Love Ourselves, Love Our Bodies: Monica Rochon

Today’s reflection on body image and fitness comes to us from Monica Rochon.


Using fitness as a form of resistance my entire life has helped me to be confident in my ability, to be seen, and to be held accountable to a team’s goals. More recently, my enthusiasm around fitness has helped inspire me to work for the body I’ve always wanted–to constantly challenge myself mentally and physically, build strength and endurance, and to sustain a community and foundation of wellness.

My gender identity and sexuality are both things I value. I am masculine. I am gender non-conforming. I am Trans. I am Monica. And it’s complicated, mostly for others. I don’t feel like a woman or man, I’m Monica and I look forward to the day I can have top surgery so I can feel like the person I have always felt I was, and be in the body that I wanted to be in. BodyImage4Justice represents love. Caring about my health and wellness is a gift to myself so that one day I can feel like my whole self. I hope to encourage others to continue finding the strength and courage to live life in the body they’ve always wanted.

– Monica Rochon

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Love Ourselves, Love Our Bodies: Von Stowers

Today’s story comes to us from BI4J intern Von Stowers.

VonStowers

Growing up I was just like every other little boy in my small town. We would all ride our bikes to the park on the weekend and play basketball, football and baseball. I was often picked first because I was fast, strong and extremely athletic. I was very proud of my body and never hesitated to rip my shirt off when I was on the skins team. In physical education class I always paired with the other boys for competition and could hold my own.

As we grew older, the other boys started going through physical changes that I didn’t. They became taller, gained more muscle mass and soon were easily out running me and had no problem tackling me. In attempts to keep up with my peers I hit the gym and started working out twice as hard as them in hopes of changing my body. My attempts failed and soon I stopped being able to compete and play with the other boys and became very isolated, inactive and anti-social, which lead to a deep depression that lasted well into my 20’s.

As time went by I learned that the only person I had to compete against or be stronger or better than was myself. I learned to love myself and my body again, and was able to find a healthy way to transition into the person I always felt I was. I am still not as fast or as strong as my peers, but I am happy to work towards my own personal goals and am comfortable being the man that I am today.

– Von

Love Ourselves, Love Our Bodies: Noori Jerrard

Today’s reflection comes to us from Noori Jerrard.

From a tender age, I knew that I was a boy. I was just as tough, fast and strong as the other boys but for some reason they insisted on calling me a “tomboy” and/or “she”.

I absolutely abhorred their blatant confusion. In my mind I was just developing slower and EVERY night I would pray that I would wake up from some figurative cocoon as the me I intrinsically saw.

Well that never happened.
What did happen was modeling, where my feminine beauty was to be celebrated and athletics, where I felt somewhat duped for having to compete with girls.

During this time my body image was hit like a ton of bricks! I felt lost, scared, angry and it almost felt like some wicked cosmic trick was being played on me and me alone.

Leave it to the Universe to know, because my parents began noticing this “disconnect” too and allowed me to express myself exactly the way I wanted to. They fostered both the feminine and masculine energies in me. I sincerely believe this gave me the courage to grow into and discover who I was and what I was truly about.

When I first decided to begin transitioning, I wanted to just disappear and not let anyone in. I wanted to erase who I was believing that who I was would never be part of who I was becoming.

Something in me told me that wasn’t how it should be and I’m glad my inner voice prevailed because unbeknownst to me, my transition has been a vessel to strengthen others!

Now, here I stand as a transman, who decided to not only shape my body, mind and spirit the way I saw fit, but as a personal trainer, helping others do the very same with their lives. This has led me to creating Triumphant Transition Fitness, my fitness, health and wellness brand. It is my goal to empower others to manifest their dreams and never give up until they do.

To add even more to the equation, I have a plethora of sublime souls as a support system who, like me, are striving to create a space in which we can live free from the misconceptions that come both from the outside world and inside our hearts.

There are still times when I struggle with my body image. I struggle with not being able to do certain things that other men can do, not looking the way I feel I should look, etc.

However, I have learned over the years to be gentle with myself, to love myself more and remind myself that my journey was chosen just for me.

Peace and Blessings
Noori Jerrard
a.k.a
The Chief

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.

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