The tagline for this blog is “much-needed body positivity for the male-identified.” Now you may ask, what does “male-identified” even mean? Well, basically the way we see it is that gender is something that is constructed inside of you and is considered part of your identity, the conglomeration of innumerous factors. Most people fall under the categories of man or woman when it comes to gender and these are probably the ones my readers are most familiar with so I will not stray far into the topics of third gender, agender, and genderqueer, to name only a few other less popular gender identities. Sex, on the other hand, is considered what biologically you are made up of, and for most, this is a distinction made a by a doctor after we are first born based on the appearance of our genitalia. This M.D. input is how we get popular phrases and identities like “coercively assigned female at birth (CAFAB)” or “male assigned at birth (MAAB),” etc. We now know that even sex isn’t as simple as the equipment between your legs but it can’t be argued that society largely views people as falling into two main categories: male and female.
But what happens when your gender isn’t on the “same side” as your sex? Let’s say you are biologically male, but you know in your heart and in your mind that you are female. Having this mismatch (where your sex is on one side of the spectrum and your gender is on the other) is referred to as being transgender. More often that not, neither identity (whether it’d be preferred gender identity or biological sex) will be strictly one or the other, hence the usage of spectrums instead of on-off switches.
This genderbread man is a very simplified but effective way of understanding this distinction I was talking about. Notice how biological sex is scale just like the others, with multiple points on it based on variance in hormones and chromosomes in humans (more on that if and when I learn some science!)
The reason I am dragging this out brings me back to my blog’s tagline. When I say “male-identified,” I mean anyone that identifies with the male gender. This invariably includes trans* men as well. [Often times you will see “trans” written as “trans*” which I just learned means:
The star means fluidity… Writing simply ‘trans,’ without the symbol, can still imply a binary: transwoman or transmale. The asterisk is an all-inclusive term for identities that conceptualize gender differently, which includes genderqueer individuals.
Sorry, I really don’t mean to digress.
So what I meant to say when I started all this was that when I say “male-identified,” I’m including trans* men who may be male-bodied, female-bodies, or intersex, but still identify as men. I will sometimes use the words “male” and “female” when discussing the gender binary but I’m pretty sure that’s not widely-accepted and I still have it in my head as referring to the gender binary in one context and the biological binary in another context.
We live in a society that sucks. It loves to take any body that is different from the norm—usually an unattainable appearance established by the hivemind—and turn it into something deviant, exotic, or weird. As a result, trans* men often get fetishized or made fun in popular culture. Their bodies are shamed for being atypical from that of cis men (cis as in “not trans”).
In pornography, trans* women are described with the disgusting and degrading term “she-male.” It is used to categorize a type of entertainment that includes “chicks with dicks.” Their bodies are discussed and viewed as sexual objects, considered appealing for their “weirdness” and having bits of both sexes. I’m overwhelmed thinking about it because I get so frustrated when people make comments about their love for she-male, or even worse, “tranny” porn. Trans* men do not play as large as a role in popular pornography, most likely because of their more masculine appearances, an image that is considered less vulnerable than the feminine trans* women featured. And while trans* women are often the butt of many jokes in popular culture (e.g. men in dresses, forced to wear makeup, forced to do anything remotely feminine as if it were equally as awful as swallowing razorblades), trans* men also receive plenty of flack for their perceived butchness and rejection of feminine norms as they will not accept the gender role assigned to them by others. The reason I bring this all up is because I wanna dedicate a big “SCREW YOU” to the heteronormative patriarchy that helped establish this rejection of individuals who won’t “know their place as a woman.” Even typing the phrase it pains me.
I, on the other hand, happen to think bodies are great. I don’t think anyone should be shamed for their make-up because (it’s cliché, but) we’re all human and we really need to start having each others’ backs more. Trans* or not, the person whose body you are discussing is a person too with feelings, a past, and probably a pretty awesome future ahead of them. I found myself struck when watching this performance art piece (warning: nudity) by the texture of the performers’ skins. The performers are similar in race and I found their skin to look really similar and uniform throughout, as if representations of different bodies. If you were not preoccupied with human anatomy, you would not even notice that, biologically, some bodies had mixed features compared to the average person. They were just the same throughout and everyone was a part of the piece.
It’s 4 a.m. and I’m just trying to say bodies are great and we should stop telling anyone a part of them is unnatural when it’s clear they’re just the same as me and you. Did it work?