I've been having a serious issue with my body shape recently. I'm not going to make it about weight, since abstract measurements are beside the point. I also don't desire nor intend to promote fat-shaming or embrace it. However, in the last few years I've developed a bit of a belly -- eating regular meals after years of surviving on KD and ramen will do that to you. I used to be a skinny bitch who could wear really tight dresses, miniskirts and tube tops without a single curve showing. None of my gender-bending wardrobe fits me any more, and it's driving me crazy. I'm hoping that a combination of regular exercise and learning how not to dress like a streetwalker will fix that. I've talked before about my consistent and deliberate avoidance of physical activity and any kind of fitness regimen, not just because I had no interest in it or perceived need for it, but because 'staying in shape' was a manly man thing to do and playing into social expectations of what a man is supposed to be makes me kind of sick to my stomach. Regular daily exercise is making me feel a lot better about myself, and making a perceptible difference in both my body shape and my levels of energy and pain.
The first time I wore lipstick, it was more of a fist thrown in the face of society than a conscious embrace of androgyny. The first time I shaved my legs in anticipation of sliding a pair of stockings over them, the first time I went shopping for clothes that would make me look like a not-male -- these were revelatory experiences. It was the first time I consciously expressed, to myself, my intense desire to reject the way society had sexed and gendered me, to remove myself from the check-box beside the word 'male' that defined how I was supposed to appear, to act, to feel, and to live my life; the first time I consciously understood that it was something, not only that it was possible to do, but something I was capable of doing. The vague hatred of my own appearance and body, of the unreasonable and arbitrary expectations that went with it and of the violence I was subjected to whenever I dared to transgress these unwritten, unspoken rules, had always just been something I lived and breathed; it was part of my normal. Stripping away my customary gender presentation and rebuilding it into something that worked the way I decided I wanted it to felt better than any chemical high; better than sex, better than drugs, better than being in love. It felt like flying.
Building the old walls of my gendered prison back up again has felt like being dragged back to earth.
I've never felt the need to have breasts or to get rid of my penis. That was always beside the point for me; it's not my 'male' characteristics in and of themselves that disgust me, but the meaning and the expectations society has attached to them. I know that whatever body dysmorphia I have felt is barely a shadow of what a person who chooses to undergo sex reassignment therapy must feel. I can only generalize from my own experience, so I do my best to listen to them and understand their experience as they have felt and lived it.
However, I have found that when I talk about sex and gender even in what are nominally LGBT-friendly spaces I am often faced with a great deal of hostility, and that some of the most intense hostility tends to come from traditionally gendered trans-identified people. This seems to be because certain trans-identified people are intensely invested in the concept of binary sex being a real thing, an innately physical fact rather than a socially-constructed fact. The argument seems to be that there are innately 'male' and 'female' types of brain and that the intense body dysmorphia that these people experience is due to a mismatch between having a 'female' brain and a 'male' body. This seems to be intended as justification for the use of sex reassignment therapy to 'correct' the 'mismatch' between sexed brain and body types.
Which is absolute, retrograde hogwash, both on a scientific and a social level. There is no concrete scientific evidence for there being any significant systematic difference between male and female brains, beyond those directly bound up in the details of reproductive biology; at best there are very minor statistical variations in certain capabilities; and even if male and female brains do tend to be 'hardwired' differently, it would not make the sex-binary any less a social fact subject to social redefinition, a matter of statistics as to which types of bodies, which sets of organs and chromosomal codings, tend to go with which neurotypes.
But all of this is fundamentally beside the point. Because, as far as I am concerned, the only justification someone should need for undergoing sex reassignment therapy is that it is something they desire to do. "I don't like having a penis; I would rather have breasts and a vagina. Therefore I will make it so." End of line. It's like the thing about whether being gay is a 'choice' or whether it's something fundamental to your nature and unalterable. At the end of the day, it really makes no difference in terms of social politics. Either way, the haters are still going to hate gays whether they choose to be or just are, and the trans-haters are still going to hate you whether you characterize your desire to transition between sex-markers as a 'mismatch' or just as something you want to have. And by 'want', it should be clear that I am in no way trivializing intense and overpowering feelings; but why would someone whose very existence is an integral rejection of the sex-binary social construct be so invested in reinforcing it that the very existence of people who subvert it in a completely different way threatens their identity? I'm serious, if someone can explain this to me, please do.