Love Ourselves, Love Our Bodies: Lee Penman

BodyImage4Justice is honored to present today’s reflection on body image by writer and personal trainer Lee Penman.


Having reached the age of 51, I have to look back on my life so far as a non-conformist. From childhood years where I was simply labeled a “tomboy” for refusing to entertain girls’ toys or clothing; thru school years when I was something of a loner and a misfit with transient friends; on to a life as a music journalist after leaving school; then finding my niche as a bodybuilding writer in my early 20’s… definitely a life spent defying expectations.

I never really examined my “body image” until writing this piece. I always considered myself male, though, and when I encountered puberty, turned to anorexia to thwart my body’s attempt to display its feminine attributes.

Luckily, I discovered the healthier way in bodybuilding when I was around 18 (having started working out when I was 15). Funny thing is, when I was asked this for an interview with the bodybuilding media a couple of years ago, my venture into bodybuilding was never to create a more masculine appearance. In my head, I was just creating the body that made my relationship with the mirror more comfortable.

I officially transitioned three years ago, though I have been viewed by most as male since I was a baby – even the minister at my christening made the “error” of using the male version of my given name Karen, calling me Kieran, and having to be corrected by my mother.

Now I stand at the verge of chest surgery (15 days away at time of writing), something I thought would never happen in my lifetime, but the same friend who supported and encouraged my transition also paved the way for this to happen. This I do know will affect my self image and will make me feel more relaxed and complete, for it is the only part of my body (however small) that makes me feel uneasy in my true gender.

As of November 18, I will simply be a man with a vagina, and I will have turned the page to a new chapter in my life. I will be complete…

– Lee Penman

Lee began his writing career in 1978 as a music columnist, eventually writing for all the major music publications in the UK at that time before turning his attention to bodybuilding, nutrition, and personal development. His articles and columns have been published in numerous popular bodybuilding and health magazines and web sites. He appeared in the movie 52 Tuesdays and in “Original Plumbing” magazine, and has a reality TV show with IFBB Pro Colette Nelson in the pipeline. Currently he is personal assistant to Colette Nelson, and is creating “TG Max”, a bodybuilding web site for the FTM community. He is an ACE certified personal trainer, a hypnotherapist, and has been working out since the age of 15.

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