Category Archives: Body Image

Does Feminism Need a Rebrand?

Straight off the bat, fist in the air and hollering like a macaque, I am a feminist. Of course I am a feminist. Gender equality is something we should be ashamed that we haven’t reached. As a species we have put twelve men on the moon, observed distant galaxies, cured diseases that were once thought fatal, and created ABBA, yet equal pay, equal corporate and political representation, and even not hacking a girl’s lady bits to pieces in some parts of the world STILL prove elusive.

“BLAH BLAH Patriarchy, BLAH BLAH Pay gap, BLAH BLAH Glass ceiling.”

That is what people are conditioned to hear whenever issues of equality and prejudice are brought up. The words “I am a Feminist” to many people is just giving them permission to tune you out, talk over you or repeat some ‘witty banter’ about women not knowing their place.

Indeed it is seemingly acceptable to sneer and ridicule, as if holding said beliefs are an open and aggressive challenge to the sneering party. There are three groups of people who it is deemed totally okay to heap scorn upon with no ‘legitimate’ objections.

Feminists – Environmentalists – Vegans

Yup, even we much scorned and oft mocked Transfolk are starting to get ‘normal’ people fighting our corner (keep it up guys, you’re stars!).

Now, I could bang on about how those big three labels are consciously and constantly discredited by a patriarchal, fossil fuel loving, steak chomping cabal of wealthy (mostly) men, who use their assets to influence media and politicians, but all people are conditioned to hear is:

“BLAH BLAH Patriarchy, BLAH BLAH Pay gap, BLAH BLAH Glass ceiling.”

Since when were universal human equality, environmental preservation or just not eating animal products considered to be bizarre, far out political extremism?

“BLAH BLAH Patriarchy, BLAH BLAH Pay gap, BLAH BLAH Glass ceiling.”

Okay, okay I’ve lost a lot of the readership by this point, so I won’t labour it.

The actual core message of Feminism in particular, is one that even most naysayers would agree with, but the word has been toxified. A grotesque stereotype has been carefully crafted and bandied about as if it were cold, hard fact. When a negative portrayal of something is so crafted for so long, it begins to self-perpetuate and those who spun it can sit back in their gentleman’s clubs, joke about all the women they have groped and then run for President.

We live in a world of brands, slogans and logos. If something cannot be summed up by a simple image or a brief tagline, it fails.

Conditioned Public: “Why do we have this problem?”

Brand A: “There are numerous causes for our current situation, not least of all is…

Conditioned Public: “zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz”

Conditioned Public: “Why do we have this problem?”

Brand B: *Shrugs* Brown people.

Conditioned Public “YAAAAAY!”

Ye get me bro?

Now, Feminists can be massive pricks. Believing in women’s equality does not automatically prevent you from being rude, aggressive, divisive, cruel or elitist. In the Venn diagram of “Pricks and Feminists” there is a little bit of a crossover.

feminist pricks

Yes, there are several high profile Feminists that seem to get an awful lot of media time because they outright despise Trans people (so much for your genitals not dictating your destiny eh?). There are those who would rather fight against the women that don’t adhere to their own narrow views of what is, and is not acceptable for a Feminist to be.

But what of the rest of the Feminists who stand in solidarity with their Trans kin, who embrace a woman’s right to choose her own form of self-expression, set her own standards of beauty and fashion… those who argue that it is no less oppressive to ban an item of women’s clothing, than it is to enforce its wearing? Because that is most of us, isn’t it?

Of course that pesky old hyper-male governed media only give coverage the to the divisive and hypocritical…

BLAH BLAH Patriarchy, BLAH BLAH Pay gap, BLAH BLAH Glass ceiling.”

Okay, so we can’t go in with the complex ideas off the bat. It also doesn’t help that the letters ‘F.E.M’ get a whole other heap of scorn all to themselves when placed in that order. They have been made to mean ‘weak’, ‘contradictory’, ‘stupid’, ‘less than’… The whole language of being female, or even feminine has been toxified. Men suffer as a result of this too. The pressure to be emotionally distant, repressed, stoic, insensitive and unaffectionate creates an ‘ideal’ that one would have to be a narcissistic sociopath to live up to… and yes guys, since you’ve always been told that everything is really about you when it isn’t, this actually is, at least in part. I am glad that so many guys nowadays actually get this and proudly label themselves as feminists, but the status quo as ever pushes back against challenges with increased vigour and severity. Let’s push forward together.

I am no marketing genius of course (I couldn’t sell shit to a Dung Beetle), and I never sought to offer a solution to the whole ‘rebranding’ option, but in a world where short answers trump correct ones, I feel it is inevitable that we must come up with some way of approaching our argument that cannot be toxified and filtered out of debate.

Or, in other words…

BLAH BLAH Patriarchy, BLAH BLAH Pay gap, BLAH BLAH Glass ceiling.”

Oh, just a side note. I spent waaaaay too long looking for an easy to use Venn Diagram generator online that didn’t require some kind of coding or payment for use so I gave up and did it in MS-Paint like a techno-illiterate from the late eighties (which I am). I’m not sure the gag was worth it, except that I really REALLY can’t stand Germaine Greer.

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Filed under Activism, Body Image, equality, feminism, Gender, gender roles, Inequality, trans community, trans issues, Transender, Transsexual

#Transgender – Are Trans People Pressured Too Much to Adhere to Gender Stereotypes?

I often find it quite ‘poncey’ when people talk about ‘narratives’ …’what’s your Narrative?’, ‘Gender Narrative’, ‘Social Narrative’ etc. I am fully prepared to accept that this attitude, and indeed the specific wording of my feelings are based on a personal narrative of growing up in a no-nonsense, plain speaking environment. Indeed, I can often be poncey, flowery and pretentious with my prose but when you grow up around the cultural vacuum of a ‘New Town’ like Stevenage where there is sadly a culture of distrust towards anyone who is different, one doesn’t have to season their vernacular too much before being labelled as all these things.

It does concern me, however, on a deeper level than just how self-important it can make one sound. The sad truth is, as a Trans person, we are all judged upon our Narratives. One cannot simply walk in to a GP and, like Ricky Gervais satirically speculated on one of his standup tours say “You see all this? Get rid of this… pop on a fanny!”

In the UK we have to bare our incorrectly housed souls to psychiatrists in order to be diagnosed with a condition that they don’t even want to classify as a mental illness (which it isn’t if the recent discoveries of the variation in androgen receptors is true). This is where we give our narratives.

Did we want to play with the toys of the opposite sex when we were younger? Did we want to dress as the opposite sex? Did we express our Dysphoria to family and friends from a young age? Did we even experience Dysphoria when we were young? Were we effete little boys, or tomboy girls? These are relevant to our past narrative.

There is, sadly, an element of one-uptranship within the Trans community? Woe betide any poor Trans person who didn’t experience Dysphoria until puberty, or who never wanted to dress as the opposite sex when they were younger. Born male? Played with Ninja Turtles and not Barbie? You don’t qualify! I am considerably Transer than you!

Our current narrative is also under scrutiny. How do we present ourselves? Many Transwomen I know, especially early in their transition are afraid to attend GIC appointments and assessments without a full face of makeup and as typically feminine an outfit as is humanly possible for fear that their expression of their gender identity will be deemed inadequate. There is this permeating fear that if you rock up in jeans and a hoodie like half the women you pass in the street, you will be dismissed as ‘not serious enough’.

There is this concept in the Trans-critical feminist circles, that Transwomen are walking parodies of femininity. This is of course an absolutely absurd and downright offensive notion, but does it gain weight from the fact that out current healthcare system seems to be encouraging Transwomen especially to overcompensate? The fact that we are expected to present as feminine fulltime (RLE) for nearly a year before receiving and benefiting from any feminising hormones, has the unfortunate side effect of making us far more visible to those around us than we feel comfortable with. Jeans, T-Shirt, Hoodie, Trainers, hair in a ponytale… is that ok? Are we still presenting as female? Are we negating our RLE? Are we at risk of losing our support or being hurled back to square one? Are we even allowed to have our hair short if we want?

RLE (Real Life Experience) is a misleading concept, as it is not really experiencing life in your preferred gender role, as much as it is seeing how you cope with the shit you are going to get when others perceive you as Trans. Unless you are fortunate enough to be naturally very androgynous, you are going to look like a guy in a frock or a stereotypical ‘butch lesbian’ until you get medical intervention. ‘Passing privilege’ doesn’t often come until later, and for many, not at all.

No one comments on Trans people who blend in, only on those who stand out. I suppose I can count myself fortunate that I can sit near a group of people saying nasty things about Trans people without realising that one of these ‘abominations’ is within muffin launching distance from their ignorant faces. It sometimes feels that the less you think you pass, the more you overcompensate, and the less you actually pass as a result.

Femininity is highly subjective. Masculinity is highly subjective. Is it wrong to push transitioning people to the extremes of gender expression? Is this not the issue many think it is and just an internalised aspect of Gender Dysphoria? Is there not enough consensus on the parameters for gender expression to use it as a suitable judge for the criteria of RLE?

I prefer to wear dresses or skirts, love shoes, don’t usually wear much make-up, play tabletop games, video games, collect Warhammer stuff, love sci-fi and history, laugh at dirty jokes… there’s a mix of typically both genders in there, yet I identify strongly as female… are Transwomen allowed to be Tomboys? Are Transmen allowed to be effete? The gender binary is far from just a Trans issue, we are all a hodgepodge of different traits and interests that have been gender labelled. Compassion is seen as feminine, yet there are many compassionate men whose Gender Identity is never in question. Competitiveness is seen as a typically male trait, but try telling that to a women’s Roller Derby team.

I always knew what my brain needed my body to be, but that is not negated by the fact I liked Ninja Turtles and Action Man when I was a child, and it doesn’t negate my identity if I can’t be bothered to shave my legs for a fortnight.

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Filed under Body Image, femininity, gender dysphoria, gender roles, masculinity, Privilege, real life experience, RLE, Trans, Trans Activism, trans issues, Transgender, transition, Transsexual

Back to Blonde

So, new start, new me and all that. Actually, rewind.

In February, I was in a situation where I felt I had no choice except between ending my two year relationship with my now ex-partner, or having to have the local mental health crisis team called out AGAIN to peel me off the floor, and this time I would have most likely found myself sectioned. I’m not going to go into any great detail as to what happened between us, or blaming and shaming, but it is important to have context.

For most of those two years my hair had been red, with the odd short-lived foray into chestnut or ginger. Well this time I was determined to do something fresh and go blonde. So here it is.

20150409_125428

Yes, the remaining red dye has left a slight red tinge but you know what? I actually really like it. So, it seems, do the gentlemen on certain dating sites.

Right now I am not looking for anyone, I am too busy looking for myself and being happy with who I am to give much of a crap about pleasing anybody else, but one can make good friends regardless on these sites. I am currently chatting to a teacher from Birmingham who is rather lovely, and always has something intelligent or interesting to say.

However, others are not quite so verbally dexterous. Changing my profile picture to one with my current hair colour has indeed attracted far more attention than my previous dark red haired guise.

So far I have had a dozen very graphic requests for immediate meet-ups, several other Transwomen messaging me to tell me that I am beautiful, guys messaging me with relevent comments about the actual words on my profile, not just the photo (much appreciated fellas), one very angry man who seems to feel entitled to a woman’s time should he want it, and, just now, a young chap in Ireland who asked, out of the blue, if I wanted to watch him suck his own cock.

During a visit to Holmfirth the other day, I found myself very popular with the locals in a lovely little pub I know, whereas in the same place last year with my hair dark I never so much as received a second look.

Is it that Blondes really do have more fun? Or is it just that we’re more hi-viz than our dark haired counterparts? I don’t know how I feel about this added visibility but so far people looking at me more has failed to elicit any specific Transphobic response, which is a plus, although the extra conspicuousness has seemingly led some to be more sexually aggressive which I am not at all keen on.

Right now it feels good to look in the mirror and see myself kinda reborn and renewed from the desolate wreckage of a person I had become, but it is also reassuring to know that anonymity is merely a bottle away.

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Filed under Body Image, Trans, Transgender

Food Triggers and How They Affect Me

First off, I apologise. This isn’t really an article, it is more an explanation of some of the side effects of my complex relationship with food, and the problems that can come about from it (If I were into hashtags it would be #firstworldproblems). It is aimed more at the people that I know, and who I spend a lot of time with. I’m not trying to be accusational, as a lot of these triggering behaviours would, amongst most other people, not be a problem. Perhaps there are others out there with complex relationships with food who can relate to these things.
Earlier today, whilst sat in the waiting room for my counselling appointment, my mind began to wander to the question of making my issues more tolerable for those around me. I know that I can be hard to be around sometimes. It’s not that I am sitting in a bubble of ‘FUCK YOU’, just waiting to explode at people who do wrong, but sometimes it can feel that way. When triggered, I can go into a state of anxiety and agitation that, although not necessarily someone else’s fault, can make me feel very angry with them, and then very upset with myself for having had those feelings. I thought it might be best to put out a list of things that trigger me with relation to food and eating.
To reiterate, this isn’t intended to be a list of criticisms aimed at anybody in particular… well, unless you’re a repeat offender who knows these things already.

1) Surprising me with food
I need a run up to food. I need a moment to take in the food situation and make my decision about what, when and how much food I eat. I plan in my head what I will eat for the day, and any changes to that plan require processing time to readjust my eating itinerary. To put food in front of me without prior warning is a nice gesture, but it triggers my anxiety. It makes me panic. It takes away my sense of control. Whether it is a bar of chocolate or a sandwich or a whole meal, unexpectedly putting food in front of me and expecting me to just eat it will upset me hugely. If you want to offer something, that is fine; the decision will then be mine, but to give with the expectation for me to eat, is not.

2) Seasoning/Flavouring my food
I’m not talking about a little salt in the pot while it cooks, I’m talking about when it is ready to eat, don’t go putting sauces or flavourings on it without my supervision or permission. This is also a pretty big trigger. Once more it takes the element of control away from me which sets off my anxiety. Please, please, please ALWAYS ask. NEVER ASSUME!

3) Taking my food
The food that is on my plate is the amount that I have decided to eat. DO NOT help yourself to food off of my plate. If you want something, please ask. I don’t care who you are, if you do not ask, you can get anything from a stern rebuttal to a fork in the hand. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.

4) Lecturing me about willpower
I am fully aware of my level of willpower and how stretched it is the vast majority of the time. No one but me is in a position to know exactly what is, and what isn’t working properly in my own head. I do not want to hear your opinion of how my head works because you do not know. Unless you are a qualified therapist, or someone with experience of the exact same issues that I have, then your opinion, no matter how fervently you believe otherwise, is guesswork at best . Some days I will shake it off, but others you will be told firmly what do do with your opinions.

5) Ignoring me when I ask for help
Okay, it may be a bit of a tired cliché but if I ask you to take something away from me because I feel I’m spiralling towards a binge, or my self-control is slipping, then please do. Please don’t roll your eyes or say ‘have some willpower’… If I had the willpower to stop I wouldn’t be asking for help, would I?

6) Leaving me alone with food
I know this isn’t 100% possible, but I struggle when I am alone with food. It is when I am cooking in a kitchen full of food, that I most vulnerable to binge. If I am cooking, please keep me company or at least check in on me regularly to distract me… especially if it is you I am cooking for.

7) Wasting food
Seriously, there’s people starving because they don’t have access to enough food, and others buying too much and throwing half of it away. A little forward planning reduces waste. On a personal note however, seeing food being wasted or left triggers my anxiety. I’m not sure why it does, but it does.

8) Interfering with my cooking
If I am cooking then ‘I’ am cooking. Don’t come in nibbling at the veg I’ve chopped, tasting what’s in the pot, adding seasoning or sauces, or swiping food when I am plating up. If the food is in my control, then it is in my control until I give it to you. You want to nibble on a bit of carrot or taste a spoonful of whatever I am cooking, then ask.

9) Not waiting for me before you start to eat
Aside from basic manners, I find it upsetting to finally sit down to eat to find that everyone else is already halfway through their food. It throws off my internal eating clock and pushes me to rush my food which triggers sense memories of binging. It can lead me to feeling physically sick and wanting to purge.

10) Expecting me to cook
I love to cook… most of the time. Some days I just cannot face it. Don’t get the arse with me if I can’t face it.

11) Eating in public
Sometimes I can, sometimes I can’t. I don’t mean to be awkward, but there are times I just can’t sit in front of people I don’t know and put food in my face. These moods can also shift suddenly. I’m not trying to be a pain in the hole for you, these things are just as much of a headfuck for me.

12) Challenging me on my eating
Seriously, if you think I am binging or going too far, don’t chastise me or try to shame me for it. Remarks like ‘Haven’t you had enough?’ or ‘you’re packing it away tonight’ don’t help. Instead just quietly ask me if I’m okay and if I need some help stopping. That would be much more appreciated.

13) Challenging me on my choices
I am about 95% Vegetarian, with the remaining 5% taken up by seafood (That’s about once a week to once a fortnight). I choose not to eat meat. I don’t lecture those who do. If you have a chip on your shoulder about people not eating meat, then please keep it to yourself. Whilst most triggers upset me, this one makes me angry. There is no call for it. It gives me a greater sense of control over what I eat so undermining that control isn’t always going to be taken in good humour.

14) Debating the validity of the trigger
It doesn’t matter how much you protest or try to debunk my trigger, if you’ve triggered me then you’ve triggered me. I can appreciate that you didn’t realise you did it, or that it was an accident and I am not accusing you of any deliberate intention to upset or provoke me. However, standing there and trying to invalidate my feelings about something is NOT going to remedy the situation. Please don’t try to make me feel shittier about it, in order to make yourself feel better about upsetting me.

Yes, right now I can be a headfuck and a half sometimes, but I appreciate the efforts to just avoid these triggers, and I hope you know that if I have had a negative reaction to you in the past because of these things, then it is not personal. I am in the process of receiving treatment for my issues with a referral to the eating disorder specialists and a probable appointment for the end of next month, or the beginning of October. I ask if you cannot be actively supportive, to just be cool and not give me any grief over these things.
Thanks guys.

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Filed under Binge, Body Image, Chaotic Binge Eating Disorder, Eating Disorder