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.