Love Ourselves, Love Our Bodies: Jennifer Gann

Today’s reflection on body image comes to us from Jennifer Gann, a trans woman, activist, and prisoner in California. Jennifer’s story comes to us thanks to outreach by Black & Pink, “an open family of LGBTQ prisoners and ‘free world’ allies who support each other.” For more information about Black & Pink, please visit their Web site.


My name is Jennifer, I’m a 44 year old pre-op MTF transexual on a regimen of hormone therapy, and I’ve been incarcerated in California state prison for nearly 25 years.

My body image issues started from the day I was born: October 6th, 1969. I was medically sex-assigned as a biological male gender “boy”, but from early childhood through my teenage years and into adulthood, I have instinctively always leaned toward the feminine gender. I was the middle child between two sisters, and raised by a loving mother and an abusive step-father. I’ve always identified with and gravitated toward cisgender females–the “fairer sex”.

As a small framed, feminine-looking kid, I never quite fit in with the other boys. I was “different”, insecure, introverted, and seemed to have a lot of behavioral problems. In the 1980’s southern California punk rock counter-culture, I rebelled against authority, patriarchy and social norms. I wore make up and outrageous clothes, and cut my hair into a mohawk.

My sexuality also developed from a strong preference for women toward bisexuality. This is when body image really began to affect my mental health and well-being. I wanted badly to be a girl–to be beautiful, pretty and sexually desirable. I became severely depressed, suicidal, and began prostituting, that is, having unprotected sex with random men on the streets of L.A. I even took birth control pills!

For the last several years, I have been fully transitioned to the female gender identity, including my appearance, secondary sex characteristics (breast development), name, fashion, styles, etc. For all intents and purposes, I am a woman! I love myself, and love my body a lot more than I did, but I still have body image issues. “My boobs aren’t big enough!”, “I’m too fat!”, “I need a sex-change operation!”…

I love being a woman more than anything. I’ve become a dedicated trans woman prisoner activist, blogger, aspiring artist/poet and Siddha Yoga student. I can identify across racial identities, am more self confident, and more compassionate and connected to people.

You can view my blog and post comments at http://betweenthebars.org/blogs/490/

I hope this contribution is helpful to your campaign to promote discussion of body image and its connection to health and social justice issues. Thank you for your efforts on behalf of the LGBTQ community.

Sincerely,

Jennifer Gann
members@blackandpink.org

Love Ourselves, Love Our Bodies: M.J. Depina

Today’s reflection on life changes, transition, and body image comes to us from M.J. Depina, a pre-op FTM, Licensed Massage Therapist, and an AAI-ISMA Certified Personal Trainer who loves going to the gym. He enjoys networking with people and wants to utilize his skills for the greater good in our community.


MJDepina

Hi, my name is Marc Joao, but I go by “M.J.” Before my transition, career, and improved body image, I was a lost person, not knowing what to do with my life. I wanted to be somebody, but I didn’t know how to get there.

When I was a kid, I knew something was up with me. I was born a female but acted very masculine. I loved playing sports, played with action figures instead of Barbie. Most importantly, I absolutely hated wearing dresses. I mean, I’d kick and scream, dodging from my mother. But as I got older, I realized I couldn’t stop my body from changing, so I was disappointed and emotional. Being bullied and teased throughout my school years didn’t help either. My confidence was really low, and I couldn’t defend myself.

I felt alone because I didn’t have anybody to help me who I could trust to share my secret. Thank god for the lesbian community, they took me under their wings. Before I knew I was Trans, I identified as a “Butch” masculine lesbian during and after my college days. It helped me release some built-up tension, and I had a group of special individuals who accepted me. But as soon as I started dating, I realized how much I was still uncomfortable in the body I was in. I even tried working out harder in the gym to build muscle because I hated my chest.

It was through couples therapy that I discovered I was Trans. My relationship ended, but I managed to get something life-transforming out of it. Seriously, I accepted the trade-off as a blessing in disguise. Finally, I had a reason to light a fire under my ass. I took the Personal Training test, then started hormones, and went to school for massage therapy. I graduated, and am now employed as a massage therapist. I haven’t been this happy in a long time, and it feels amazing!

I love meeting and helping people. There are many of our brothers and sisters who are in need of a massage, but are dysphoric and uncomfortable going to a spa. Even though I’m pre-op, I can relate to this. It’s one of the reasons why I wanted to be a part of BI4J. We want to create a network of services to benefit the community. As a trans man, I want to provide a service to my brothers and sisters. Not just because I want to, but because it feels right. I hope to meet you all at our upcoming events.

Peace n’ love,

M.J.

Deconstructing Masculinity — Body Image as Armor: Upacking How Masculinity Masks Us

BodyImage4Justice invites you to join us for an in-depth participatory workshop on masculinity, body image, and identity as we explore what masculinity represents, how it impacts different communities, and how we relate to and define masculinity for ourselves.

Masculinity is a social construct that often has the impact of oppressing and dividing both women from men and men from each other. We hope you will join us for this thoughtful discussion on redefining and reclaiming masculinity as a human quality that honors and reflects all of our lives.

Deconstructing Masculinity flyer

Date: Saturday, March 29th, 2014
Time: 10 am to 4 pm
Location: Simmons College
Linda Paresky Conference Center
300 The Fenway, Third Floor, Boston, MA
The nearest T stops are Museum of Fine Arts (Green Line – E) and Fenway (Green Line – D).

This event is free and open to the public. Please RSVP for this event at the Deconstructing Masculinity Event Page on Facebook.

Many thanks to our co-sponsors for this event:
Simmons College Office of Residence Life
Simmons SWAG (Sexuality, Women’s and Gender Center)
The Hispanic Black Gay Coalition
Black and Pink

Transfeminine Show and Tell at Fenway Health

TransfemShowTell

BodyImage4Justice and Fenway Health are collaborating to present a two-hour workshop exclusively for people on the transfeminine spectrum. This will be an accountable, non-competitive space where you can share your body challenges and experiences as a trans woman or feminine/femme-identified genderqueer person, and receive information and resources in a supportive, confidential environment.

Date: Saturday, March 22, 2014
Time: 10:00 am – Noon
Location: Fenway Health, 9th Floor, Meeting Room 1

We wish to thank and acknowledge all of our wonderful partners for this event: The Fenway Instutite, The Fenway Trans Health Program, CKLife, and LifeSkills. Thanks to their support, this will be an event full of useful information and resources for those on the transfeminine spectrum.

Admission to this event is free, but space is limited. Please register online now to reserve your seat!

Love Ourselves, Love Our Bodies: Mister Cris

Today’s story of a journey to better health through improved body image and self-esteem comes to us from Mister Cris.


MisterCris

My name is Cris. Many people know me as Mister Cris. I am a Jamaican-American man with a unique medical history. I don’t often discuss my medical history because of how it has affected my negative feelings when it comes to body image. I have learned to love my body more and more as time passes in all it’s uniqueness.

For far too long, I neglected and abused my body through poor eating, lack of exercise and not protecting it. I learned that those behaviors stemmed from a lack of self love and feelings of not being beautiful enough and worthy. I have learned to be good to my body and love it regardless of the scars, lots of hair, and even the roundness of it. Though I have taken steps to medically modify my body, I realized that I had to love my body and myself no matter what because no one’s body is perfect.

I have gone through a physical and mental journey to get to the place I am today where I no longer feel shame in relation to my body and its quirks. I do have some days where I still struggle, but those days are becoming fewer and far between. My body may not be like the next man’s body or seen as “ideal” but it’s mine and it’s beautiful. Today I show more love to myself by eating better, exercising, and taking my overall health seriously through preventative care. I have found that these things make me feel more powerful. I also no longer seek to meet other people’s standards for what would make my body beautiful because all that matters is that I love me inside and out. I feel that doing that has allowed me to find more wholeness than any medicine or surgery could ever provide.

Love Ourselves, Love Our Bodies: Ms. Kim Watson

We are honored to present today’s reflection on body image by Ms. Kim Watson, the Co-Founder and Patient Care Specialist at Community Kinship Life (CKLife), a New York-based organization that aims to provide the Trans community with the tools needed to achieve their personal goals while having a sense of community and Kinship. People from across the U.S. and around the world have benefited greatly from the selfless acts of Ms. Kim Watson and CKLife. CKLife offers surgery scholarships, clinic services, and other necessary assistance and support for transgender and gender non-conforming people. Ms. Kim will be the facilitator of our upcoming event, Transfeminine Show and Tell. Check out their Web site for more information.


For the past many years I have been struggling with body image, and I thought if I had larger hips, breasts and butt, I would be perfect.

I have not gone through any of these procedures because I began to reflect on the way other women pumped silicone into their body, which looks great, but I could not bring myself mentally to the point of taking such risks that could be damaging to my health.

MsKimWhiteAffair

I am a mother, a wife, and a business woman who has come to the decision of changing my body naturally in order to fix my body image, but to do it by cutting out calories, which is very difficult because I am a foodie. I have tried 24 Hour Fitness and Planet Fitness, but got into a car accident in 2011 which left me with three disks damaged in my lower back and neck. So I switched my routine into walking a lot, which has helped me, but not entirely because I am still struggling with my belly fat.

One method that I use is to wear one or two girdles or waist shapers, which leave marks on my body. I am hoping to return to the gym this week and consult with a personal trainer to help me live a healthier lifestyle.

Thank you for reading… Mrs. Kim

BI4J Presents a Discussion on Intimacy and Body Dysphoria

BodyImage4Justice presents the next event in our Conversations series: Transmasculine Body Image, Relationships, Sex, and Intimacy. This will be a facilitated conversation for transmasculine people on the issue of body dysphoria and intimate relationships, focusing on sharing our experiences and exploring strategies for moving towards a healthier self and stronger, more connected relationships. This workshop offers transmasculine participants an opportunity to engage with issues around body image, dysphoria, and intimacy in a supportive and non-judgmental, confidential space. Please join us for this special event!

Location: The MALE Center, 571 Columbus Ave., Boston, MA 02118
Nearest T stop is Mass. Ave. Station on the Orange Line

Date/Time: Wednesday, February 26th, 2014 from 6-8 pm