By Sally McGraw; cross-posted with permission from Already Pretty
A couple of months ago, I was invited to meet with a transgender support group here in the Twin Cities to talk about shopping, style, and outfit assembly, and I was so honored. I try my best to be an ally to the transgender community, and although I know my efforts fall short, I keep trying. Every week, I read lots and lots and LOTS of articles about the issues facing this community of people, both in terms of shopping and dressing challenges and general prejudices and dangers. A year ago, when Nadine pointed out to me that there are relatively few trans voices in the mainstream fashion blogging community, I realized she was absolutely right and was thrilled when she agreed to become an Already Pretty contributor. I was excited to offer my help, such as it was, to this local group who’d invited me to speak and hoped I’d have some helpful answers for them.
But I had stress dreams for the entire week leading up to the meeting. And then a few afterwards.
Because no matter how open-minded and well-read I considered myself to be, I was still out of my depth. I honestly didn’t know what to say when it was pointed out that jeans designed for male-shaped bodies have 3″ more room in the crotch and a lower-slung butt area than jeans designed for female-shaped bodies, and asked how to deal with that when in transition. I shared as much as I could about the basics of proportion and figure-flattery, and answered all the questions I could. But I still found myself saying “you guys” when addressing the group, and even though I stopped myself, I felt so foolish for doing so. I was still more stumped than insightful, and more awkward than informative. It was a great reminder that being empathetic is important, but should never be confused with true understanding.
Perhaps an even more important reminder came when some language I’ve used for years and years proved problematic. I was pretty darned nervous and wanted to be accepting and supportive, so I found myself slipping into auto-pilot when it came to some of the body love messages I’ve been promoting throughout the life of this blog. I finished up my mini-rant on how important it was to wear whatever made you feel the best and most like yourself, and the moderator very gently pointed out that such advice didn’t always apply. Yes, it’s important to wear what feels authentic to you, but if you’re a trans person who gets considerably more venomous looks or active harassment in bathrooms when you wear spike heels and short skirts, that will impact your dressing choices. Even if you feel amazing in spike heels and short skirts, as a trans person doing so can actually impact your personal safety. Choosing to wear what you like is actually a privilege.
And I left realizing that one of my mantras – “there’s nothing wrong with your body” – doesn’t work seamlessly either. Anyone who feels their birth-assigned gender isn’t the right one OR is battling illness, injury, or a real need to change their bodies for health-related reasons might hear that and think, “She’s telling me my feelings about myself are wrong.”
The slogan above, I believe (and hope!), works universally. And its message is so important: Body positivity IS for all bodies. Not just fat bodies or trans bodies, not just injured or differently abled bodies, not just healthy bodies or bodies of color. All bodies. The loving nudge to work toward making peace with your physical self – whether that work involves transitional surgeries or repeated mantras, recovery programs or new exercise regimens, journaling or closet overhauls – is important work for anyone and everyone who is struggling. I don’t think I’ll ever find perfect language that encompasses everything I want everyone to feel when they come here, but I hope that some of the underlying sentiments of support, love, and acceptance shine through.
Body positivity is for all bodies. Including yours.