Today’s reflection on body image and dating comes to us from Reed Miller.
One White Transman’s Take on Dating Cismen & Body Image
My relationship to body image takes me back to middle school, where I distinctly remember becoming aware of my appearance and its supposed shortcomings. The affluent suburb I resentfully grew up in valued brand names, thinness, and generally looking like you just walked out of a magazine. (Due to my class privilege, I have access to many more resources than people with less class privilege have, including those related to body image, so my experiences are probably different from others’.) I was thin due to my metabolism, but I saw how my friends’ adolescent bodies were forming differently, and rejected notions about fat people being lazy and ugly. I’m grateful now to be in community with feminists and fat justice activists who help me keep learning about these issues. An important thing I learned from a Wellness Coach is that surrounding yourself with people with positive body images is much better for your own body image than being around people who are constantly degrading their own bodies or judging others. As a result, I’ve tried to be more conscious of how I talk amongst other people (and in this post!).
For me, body image has mainly had implications in the dating world. I had my first boyfriends in 5th and 6th grade, but we mostly climbed trees and played video games. Around 7th grade I told friends I was bi, and since then have mostly dated ciswomen and slept with cismen from time to time, taking on labels from bi to lesbian to queer to gay back to queer. In my quest to meet fantastic partners, I’ve suffered from self-imposed expectations (guided by despicable popular media and gossip) that I needed to look certain ways to be attractive. I admit and regret that I have sometimes projected those expectations on others. I’ve also gauged my attractiveness and boosted my self esteem based on AIM messages from boys about how sexy I was, but I’ve gotten away from that a bit in the past 15 years.
Since coming out as trans 5 years ago, dating has been a trip. My body image has gradually improved as I’ve settled into this new version of me. I’ve enjoyed attention from some really super queer ciswomen. I’ve wanted to date queer men, and have had a couple of boyfriends, but overall I’ve met few radical queer men–cis or trans–who want to date transmen. I’ve found that most cis gay men lack even a basic understanding of transmen, which is startling and frustrating to me. Since I’ve grown facial hair I’ve become more confident, but I still worry about coming out to someone cute I’ve been flirting with at a club–how will they react??
Because of those worries, I’ve mostly been trying the internet thing. Many of the gay apps feature photos of headless 6-packs. I’m not interested in conforming to that aesthetic, and I don’t have the interest (or discipline) to try to attain that physique, so I put up head shots. Grindr convos have been mediocre to bad in terms of trans questions–check out http://transmenongrindr.tumblr.com/ to get a sense of what I mean. Scruff is a bit better because you can list yourself as transgender and/or seeking transgender. Lately, posting on Craigslist for people seeking transmen and thoroughly screening responses has been really successful because it’s a self-selecting group, but I’ve still encountered ignorance there.
I’m about to move to a new city in the South, and I’m excited to meet new and charming people there. My goal is to be full-time fabulous, and not let my perceptions of others’ perceptions hold me back! I am also eager to engage in conversations and read more about fat justice, because as we know, oppressions intersect in oh so many twisted ways.