I love ME
When I think of body image and my struggle with it, I think of two issues: the pressure to be a “pretty” girl growing up in El Salvador, and my desire to embody my real gender identity. I used to lift weights as a child because I wanted muscles, and I remember my cousin saying, “You don’t want to do that, when you grow up you are going to want slim arms. Girls have slim arms. I have big arms and hate them now”. That comment pushed me to exercise my arms more, and I continued lifting 15 pound weights to be more like a boy. I was proud to be the only female 6th grader who could do 30 push-ups in a row.
The pressure from family and church to not be a tomboy eventually got to me, and I started trying to “lose weight” in order to be more feminine. It was sad that being pretty and skinny was the only idea of being feminine I knew then. This way of thinking eventually led to an eating disorder that damaged the opening of my stomach, and as a result left me with a hiatus hernia for the rest of my life.
During high school in Los Angeles, I joined the cross country team. I loved it because I got the figure I was “supposed” to have at a time when I was denying my attraction to women and my desire to be masculine. As anything that is done to satisfy someone else’s expectations, this activity led to an injury of my legs which I still feel to this day.
My problem was not the way I felt about my body; my problem was the way I was led to believe that that my body should look like.
I think the biggest relief in the way I feel about my body has been coming out as a transgender male. It seems like an oxymoron to think that admitting the need to transition my female body into a male one eased the pressure to embody a specific type of body. The side benefit to transitioning my body is that breaking one of the ultimate taboos about bodies and identities helped me realize that there is no one right way to be me. It is only ME who can dictate how I will be happy. I have come to accept the things I can change and those I cannot, I have come to see that I can shape my body in ways that can make ME happy and healthy, and I have come to see that how I feel about myself can make ME happy while focusing on how others view my body makes me extremely unhappy. I have come to love ME enough to let myself be ME.
– Damian Lima