This morning I watched Taryn Brumfitt’s video. I have watched her video more than once and read her words over and over again. I applaud her as I know many women do. However, I wondered (as I do every single time I watch body positive videos and read body positive articles) why their message doesn’t seem to translate to me. Why don’t I feel what my head tells me I should which is: Your body rocks! I look at my soon to be wife and think my god, she is stunning. There isn’t a thing I would change about her. And I know with fierce honesty that as her body changes through life, I will always be attracted to her physical beauty.
But why does this not translate to me? Then, I realized something. Women like me are kind of left out of the body positive equation. Not intentionally, but because no one notices.
I am androgynous. I identify as androgynous. This is not the same as gender fluid. I identify female in every way, but I prefer to express myself in androgynous ways. Every time I wear women’s clothing, I feel like I am in drag. Flip side to that coin is every time someone calls me “sir” it bothers me (I get extremely embarrassed for the people around me). I began to wonder how that affects my body image. Then, I started looking at what visibility androgyny, specifically for women, has in society. Every single image I found was of waif thin women. There were no “normal” sized androgynous people: male or female. And it occurred to me with the force of a jet plowing into my very ample chest: curves “give away” your gender. Being a regular size and having curves means that others see me as a masculine lesbian, not as an androgynous person. I hate the word “butch.”
My androgyny has always been a liability. In lesbian relationships, my partners have always liked that I am more masculine. However, if I pushed the line of gender expression too far, they felt I was trying to pull them into a illusory hetero coupling. They all left (though J calling it quits was because I was an ass). An ex was transgender. We began our relationship long before his transition. My androgyny helped him anchor into an identity (lesbian) that at least got him a smidge close to who he felt he was. Once he was able to accept his true gender, he transitioned. With every step of his transition, our relationship was easier to navigate the more socially accepted feminine I was. When I would wear skirts and makeup and tight girly shirts, he was nicer to me. When I would hang out in my jeans and tshirts and cut my hair, the more distance and tension and anger existed. The more androgynous I was, the more true to my own self expression I was, the more emasculated he seemed to feel because the more “butch” he felt I was…not androgynous. I hated my body.
I hated my body. It stretched and striped after giving birth to my two sons. Never mind that my body was able to grow the most beautiful and wonderful children ever. Never mind that my body was so strong and so warrior anchored that I was able to give birth naturally both times. I hated my body. Every curve reminded me that men saw me as their sexual property and right. Never mind that my body has been an amazing in its ability to heal after multiple traumas. I hated my body. Every single slope and hang and wobble reminding me that I was too female looking to ever be seen how I so desperately wanted to be seen and accepted my whole life.
The message I have gotten my whole life is that to have people engage me the way I engage myself, I have to be ultra thin to hide my femaleness. I was taught to hate my female body because it was too female and curvy and big to be androgynous. I don’t get to be seen and accepted for who I am because I am too big. My body does not look flat and vague. I’m too “butch” to be a girl, and I am too curvy to occupy middle ground.
I have a stomach that is a permanent muffin top because I have always worn my pants on my hips despite my mother still to this day pulling up my pants when she walks by (I turn 39 this year). But my tummy is super soft; my girlfriend lays her head on my stomach and it is the best feeling ever. I have boobs. It’s true, I do. I had a breast reduction when I was 21 for health reasons. My parents were in the room behind the curtain when the doctor drew his purple lines on my chest and asked what size I wanted to be. I knew my mom could hear me and was still mad that I had shaved my head a few days before. I told the doctor the size – a few bigger than I wanted. Then I had kids. Well, all that surgery for nothing except a collection of scars. I have no ass (thanks Grandma). But I do have the most amazing plumber’s crack you’ve ever seen. Not because I try to, but because the powers that be decided I needed a crack the length of San Andreas. And because, as it turns out, crack is not whack. I have well defined shoulders and deltoids, but have never been able to firm up the underside of my arms. I think it’s because they like waving goodbye too. (They are very polite.) My thighs refuse to gap because they are desperately in love and like to kiss. My best friend tells me I have the most beautiful feet she’s ever seen. Lots of people tell me that. I believe it’s true. I also think I know a lot of people with foot fetishes. I have boy band hair that makes me happy. I got to cut it the way I have always wanted to for the first time in my life this year. My girlfriend cried because she was so happy for me. I cried because I finally started seeing myself. I have this weird red dot above my eyebrow. I’m told it’s one of those getting older spots. It’s my wisdom mark. I say it’s red because when you say fuck all the time and follow that quite often with goddamn and douchewaffle people may need a clearer indication of that wisdom. Being regular size, I have ample skin canvas on which to get tattoos which make me happier than a fundamentalist kicking facts in the balls. And then there are my hands…hands that have created something every single day of my life. They have created more paintings and drawings than I can count. They have written poetry and music and stories and love letters. They have held brand new life and have touched the beauty of death. They have played music. They have played PlayDoh. They have made mud pies and water balloons and Lego cities. They have dried tears, bandaged wounds, comforted others. They have clapped and drummed. They’ve made jewelry, fixed cars, made medicine bags. They’ve turned the pages of amazing books. They’ve been held in the hands of people I will never forget. They have been washed after being held by people who make me cringe. My hands are en extension of my body. My body is capable of so much more than I give it credit for. This wobbly, wonderful body. This fierce, firey body. This sexy, seductive body. This goofy, giggly body. This feminine and masculine body.
This body. My body. It’s the only one who has been with me and experienced everything with me through my entire life. No one knows me like my body does. She really should be my best friend. So why don’t I let her be? Because of how others tell me I should see her with my eyes first, rather than with my heart. I’m not gonna lie. The first time I saw Von, I thought she was smokin’ hot. But as I have spent this last year falling in love with her every moment of every day and seeing her from my heart always before anything else, she has only become more radiant to me. Don’t I deserve to love myself at least as much?
So, yeah, I have a super curvy, muffin topped, squishy, soft, smooth, stretch-marked body. And I am androgynous. I appreciate all of the body positive, body embracing, body loving messages that are finally becoming the norm. It helps me trust my intuition that how I enjoy expressing myself, my gender, my body is not based in prescription but, rather, in authenticity. And maybe that is where the beauty begins.
Beautiful, inside & out <3
I just wanted to say thank you for writing this. I also enjoy the increase in positive body image articles but seldom feel like they really touch on exactly how I feel. This is one of the first expressions of the concept of androgeny that I have felt connected to. I often find it difficult as a curvy hetero woman to express how I want to look without people telling me I should dress in a more feminine way because I look “too butch” for a straight woman.
It’s maddening sometimes trying to navigate when I know that my boyfriend appreciates me how I am, but my own self-image issues make me concerned that I am not feminine enough.
I am glad that you are learning to overcome your personal struggles with this and now that I don’t feel so alone in it, perhaps I can too. So truly…thank you.
Thank you for writing this, it is a message that I need to hear, want to hear, and am not quite ready to hear. I will post this link first: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/05/22/play-out-double-mastectomy-campaign_n_7354038.html
I had breast cancer and to the best of my knowledge, I beat it down. I chose not to reconstruct my body, but to embrace the simple beauty of going flat without reconstruction. I have often had dreams and have day dreamed of being an androgynous person. My breasts created curves and ‘spoke’ the words, woman, female, not androgynous. And now I have no breasts. Now I fear that if, when, I allow myself to cut my hair, to embrace the person I see inside, that my loved ones will become confused and may push me away. It is as if a medical need brought a secret wish to the forefront of my being. I quietly watch this journey unfold, I am present to it. But I don’t want to push to fast or too hard.
Wisdom n humor are probably the best part of yourself, let that nourish your self image–your writing is a gift. Take those things and have a makeup session with that body of yours–she herself is starving for attention!
[…] if our bodies became our best friends? As my friend Wren Thompson-Wynn wrote here on this very site, “My body. It’s the only one who has been with me and experienced everything with me through my […]
Thank you for sharing your story Wren. Reading this brought so many thoughts to my mind. Thank you for reminding me to appreciate all of the parts of my body that make me an individual. I’m trying to figure out how to word this comment eloquently on this lazy Saturday afternoon and all I can say is thank you for your humorous blog on body image. I’m staring at my hands right now, thinking wow, she’s right, these hands have accomplished so many things in my short life. Thanks again, for this positive message. We are so much more than just a body or just a label we are human beings.
This was written 3 years ago and I’m not sure if you’ll ever see this comment, but thank you thank you thank you. Thank you for writing this beautiful thing. I’m just now coming to terms with my androgyny and didn’t even know there were people like me until I found your article. I was reading it thinking of how much it all sounds like me, like I’d written it. I’m so glad I’m not alone in this.