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Body musings

September 5, 2010 Leave a comment

I had a bit of a confrontation with the mirror recently. I’ve had an interesting relationship with my body, there are lots of things I’d like to change and not just having to do with gendered characteristics. I really want electrolysis on my face, facial hair is the number one body-related dysphoria trigger for me. I’d also like to gain weight, and stop having quite so much acne. And I’ve never been sure what to do or think about my genitals (I don’t like them, but I like some of the things they can do, and I don’t like my alternatives, though I like some of the things those could do too…).

But I’ve realized something. Out of all the things I dislike about my body, the thing I hate the most is the meanings other people put into them. I had a period where I was shaving off all the hair I could reach, because body hair is “masculine.” That stopped mainly for economic reasons (many many razors, gets expensive over time), but now I’m at a point where I just don’t feel like it anymore. I’ve gone back to shaving my armpits (because having hair there makes me feel grotty) and chest (because I think my five chest hairs look funny), but other than that I discovered I don’t care. I don’t dislike any part of my body because it is “masculine”, I dislike them because they feel weird to me. What I do dislike is the fact that people look at my body and think “male” automatically. Mens bathrooms and male pronouns cause me much more distress than any part of my body (usually, I might make an exception for facial hair).

I might have once described myself as (and some people might now describe me as) male-bodied. But when I look in the mirror, I don’t see a man’s body, or anything that remotely resembles maleness to me. I just see me. Maybe that’s new, maybe that’s something to do with self-acceptance or something. I’m not sure. Right now, I’m just baffled that anyone could look at me and think “man” (and I’m not particularly androgynous, especially when you take off my head [please don’t do that literally]).

Another reason that I did so much shaving, or that I until recently was somewhat fixated on physical transitions (to what I couldn’t tell you), is that I was trying to exercise some measure of control over my body. I don’t have much say in the functions of my endocrine system, or in my genetics. But it turns out that what bothers me more is the lack of control I have over people’s perceptions of me. I actually have no idea how people see me at any point in time, even people I’ve told about my gender identity (I’m a bit afraid to ask those people, not knowing what the answer is). While I would like to do a lot more exploring with my gender expression, I’m generally comfortable where I am and shouldn’t have to express as obviously ambiguous just to have people read me as non-male. I’m starting to think that the idea that I would have to do that, or that I had to do some sort of physical transition for my feelings to be legitimate, is something that was pushed on my by society at large. That my non-binary gender is only “real” if I have to jump through hoops and go to a huge amount of trouble to express it.

That’s not to say that I’m not going to do anything about my body. I’d still like to get electrolysis. And figure out something to do about the Pendulums of Awkwardness that doesn’t get me put on expensive hormones for the rest of my life to avoid osteoporosis. But I’m doing those things for my own self, not to try to express some performative gender that shouldn’t need to be performed. I should be able to be my gender, not have to show it.

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