New Gender, New Body Image Issues

Bailey C. discusses how body image issues can affect us both before and after transition.

No matter your gender, there’s one thing I’ve discovered you cannot escape from- body image issues. I remember being in middle school and receiving a few nasty messages about my weight on YouTube, where I had begun posting videos. Like the girls around me, I was soon struggling with trying to become super thin and as beautiful as all the women on TV and magazine covers. After losing twelve pounds in about six months, I put on a top that had looked bad on me just that past summer, and paraded around the house, now that it looked good on me. I remember feeling like it was the proudest moment of my life!

After years of stepping on the scale daily, hating myself for not looking like a “sexy woman,” and comparing myself to other women, I came out as a transgender guy. Little did I know that with second puberty, similar psychological issues would come with it.

I look in the mirror. I see I’m not muscular enough. I’m too chubby. I can’t get rid of this lower abdominal fat; I’ve tried so many ways! I’m a pathetic shrimp when you put me next to other trans men, especially ones who have been on T a shorter time. (Or at least that’s how I view myself.) I’d give anything to have things like a washboard stomach, beautiful pecs, or rock-solid legs.

"I KNOW I’M NOT ALONE IN THE TRANS COMMUNITY IN TERMS OF BODY IMAGE ISSUES."

I know I’m not alone in the trans community in terms of body image issues. I also know there are way more issues than body fat and muscle mass that can bother a transgender or non-binary person, and it can get far worse than comparing yourself every time you see one of those viral Instagram posts of a “perfectly built” trans person.

When I had gone to middle school and was forced to endure the awkwardness of health class, the two most common eating disorders were briefly covered; Anorexia and Bulimia, both of which cause the sufferer to go to great lengths to lose weight, like binging and purging or starving yourself. According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, at least 30 million people suffer from an eating disorder in the US alone. They also go on to mention that 16 percent of transgender college students reported having an eating disorder. Emphasis on the fact that this is just transgender college students, and not the trans community as a whole. (One could only suspect that the statistic for the entire community is much higher.)

"..AS A COMMUNITY, WHY ARE WE NOT TALKING ABOUT THIS MORE?"

My question reflects a similar idea from when I spoke about mourning the childhood I never got to spend as a boy, and the non-glamorous moments that HRT can bring: as a community, why are we not talking about this more?

In my eyes, body image issues can be even worse for transgender and non-binary people, due to the fact that it tends to come straight from our physical dysphoria; we’re worried about our bodies looking too masculine or feminine already. We try to find what we need to do to avoid being misgendered, and often it can involve hitting the gym. We also are, as I mentioned, easily influenced by the glamour shots we see on Instagram, Facebook, and any other social media sites.

Even though a lot of things can become a dysphoria issue, not just body fat, body image issues and the potential for eating disorders to develop (especially) during transition isn’t something that should be shoved under the rug.

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