Learning To Love My Body As A Nonbinary Person
Pulling away from society’s gendered views of what makes us attractive
As an afab person (somebody assigned female at birth), I was often put into frilly dresses as a child, and I had an impressive collection of pink and frilly outfits, because I was a girl. In fact, my mum often tells the story of how she used to put pink bows on my head to signify that I was a girl to other people because I was a very misgendered baby, with people often assuming I was a boy, despite the fact that my mum would take care that I wore ‘feminine’ clothing to try to show them otherwise.
I never really cared what I wore or what I looked liked as a kid, in fact, with sensory issues, my main concern was what my clothes felt like.
It wasn’t until I hit puberty that what my body looked like started to become a problem for me. As soon as I started sprouting breasts I was suddenly treated differently. The boys I mainly hung out with started to change how they behaved around me. They stopped seeing me as Tasha and started to see me as more of an object. My male friends stopped allowing me to play with ‘boys’ games, and talked about my body more when I was around rather than talked to me.
Forced to cover up to make other people feel comfortable
I was rather late compared to my other afab friends in wearing a bra because it was sensory problem for me. But my lack of wearing a small piece of cloth soon became quite a subject of conversation.
I remember people at school sniggering about the fact that I clearly wasn’t wearing a bra. Boys would talk about how big or little they thought my breasts were, and even a teacher demanded that I wear a bra as I was becoming a distraction to the boys.
I was distraught. It didn’t matter that boys were openly rating my body and the size of my breasts, and smacking me on the bottom. Nor did the teacher have a problem with boys trying to unhook my bra when I didn’t wear one. Never mind the sexual harassment I had to endure everyday, but heaven forbid if I didn’t cover up the tiny bumps my body had developed without my having a choice in the matter.
I began to wear jumpers (sweaters), even in hot weather, to either deter boys from trying to undo my bra in class, or to hide the fact that I wasn’t wearing one at all, just so I could feel comfortable enough to be able to focus in class.
This led me to start to despise my body. It made people judge me, and decide how they would treat me purely based on how I looked.
So, i’m not good looking?
All through my teens I had family members tell me I would look pretty:
‘…if you just wore a lovely little dress.’
‘…If you wore your hair up/down/longer.’ (Honestly, I couldn’t win with the hair.
‘If you stopped wearing boys clothes.’
‘If you would show off your figure more.’
‘If you didn’t show too much flesh.’
I developed such anxiety at going out in public or visiting family because I knew my appearance would come up. If I dressed how I wanted to, I wasn’t ‘pretty enough’, if I dressed how other’s expected of me I didn’t feel like myself.
I didn’t feel a strong drive to look good for other people, but these remarks just kept drilling into my head a certain message.
You don’t look good
And because of this I couldn’t feel good.
I didn’t want to always dress like ‘a girl’, but I dreaded wearing ‘boys’ clothes, because then I was opening myself up to the family hot topic of how I am not embracing my true potential of how pretty I could be.
All it did was to further teach me that I should hate the way I looked
I hated having a body that society objectifies and sexualises just because I have a few bumps and curves in some places. I hated being constantly told that being myself wasn’t attractive. I didn’t want to be a girl because I never felt like I was one, but I did want to be allowed the freedom to feel comfortable in looking just like me.
We are subjected in every day life by images telling us what being attractive looks like, and it’s so gendered!
Women are often portrayed as sexy or attractive more so when they are wearing dresses or fitted clothing, flashing just the right amount of flesh, oh, and don’t forget the makeup. Men on the other hand, in media are often wearing shirts and just the right tightness of trousers to be considered pleasing to the eye.
So, erm, what about non binary, gender non conforming people?
I started to hate the curves, the breasts and hips, because it only seemed to distract people from wanting to get to know me as a person. I didn’t want my body to be like this, I just wanted to hide it away form the world, and from me.
Fast forward to a life changing moment
The wonderful day I realised I was non binary. This was such a life changing event for me because I was finally realising why I had often felt uncomfortable with gendered things, and I had now found a part of me I had been looking for.
This revelation was not because of my body image, but again, my body image was thrown under the bus.
You see, most afab non binary people I know happen to be androgynous presenting in what they wear. There is often talk of binding (the breasts/chest) and being on waiting lists for hormonal treatment.
I have not felt like this is right for me. Okay, as we have established, I can be very uncomfortable with my body looking and feeling too ‘feminine’. But as somebody who is gender fluid, I also have times when that’s okay. So, I didn’t want to embark on hormone treatments because, well, it just doesn’t feel like the right thing for me, for the moment at least.
Light bulb moment!
I have spent years working on building up a positive view of how I see myself, inside and out. I have finally realised that my body doesn't need to be a certain weight or size to be seen as attractive or to feel good, it just needs to be kept healthy and left to do it’s thing.
However, it wasn’t until recently, reading a called Gender Euphoria edited by Kate Dale, that I realised I was still struggling to accept my body for how it is.
The book is a compilation of stories written by trans, nonbinary and intersex writers, talking about moments in their life where they felt gender euphoria, including stories written by nonbinary people sharing the moments when they felt good looking, leading them to feel good within themselves.
I realised that while I am much happier now I am embracing my true self, I am still rating how good I look based on society’s meaning of good looking, which I have always seen to be in the binary. How can I feel pretty but not be a girl, or look like a boy but still feel dang pretty?
Then it finally smacked me in the face.
Because, for one, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Everyone has their own definition of what looks attractive. Secondly, I shouldn’t be giving a flying elephant what others think of my appearance, if I feel good, that’s all that matters.
And thirdly? I learned that I was basing my own self worth on my looks based on the comments of my childhood. If I looked androgynous or even masculine I could never be seen as attractive, because as a child, how good people told me I looked was always based on how ‘girly’ I looked.
We can’t change the past
Really trying to refrain from carrying on into a full blown Disney reference right now. But that wise baboon was right. In order to fully accept myself I had to let go of the past.
Let go from the toxic diet culture. Let go from gendered stereotypes. And I am now letting go of all of the comments I have ever had about my body.
I don’t need to look like a girl to be considered attractive. I don’t need to do what other nonbinary peeps are doing to be nonbinary, and I can still present as androgynous or masculine without just completely hiding my body altogether.
AND, I don’t need to do anything, EVER, for anyone else but me.
It has taken my whole life since puberty to realise that my body is wonderful for everything it does for me, and for being what it is. And should it need to change, it will be because I need it to.
But for now, I will embrace my body and have fun expressing myself however I bloody well want to.
To you lovely lot
You are amazing and beautiful, no matter how you choose to dress or present yourself, no matter your size or weight, no matter what your gender, or if you don’t present how society thinks you should.
You are wonderful, because you are you.