. You learn and you create your identity. You make it the same way you make a sandwich. You choose what to include, what to exclude, and some people will tell you what to put on it and what not to put on it.

Be peanut butter. Be jelly. Be Swiss and ham and pickles on rye. Be your own mixture of tastes and flavours and appearance. Be different today and tomorrow and next year. Be your childhood favourite whenever you want. Be Cheese Whiz and smooth peanut butter on crustless white bread, because it feels good that day, and forget anyone who tells you it’s weird or gross. Be my aunt’s Nutella and mayonnaise. Be a sandwich with lettuce or napa cabbage instead of bread. Be a tortilla wrap.

I am transgender. I don’t have to have pronouns “opposite” to my sex characteristics to be transgender. I do not have to physically transition to be transgender. I do not have to change my name to be transgender. I do not have to be anything except a gender I was not given at birth to be transgender.

I am transgender and that still exists in the gender binary spectrum created by social norms. And I am unsure how to reconcile that, or if I even need to. I am hoping I can embrace the social construction of gender while still urging it to expand and be more than what it currently is. Maybe one day, the notion of “gender” will evolve to a point where “transgender” is a different identity to what it is today. Maybe “girl” and “boy” and “queer” will mean different things, too.

I am bigender and my pronouns are “he/him/his” and “she/her/her” and I am happy with whatever you choose to refer to me, whenever you do it, as long as you understand that my gender is not my body. You don’t have to know if someone is transgender. You just have to know that gender is not genitals.

 

A Typical Switch Day

A photograph of a cluster of light switches and wires.

The Day Before

The day before can be anything—my gender expression and gender identity can be literally anything. It doesn’t matter and I have no inkling of who I’ll be in the morning. I go to sleep restlessly or peacefully, not really thinking about what to wear the next day or how I want to be addressed. The night before is filled with me changing my pyjamas and trying to find what’s comfortable.

The Morning Of

On a good Switch day, I’m very certain of what gender I am. I pick an outfit with conviction and I feel nice in it. But when I see myself wearing it, no matter how calm I am, I get the feeling that this feeling will be short-lived. I’m not going to wear those clothes for the whole day. I’m going to switch at some point. I’ll be myself the whole day, but there’s a connection to all aspects of my gender.

I have yet to have a bad Switch day. I think that’s because all my bad days are dissociated, intensely dysmorphic days—and a Switch day is none of those. (As such, this post will talk only of a good day.) My Boy and Girl days can be good or bad, of course, but any badness or goodness can have even a small link back to my gender and body. Switch days? Switch days are something rare and wonderful.

Interactions

Before the Switch, and depending on which gender I settled on, the interactions are okay. I’ll be misgendered, that’s for sure, but it won’t bother me as much. The temporal aspect of my gender is very present—and soothing. I think, It’s okay that a stranger used those pronouns. It’s still part of my existence.

My Switch days remind me that even if someone doesn’t see both of my genders, and the spectrum between them, and instead only sees one gender—it isn’t as bad as it could be. What they see is still a part of me. Sure, it may not be the same as them acknowledging that it’s only a portion of my gender identity. But it’s better than what it could be—constant misgendering of my entire existence. I’m always a little jolted when my gender expression is read in one specific binary way, but it doesn’t set me off on a Switch day. I’m a floaty, fluid, free wave-particle in life.

The Night Of

The Switch can happen at multiple points of the day. I could go back and forth between boy and girl, or settle in between for a spell. The Switch(es) can be in the morning, the afternoon, or evening. But when I go to sleep, the discomfort sets in again. Like the night before, pyjamas are… difficult. I can’t sleep in a binder. I can’t wear certain clothes to sleep easily in.

After trying to go to bed, it isn’t uncommon to find me awake for hours simply changing my pyjamas and adjusting the pillows. Something isn’t right. Today’s effervescence will disappear. There’s an exhaustion from the changes and the freedom I felt. No matter how much I enjoy the Switch days, I can’t cling on to them. They’re too much of a high for me to maintain.

But when they come around, I’m content. I’m more content being able to flow from one to the other or settle between—moreso than settling into one and putting the other on the backburner. Even if one of my genders wants to be a star that day, and another wants to sit back and watch, they work better when they’re together. When I can be truly bigender.

More On My Gender Identity

Bigender Basics

A Typical Boy Day

A Typical Girl Day

Thoughts On Fluid Sexuality

Decorative image of an overcast sky and brown sand beach.

This is a post I’ve wanted to write for a while. I suppose I prefaced this post by writing Types of Being “Out”, but though the topic is related, I’m touching on a different aspect.

Fluidity. Change. I’m not going to spout some bullshit about fearing or embracing change, because that’s not what this post is about.

This post is telling you that sexuality is fluid. It changes. Your sexuality can change as you change. I’m not talking about you realising you’re not straight. I’m talking about you picking a different sexuality to the one you originally came out as.

My personal history

My first memory of being exposed to sexuality identity and sexuality occurred when I was 7. People called me a lesbian.

Through puberty, age 10 – 14, I questioned my sexuality. I settled on bisexual.

In high school, I was exposed to more gender identities other than cisgender man/woman and transgender man/woman. There are more genders than those binary ones. I realised I was pansexual because gender did not influence my choices.

Nowadays, I’m questioning my romanticism—am I demiromantic? Aromantic? I’m not entirely sure. I’m still learning more about myself, and that isn’t just from growing up. It’s from being exposed to other versions of romantic lifestyles. It’s from having relationships with people—romantic or platonic. It’s from learning. There are so many ways for me to think about “romance” and “love,” but there are more that I don’t know about.


What I’m getting at is sexuality is fluid. I grew up with nobody to tell me there was something other than the perceived norm: heterosexual and heteroromantic. Then, I learned about homosexuality, and then bisexuality. I didn’t think about different genders, though I did question my own gender identity. I didn’t know about transgender and non-binary and other genders.

Your identity changes and grows as you learn more about other people’s experiences. I don’t believe anyone who says they’ve never had a questioning phase. There has to be a time where you think, “Wait, does this label apply to me?” You think of your own life and everyone’s lives around you, whether you know them personally or they’re in the media. There’s so much to learn and so much space your mind has to expand into. There are so many ways to love and live.

All of that knowledge and experience is why I think it’s important to teach young people about gender identity and sexuality. I was seven when people started calling me “lesbo.” These were my peers. They knew about something I didn’t. And yes, seven is a young age—but it’s better to be knowledgeable about things.

After all, if someone tells a child that knowing or understanding a concept is wrong, taboo, or “not for them,” how will they look at it when they don’t have a parent censoring what they’re exposed to? How will they react to information when they’re older? Communication is important, and I wish I had it when I was younger so I didn’t have to feel so ashamed of who I was attracted to, who I thought I was, and who I loved.

I wish there had been someone in my life to tell me that I’m allowed to change my mind about my identity. That I didn’t have to stick with the cis I was labelled as, the lesbo I was labelled as, the bisexual I started with, the pansexual I’m at now. I might learn something else. I might decide that, hey, maybe I really am heterosexual. Maybe I’m asexual. Anything goes. I will become someone different than my twenty-something existence now. I may change my mind to better suit and find peace with myself. I wish someone had told me that I didn’t have to decide on a sexuality to have and to hold till death do us part.

So that’s what I’m doing for you.

You can change your mind. You can continue figuring things out. At one point, you didn’t know something. You learned. You formed opinions. You may have eaten mushrooms as a kid, but now you don’t. And that’s okay—just as okay as deciding that, hey, maybe you aren’t what you thought you were. Maybe the shoe doesn’t fit.

Sexuality changes because you change. There’s nothing wrong with figuring out something new.

Decorative image with the post title "Thoughts On Fluid Sexuality" with an overcast beach photograph.

A Typical Girl Day

I am DFAB—designated female at birth. This means my anatomy lines up with the gender expression of “female” or “woman” or “girl” or “feminine.” I am aware of this every time I wake up. Every month when my uterus cramps and blood dribbles between my legs. Every time I look at my breasts. Every stranger politely saying “miss” or “ma’am.”

The Day Before

I am calm and collected. My outfit planned for the next day is tight-fitting so I can enhance and admire the curves and lumps on my body. Maybe I’ll wear a dress, I think. I look forward to the next day when I know nobody will misgender me. When I change into my sleepwear, I know that the part of my that is a boy is slightly bitter. A part of my resents the fact that I can “pass” more easily as a female gender—the fact that people read me as a girl. By default, people assume my gender based on my looks. I apologise to myself. Someone will always assume something.

The Morning Of

My hair is easier to manage than it normally is. The way it falls complements my face in a way that makes me believe I’m beautiful. I know that I don’t need makeup to try and change the way my face looks—to make it look more feminine—like I do when I want to look masculine. The bitterness creeps up again: I am not always a woman, but today I am and everyone will agree with me. That bitter feeling fades a little after I get dressed and ready to go outside. The anxiety comes back in full force when I’m ready to step out the door.

Will I get catcalled today? Will a man refuse to move out of my way on the sidewalk? Will the elderly cashier call me “sweetie” or “hun” or “dear” and make me uncomfortable? Will someone on the bus gawk at me? Will someone comment or grimace at my leg and armpit hair if it’s showing? Will people see me as a girl without being a sexist pig?

Interactions

I power through my discomfort and am aware of all the eyes. Aware of all the men who walk toward me and only move out of my way at the last second, or who don’t move at all and knock into my elbows. Aware of the stare I know is coming from the person on the other end of the bus. Nobody is confused that I am a girl today and everyone knows what pronouns to use, if they use them.

I don’t mind touching my friends today with hugs or by leaning against them. For once, my body matches my gender and I find a sense of peace. I know that this feeling is fleeting, and that next week or afternoon, I’ll feel differently. For most of the day, I feel confident. I don’t let myself be made small, whether I’m sitting on a chair or standing at the bus stop.

Someone driving by calls me a fat whore and my confidence shatters. I want to throw in the towel and go home. So I do.

The Night Of

Some days my body is good enough. To most people, they don’t care about my body. To some people, my body is always good enough. And to others, the small number of people, they manage to find my biggest insecurity and rip it open. My body is not good enough. My body will always have something wrong with it. And even the pieces of scum who drive by and insult women are right about that. They are wrong in how my body is wrong—being fat and sexual is not wrong—but they unknowingly remind me that I will never be comfortable as myself.

As a woman, I am a target trying to make herself as small as possible. As a man, I am a body trying to be different. As both, I cannot exist in this society. Identifying as a cisgender woman is impossible for myself, but the default for everyone who doesn’t know me. Identifying as a transgender man is impossible, and I am not aiming to transition and be rid of the DFAB body, which means someone will always see me as a female because of my anatomy. Identifying as both throws everyone out of whack because they never know which one I am. As if I know all the time. As if my gender identity is black and white, clear-cut, or systematic. As if my gender is a light switch to flick off and on.

In this society, I can’t be both and hope to be accepted as both—maybe as one or the other. The binary exists and I am expected to pick one. I can’t even figure out if there might be a third gender because this binary gender system is so all-encompassing that I feel like I can’t escape. Hell, some days I’m neither, but I still identify as both because “genderfluid” doesn’t sit well with me.

There is always something to be uncomfortable about when you are a woman. As I finish the day, I think about the ways I’d like my body to change—masculine or feminine, female or male. The mantras surrounding body positivity tell me to love my body, and that I should be happy with it, and I should appreciate it. But I still feel broken because only a small handful of people remind me that I am whole no matter what doesn’t line up properly.

Tomorrow will be better in some way.

More On My Gender Identity

Bigender Basics

A Typical Boy Day

A Typical Girl Day

Thoughts On Gender

I think “male” and “female” describe gender the same way “spring” and “autumn” describe seasons.

You expect certain things of spring. You expect flowers and rain and milder weather. But that isn’t always the case. The weather can still be damn cold. The flowers can bloom late, or not at all, or only some of them. Maybe there’s a dry period of time, and instead of rain, you get wildfires. The hurricane season starts early. Maybe the weather, as it is while I’m writing this, is summery and disgustingly hot despite it not being officially summer.

But the thing is, you still call it spring, despite those variations. Something binds attributes with that time of year, in that hemisphere, and in that part of the Northern Hemisphere. Florida’s spring is starkly different from Yukon’s spring, but they’re both still called spring. They vary and everyone’s awareness of spring varies. Maybe it’s based on specific dates that correspond with astronomical variation. Even those dates change: some years it’s March 21 to June 21 and others, like this year, it’s March 20 to June 20.

For me, spring is when it beings to rain more than snow, regardless of how much snow there is. I anticipate spring’s arrival when I see the lush green stems of flowers, before the blooms. I see the buds on trees. Spring doesn’t correlate with a day of the year for me. It’s how the weather changes. Between Windsor and my hometown north of Toronto, I can feel two different seasons. Maybe it’s winter up north and spring in Windsor.

And if you go to the southern hemisphere, then the dates for spring are irrelevant. It’s not March to June at all. Now what? Do you think that spring doesn’t exist in Australia or Chile? No—you realise that it’s simply in a different time slot.

And autumn—the same principle.

What I’m getting at is that even within these descriptors, certain dates, personal traditions and indicators, there is no cut-and-dry definition of the season. Of any season. But there are patterns and associations that help to define them.

And that’s the same with gender.

There is no cut-and-dry definition.

And there are still things we associate with genders. Women with long hair. Men with deep voices. Women with wider hips. Men with broader shoulders. Genitals. Social roles. Those kinds of things.

But it can reach summer temperatures in spring and women can have deep voices and short hair. Men can have wide hips and narrow shoulders.

Let’s say “spring” is synonymous with “female” and “autumn” is synonymous with “male.” You get preconceptions and expectations, but you’re not going to say it’s still winter when it snows on May 12th (true story; it was such a weird day). You get thrown a bit, a little disoriented, but you take that snow in spring and still call it spring because you know it’s spring, dammit, and no amount of snow is going to make it winter again.

It’s what you label something that matters, regardless of the small variations, I think. It’s autumn if you think it’s autumn, regardless of the first frost or the first snow or an “Indian summer.” It’s autumn, not winter or summer, because that’s what it’s called for that kind of position in the year and weather and hemisphere and latitude.

I think this is why I’m okay with having genders—but not with a strict binary. I think gender has a place, but our notions of gender are a bit skewed. The binary thing. I’m not okay with it. But I am okay with specific genders. It’s a helpful label, like seasons.

That summery weather outside of summer is kind of how I think “transgender” should be seen. I often feel like it’s seen as the flip from the northern hemisphere to southern hemisphere: if you’re March to June, you’re either spring or autumn. And I think that’s wrong. You don’t have to go from male to female or female to male identity to be transgender. If someone tells you you’re autumn, but you feel more like a winter, then… that’s still transgender.

I just think it’d be easier if “transgender” weren’t a thing. If we had more than two genders widely accepted.

One comment related to transgender identity comes with how pet owners correct pronoun usage for their pets. I think it’s an inaccurate comparison. If someone calls your dog a she when it has a penis, and you call it a he, the person you’re correcting gets it faster. It’s based on biological sex. People are quicker to associate pronouns with biological sex, and using the pet comparison only emphasises the role of biological sex in gender. It’d be like telling an Australian they’re wrong for thinking it’s winter because it’s the middle of July. It’s not the same thing. (Also, pets and people are not the same.)

Gender is not your genitals.

Gender is your own version of a season.

Thoughts On Gender

A Typical Boy Day

The Day Before

I notice sensations against my skin. The dryness of my elbows scratching on the desk, or pulling on sweater sleeves as I roll them up, and the uncomfortable pressure against my ribcage from the underwire of my bra.

When I get changed out of my clothes and into something comfortable, I stare at my chest, touch my breasts briefly, and find myself frowning. I slip into a large t-shirt and sweatpants and put in earplugs for sleep. I’m not going to bed yet. Just trying to drown out the noise around me. Something is askew in my universe.

The Morning Of

My hair is too long and my hips are too wide, and I stare at myself in the foggy mirror after showering. My body is a freshly washed series of misplaced lumps. When I wrap the towel around myself, I close my eyes and brace myself for the chill of nakedness.

As is my habit, I have set out my clothes the night before. I do not think well in the first few hours of waking (not necessarily the morning; sometimes I sleep past noon. #noshame). Clothes are too many decisions, even the order of putting them on: underpants, bra, jeans, t-shirt, socks, sweater. I put the bra back on its hook in the closet and pull out the chest binder from a drawer. Before I make the effort to slip it over my head, I remember how terrible it is to put on when my skin is even the least bit damp. I pat myself down again. Through the towel, I touch individual parts of a body I hate today—the one that doesn’t feel right and that I can’t temporarily change.

The binder is tight around my ribcage. I inhale deeply, to remind my lungs how much they can expand while being willingly bound. It isn’t nearly as much as I normally can. When I first bought and wore the undershirt-like formwear, it would barely budge past my arms while I shimmied into it. It moved like a starch-laden tank top and rubbed my skin terribly.

I change the shirt sitting on my dresser. The relaxed-fit t-shirt with the beautiful design can’t be worn today: the neckline shows part of the binder and it is too fitted for my waist to feel comfortable. I do not want to be touched. My body is a virus. I open the drawer, place the Girl Shirt back in its place, and pick a Boy Shirt from the other side. It is loose. Crew-neck cut. Longer sleeves. Reminiscent of my preference when I would harm myself and hide the wounds on my biceps.

When I’m dressed and brushing my teeth, I see myself in the mirror and feel better. I mess up my hair, still unsure how to make my face look the way it should. It seems as if it will always be a She Face, regardless of how the rest of my self appears.

I’ve thought of wearing makeup, not for enhancing my lashline or enunciating the shape of my lips, but for contouring my cheekbones, my jawline, and my eyebrows to seem darker; deeper; dastardly. I do not have the money. My teeth are clean. I spit and rinse and rinse and rinse and floss.

Interactions

Either everyone knows my secret or they think I’m angry. My step is involuntarily more aggressive, I think, or perhaps the way I carry my shoulders and arms says something. Do I slouch more? Do I seem more forceful? Do I seem like an angry woman instead of what I am today: a boy?

I can’t walk as fast as normal, or take the stairs as quickly, because of the tightness around my breasts and ribs. The bottom of my binder rolls up toward the bottom of my ribcage, which doesn’t bother me as much as the way my skin and fat tissue are pinched under my arms. (An unfortunate downside of being overweight and trying to combat body dysphoria.)

In classes, I take notes and keep my head down. I don’t chat with acquaintances. I’m on a mission: survive the day. Running errands, I ignore the casual “hon” and “miss” the older cashiers use. Am I a flat-chested girl to them? How do they know what to call me? My confusion is hidden after a brief moment. I don’t know if they notice—they probably don’t. I walk in a fog and jolt when I can’t remember if I put away my wallet and cards and cash and receipts. Disorientation, over and over again, and I settle into the movements like a mix of floating and sinking.

I don’t ask friends for hugs. I don’t want them to squeeze me. I don’t want to be touched.

The Night Of

When I’ve returned home and after I remove the binder, I return to the baggy clothes from the day before (sweater and sweatpants). The first time I removed the binder was in front of my boyfriend. He was the first to know about my wearing it the first time it was on. He said I looked good. He helped take it off, since I got stuck. It was like I had shimmied myself into a plastic Chinese finger trap.

But removing it now is an easy slip. I’m always sad to take it off, but the discomfort on my skin hinders me from wearing it too long.

Any intense efforts to feel better about the femininity of my body would make things worse.

After I place jeans and a t-shirt on the dresser, I snuggle into bed. The binder sits in the drawer and the bra hangs in the closet. I will decide tomorrow when I feel and see myself moving.

A Typical Boy Day

Bigender Basics

Some days are chocolate chip cookies: primarily sumptuous dough, but interspersed with rich, tiny clumps of semi-sweet chocolate.

Other days are full-on triple-chocolate cookies, with a cocoa-enriched dough, hunks of chocolate throughout, and a drizzle of melted vanilla sweetness on top.

And even other days, there are some none-chocolate cookies on my plate and other double-chocolate cookies that I pick from. I nibble at both, but never eat an entire cookie.

Another analogy: hot and cold. I put on layers of sweaters and camis and button-ups, or undershirts and t-shirts and sweaters and coats. I can wake up and the weather is below freezing. The sun comes out. The temperature changes. I become warm. I started the day cold, and tried to be warm. Then I warmed up, and now I want to be cold.

The basics are this: I am never one or the other. I am always two. I can lean toward one side of the spectrum, or I sway back and forth between them.

For me, being bigender means I am a boy and a girl. I can be both at once. Sometimes I’m one for the day, sometimes I’m the other. Sometimes I’m both all day, neither one of them exclusively.

Pronouns and gender-specific identifiers cause me the most issues. I can never tell on any given day which of the genders I’m more inclined to until someone identifies me as one of them. Sometimes the person who identifies myself as one is myself—when I look in a mirror, or when I feel my body move. In person, I’m only ever labelled one gender. I haven’t exactly come out to many people I know in person, mostly because they won’t see me very differently. (As my boyfriend put it when I told him: “You’ll still be you.”) And if they will look at me differently, in a negative light, then it doesn’t matter that they know or don’t know.

I don’t exactly correct people when they misgender me, because the majority of society I interact with associates gender with a body.

gender =/= body parts

I pass most easily as one gender on the spectrum, and not very easily as the other I identify with. And this disappoints me. I put in effort to make myself look a way that makes me feel comfortable when I look at myself and move around. But most people don’t notice this. I’m still gendered as the other one by people who don’t know me.

It isn’t easy to have people misgender me on a daily basis when I fluctuate so much between two of them and it’s very much an internal experience.

Sometimes I misgender myself because I’ve been told I’m one for my entire life, even when I started thinking I wasn’t just that one when I was 13.

The binary view of genders in modern society is my biggest obstacle, aside from my body dysmorphia. There’s a resistance to spectrum and dualities.

I feel like I can’t identify as transgender because I can identify with the gender I was designated at birth. I’m able to. But it isn’t the only one. Of course, I still hold internal transphobia and stigma; I’m trying to unlearn the “you can only be one” mentality in terms of gender identity. A transwoman doesn’t need to transition to be a transwoman. A transgender person doesn’t need to go from one binary to the other to be transgender—they can fluctuate along a spectrum, too, even if it’s between two socially enforced binaries (as I do).

Internalised bigotry. I think a lot of marginalised individuals still hold internalised bigotry, whether it’s sexism or homophobia, or transphobia or all the others. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

All I’m trying to do is make peace with myself and how I view myself. Being bigender is one of those ways I’m legitimately achieving that peace.

Basics of a non-binary gender: bigender.