Question Three: How can you respect your body if you get surgery/take hormones?
March 25, 2013 § 4 Comments
Panel bios here – onwards!
From certain feminists (in particular), there seems to be a recurring question about how you can respect your body, whilst wanting to drastically change it through the use of hormones and surgery?
Roz: I respected my body so much that I didn’t want to dislike it. Also, it wasn’t very male to begin with – no body hair, some curves, aureolas etc.
Natacha: Respecting one’s feelings, one’s mind and one’s spirit, as well as one’s psychological well-being and mental health would seem to me to be far more important in this instance than relatively small parts of one’s body. If one is a woman but has one or more physical characteristics of a man, then one should have the right to alter those characteristics to align one’s body more closely with one’s self-assigned gender. In this sense gender surgery can be regarded as a means to treating one’s body with respect. One cannot treat a body with respect when it feels completely alien, and causes severe mental distress.
CN: It was out of respect for myself that I had surgery. I don’t think it’s hard to explain bodily dysphoria to someone with an open mind, but it is hard when people don’t want to understand. I’ve seen, many times, the argument that trans men, and other trans people who were assigned female at birth, are only experiencing the usual self-esteem, self-hatred and alienation from the self experienced by many women because of the misogynistic societal bullshit thrown their way – either about what woman can do, or how women should look – and that’s why they want to alter their bodies.
Having experienced both of those things, I can’t believe that they’re the same at all. One doesn’t cancel out the other – and many trans people do have them both because, surprise, we live in the same culture as you do. But worrying that I was ugly and unlovable because my skin wasn’t ‘perfect’, and my thighs were ‘too chunky’, and being furious that some people believed, and told me, that women weren’t as good as men, was not the same feeling as the persistent lack of bodily awareness of my (and I can barely use the word ‘my’ here) breasts, the utter wrongness of female secondary sexual characteristics. The best way I can describe it is like a broken limb in plaster, or a part of the body left numb after surgery – it’s just not right.
I don’t understand the need to isolate ‘physical’ health from mental and emotional – we should be approaching our health in an holistic way, and respecting the sum total of what we are. I respected the fact that I couldn’t keep living with the distress the dysphoria was causing me, and that wishing it away, pressing it down, hiding it or intellectualizing it away didn’t work. I was setting up permanent back and chest damage with hunching so much, and I couldn’t breathe properly for singing. Having surgery was a radical act of self-love and self-acceptance – it was one of the best decisions of my life, and I wish I’d been able to have it earlier.