Friday, February 27, 2009

Women Come In All Shapes And Sizes

One transition lesson that took the longest time to sink in but finally did thanks to Dr. Cole, my biofemale friends and personal observations was that women come in all shapes, sizes and body types.

It was one of the things that bugged me, especially after my last growth spurt pushed me to my 6'2" height and I first began seriously contemplating transition in my late teens.

One of my BT (before transition) concerns was if I could convincingly pull off being a statuesque plus 6 foot tall woman. Fortunately I grew up in the late 70's, and there were plenty of examples of tall beautiful sisters around me from 5'10" Jayne Kennedy, 6'1" Phyllis Hyman, and 6'2" model-actress Tamara Dobson.

As I finally hit the gender wall, transitioned and made mind and body match up I had more examples with supermodel Tyra Banks, various women around me in my life and the women of the WNBA.

Even with all that evidence smacking me in the face, I was not immune to the same body image concerns that plague my biosisters. In some cases, I'd argue that those body image issues impact transwomen even harder because of the importance we place on presentation. Being seen as convincingly female can be the difference between life and death in some cases.

Even though I know I shouldn't be comparing myself to a supermodel or the JET Beauty of the Week, stuff happens. Even after 15 years of relatively happy life on the femme side of the gender continuum, there are still days when I feel 'unpretty'.

Some of it results from the negativity that Black transwomen get whacked with on a daily basis. We get shame and guilt heaped on us concerning our transgender status combined with the drama of being Black, and the societal meme that Black women are 'less pretty' than others.

The zero to evolving female nature of a gender transition has me feeling sometimes like I'm trying to play catch up with the women of my generation and younger who have the advantage of having gender ID and body match up from birth. With transwomen transitioning in their teens, it adds another layer of 'that could have been me' angst.

But what expeditiously brings me back to reality is the fact that there are biowomen in society who do match up to the so-called conventional wisdom bandied about concerning how to spot a transwoman. Since you get genetic material from mommy and daddy, there are biowomen who wear double digit sized pumps, have big hands, have to regularly do electrolysis and have facial and body builds considered 'masculine'.

At the same time there are transwomen who you wouldn't guess weren't born on the male end of the gender continuum with petite curvy bodies, feminine facial structure, minimal to zero facial hair who are happily shopping for size 7 pumps.

It's also interesting to read various blogs and hear from my biosisters that they have from time to time the same body image issues and feelings I'm articulating here.

Despite going through all the introspection I take myself through from time to time, I'm happy with the shape and size of every square millimeter of this fabulously feminine 6'2" body. But the most important lesson is that when I look into the mirror, I love Monica and the person she's gracefully evolving to be.


VĂ©ro B said...

I think we've both written about this at one time or another, Lady M. I'm glad that through all the doubts, you are happy with who you are and what you look like. Me too (and I'm not nearly done yet). That's what really matters.

Monica Roberts said...

Lady V,
I don't think we're ever done with sorting those issues out.

Gina said...

Phyllis Hyman was certainly gorgeous and as great a singer as there ever was, but a heartbreaking example of struggling with self-acceptance. I saw her in Sophisticated Ladies back in the early 80s and have a very vivid memory of her rich voice and presence. But I know she was a highly insecure person (bipolar maybe?) and took her own life in the 90s. Women do come in all shapes and sizes, but sadly, many if not most fight against it all their lives. There is no question valuing myself is the most important lesson I've gotten from transition, but it's a daily struggle. I'm not sure I'm, as such, happy with how I look as I'm slowly letting go some of the struggle to be someone I can't. I'm still sometimes stuck mourning that loss and not allowing more appreciation for what I have become to shine through. A tough process.

Monica Roberts said...

I love me some Phyllis Hyman and to be honest wouldn't mind transferring my brains and personality into her body (and a few other women) ;)

But like you noted, our cisgender sisters each have their own baggage and burdens to carry as well.

Some of the peeps who ignorantly claim that we transwomen have nothing in common with our cisgender sisters don't know what the hell they're talking about.

Shame and guilt and self-esteem issues are things that we constantly grapple with as we transition.

Gina said...

My psychotherapist (who I love... I've seen her for many years) has worked with transpeople clients for over 25 years. She said every transwoman she's ever had as a client had major self-image, body issues (even post-transition). She said it's a subject her transmen clients virtually never bring up (other than wishing they were taller). Yes, I think body, self-esteem, being overly self-critical are unfortunately aspects of self we share all too much with ciswomen. I get women coming up to me going on and on about how short, heavy, big butted they are, and how I'm soooo lucky and yadda, yadda, yadda. It's all I can do to not start blubbering and say "you have no idea, hun, really no idea..." Maybe Phyllis had that too?

Monica Roberts said...

I'd heard Phyllis had some issues about being tall, but got over them in time.

What she didn't get over was her feelings that she didn't get her respect and love like Aretha and Diana as being one of the best singers in the music industry