Trans Men Tell Us What Body Positivity Means To Them

Photographed by Stephanie Gonot.
In the last few years, body positivity has taken off in a major way. While plus size people, and especially plus size women, still don't get the same respect as everyone else (and there's a lot of work to be done before they will), some seriously badass body activists have started sharing their lives, and their bodies, to show other plus people that fat bodies can be beautiful. Even thinner women have reclaimed their stretch marks, their belly roles, and their cellulite.
But almost all of the body love we've seen over the last few years has come from cisgender (meaning, not transgender) women. Some men have also had their moment, of course, but where are the stories from transgender men and women and gender non-conforming people?
Just as cisgender women are held to strict expectations of what a perfect woman's body looks like, transgender people also feel pressure to live up to those ideals, and many of them are also dealing with bodies that already don't fit their true gender. That can cause major stress and other health concerns. A recent survey of 1,000 LGBTQ youth from the National Eating Disorders Association found that about 40% of transgender men and gender non-conforming people are diagnosed with eating disorders. While eating disorders aren't always a measure of body dissatisfaction, a percentage this high says something about how transgender men experience their bodies. As cisgender women get support from their peers to shed their body shame, transgender men also need that support.
"We still have work to do in our community, and in society in general, to push back against the stereotype of what a man should look like," says Emmett Schelling, executive director of the Transgender Education Network of Texas. "Right now, we have this image of what makes men attractive and we say, 'This is how you have to be to feel good about who you are.'"
We talked with Schelling and three other transmasculine people about what body positivity really looks like for them. In some ways, transgender men have the same message that we hear from cisgender body activists: Start loving your body as it is. But in other ways they have a very different experience with body positivity, and it has a lot to do with gender dysphoria (the feeling that their bodies don't match their gender). Read on for their experiences.
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