All Bodies

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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.

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10 Responses to “All Bodies”

  1. JB

    What a fantastic opportunity for learning as well as teaching. Bravo to you – and thank you – for embracing that opportunity and for sharing what you’ve learned. As you often remind us, you don’t have to be perfect to make a difference.

  2. Monica H

    Sally, thanks so much for your efforts and for sharing your experience here. I am hopeful that your loving intention was able to shine through your words.

    I do think that “there is nothing wrong with your body” is useful for everyone. You’ve written before about the seeming contradiction between this statement and the desire to change your body in some way before. Although of course it is different, many people struggle with loving their bodies while wanting some change, either to lose weight, gain strength, recover from injury or illness or disability, contemplating cosmetic procedures, and the like. While these issues are by no means equivalent to what transgender people may face, they do share a common thread. I do think it is important for us all to learn that “there is nothing wrong with my body” is NOT in conflict with “I wish to lose weight for my health,” or “I want to regain the ability to walk,” or even, “I want gender reassignment surgery.”

    We as a culture tend to think in terms of black/white, yes/no, either/or. I think we all need a reminder from time to time that there is a lot of both/and when it comes to statements about our bodies.

    • Devon

      I think that hating one’s body because it reflects nothing of one’s true self is a few steps beyond not being able to love one’s body. Trans people have the right not to love their bodies and not to be chastised for their choices.

      People whose bodies are the ones they don’t want from birth and/or the ones they don’t want after a life change may choose not to love their bodies. They may make peace with using their bodies without ever identifying with their bodies.

      Desiring bodily change is not always a path to body love. It may just be a path to accepting a burden. And that’s okay. We need to be okay with other people not loving their bodies.

      • Monica H

        I totally agree with all of that. In fact it is perfectly OK for anyone not to love their bodies. I did not intend to chastise anyone (trans or otherwise) who does not love their body.

        My only point is that there is no conflict in “there is nothing wrong with my body” and “I feel like my body doesn’t fit me.” Both can be true simultaneously and it is a possibility that we often dismiss because it seems like a contradiction.This can be one possible route for anyone to find more peace and acceptance of the body they have now, no matter its size, gender, ability, or state of health, and no matter how much they may be working to change it.

  3. Nadine Spirit

    Thank you for everything you do to help support the transgender community!! I love the following line:

    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 have followed your blog for quite some time and your message of body positivity has been very helpful for me.

  4. Zaianya

    You are doing such important work. Thank you!

    I have heard that “All bodies have value” is perhaps a more appropriate statement when dealing with trans people–many of whom do feel that, fundamentally, YES, there absolutely IS something wrong with their bodies.

  5. Erin Etheridge

    <3 Biases are not easy to spot exactly because we don't know they're there inside us. I wouldn't have thought of most of these things either. I LOVE this new slogan and will be using it forthwith.