“Category is: Body ody ody”
Close your eyes and imagine this: I’m sitting in the Chelsea branch of Gail’s on a crisp winter morning writing this blog post on my MacBook. I have a skinny oat latte and a banana, because although the pastries look delicious, they’re not gluten free and I bloat at even the sight of wheat. I’m wearing a skinny jersey turtleneck and my Fiorucci Tara jeans cinched in at my tiny waist to emphasise just how much weight I’ve lost.
Girl. As if.
In reality, I’m crunched up on my bed looking down past my triple chin at my six year old HP laptop that took 30 minutes to turn on. I’ve eaten half a packet of biscuits with my morning ‘value’ filter coffee, and I’m in my pants and my favourite Oxfam bargain cardigan.
And just for the record, EVEN in my fantasy, I couldn’t resist a Gail’s pastry. They’re just too good.
We all have a fantasy, but they’re fickle, often equal parts aspirational and destructive. We need to manage our expectations.
Something I find so deeply problematic in the LGBTQIA+ community is the persistent need to categorise, label and define, particularly when it comes to our bodies. For a community that’s ‘all accepting,’ we can be anything but. Some of our queer specific dating apps are designed to make us ultimately isolate one another. They promote internalised homophobia, transphobia, racism and body shaming. I’ve come across profiles that say ‘No Fats, No Femmes, No Blacks and No Asians.’ It’s disgusting, do we really hate ourselves that much?
The ‘Tribes’ that these apps promote facilitate and spawn further notions of self-loathing. Twinks, Jocks, Bears, Otters, Femmes… to name a few, are categories that define aspects of our physicality. For example, if you’re a twink, you’re typically skinny, blonde and shaved head to toe. If you’re a bear, you’re muscular, brunette and hairy head to toe. I could go on.
For me as a non-binary (he/his/they/them) individual I often feel that I don’t fit into any category, and quite frankly I don’t want to. In saying this, you sometimes can’t help but let the small minded people that operate within these suffocating tribes get the best of you.
There have been times where I’ve tried to ‘masc it up’ to try and hide my natural flamboyance and femininity. I tried to grow out my facial hair in an effort to fit in with the Bears and Otters. I’ve dressed subtle on first dates to appear less… gay? It doesn’t make sense and only leads to dizzying feelings of dysphoria.
Feeling dysphoric about our bodies is not breaking news by any stretch, and it doesn’t just apply to the LGBTQIA+ community. There are often many similarities in the way that queer men and cis women view their bodies for example. However, although us gays, girlies and our bodies are important, there needs to be more love, attention and support for trans bodies.
For decades now, trans folk and their bodies have been misunderstood, ridiculed and alienated. In 2020 and 2021 this is a bigger issue than ever.
Last year The Trevor Project, a non-profit organisation who specialise in suicide prevention among the LGBTQIA+ community, reported that 60% of young trans and non-binary individuals engage in self harm, and 40% of those surveyed seriously contemplated ending their own lives. Imagine then throughout history, how many undocumented transgender and gender non-conforming people we’ve lost. It’s harrowing.
In 2021 as the pandemic continues, this may prove harder than usual for trans youth as many will be isolated from their community, safe places and support systems. Home isn’t always a safe place either when there is still so much misinformation and misunderstanding surrounding transgender bodies.
As an ally, what can you do to help?
Do your research. Educate yourself. Donate.
Listen to podcasts like ‘NB: My Non-Binary Life’ by the BBC. Check out the Mermaids UK organization for their amazing charity work for trans and non-binary youth. Google Munroe Bergdorf and read about her story.
Check yourself too. The thing I hate hearing THE MOST when people are referring to my trans brothers and sisters is: ‘Oh, they’re a man but really they’re a woman’ and vice versa. Or ‘I would’ve never thought they were a guy before! They’re so feminine.’ This kind of attitude towards the trans community is super disruptive and leads to more feelings of dysphoria. Treat trans people with respect. I can’t speak for the entirety of the trans community, but they don’t need your validation on whether or not they’re ‘passing.’
If you’re unsure how a trans or non-binary person identifies, you can politely ask them, just make sure it’s in a private and non-threatening tone and environment. In addition, if you accidentally use the wrong pronouns (yes, especially if it’s in a group setting) immediately correct yourself and correct others too.
Yours sincerely, a non-binary badass.