All bodies are different in one way or another. All bodies are human. Yet, some people find the differences in them a target for not just scrutiny, but also hate. This does not just happen in the case of “larger” vs. “thin” bodies, but also towards those that do not fit in the context of a standardized female/male sex binary.
When speaking about gender equality and body positivity, it is crucial that we do not forget ALL those that are targeted for discrimination. Gender equality means not simply accepting, but encompassing transgender and gender non-conforming individuals into the conversation. It means uprooting limited beliefs about a cookie-cutter definition of gender and sex.
Sadly, people that do not fit into a cisgender body are far too often subject to discrimination. These bodies not only become the target of threats, but also deemed as a threat in a grossly backwards, hundreds-of-years old, mindset by those who believe their rights should be limited. Discriminators hold to a strict mindset that women are only with “female” written on their birth certificate and man are only those with “male” on theirs.
What I am talking about is discrimination and hate towards transgender and gender non-conforming: ones that certain, small-minded groups determine are a danger to a standardization of females vs. males. Why? Because for those that discriminate, there needs to be a way to give them power over others.
There is a fear of accepting differences in what was standardization about who not only has, but lives in the ideal body. In other words, bodies become a falsified symbol of threat to those who discriminate. However, the reality is that when transgender and gender non-conforming individuals are perceived as a threat, they are in fact the ones who become threatened by hate.
This is much what happens in diet culture, with the need to create a sense of separation that puts thin people above all others (a sort of body hierarchy). When it comes to discriminating against bodies that do not fit a white, straight, cisgender type, senseless hate trickles down. It stems from a backwards way of thinking that to be to in power, there needs to be certain characteristics that separate acceptable bodies from unacceptable bodies. This is where we see ugly and destructive discrimination that hurts those who experience it.
The transgender bathroom debate from last year, reared the ugly head of discrimination towards bodies that do not fit an outdated female/male sex/gender standard. The argument claims that allowing transgender women to use women’s bathrooms is nothing more than an open invitation for sexual predators to prey on vulnerable girls. Yet, studies show that transgender people are more likely to be the target of attack than are to initiate them. Thus, those that are perceived as the ones that threaten become the threatened. The unconscionable nature of discrimination is exposed for what it is.
In the debate about transgender and gender non-conforming bodies, there is an assumption on one side that deviating from the sex on one’s birth certificate goes against nature and to allow them to be who they are upturns an outdated idea of gender and sex identity and will inevitably turn the moral fabric of society to mush. Some, like Milo Yiannopoulos, claim that transgender individuals have a mental illness and should not be enabled to be who they are.
I cringe that there should even be debate about the right or wrong of sex and gender identity. For, those that do not fit a female/male binary (really, no longer a standard spectrum) ARE as natural as someone who identifies as a woman and is named female on her birth certificate or a man who identifies as a man and is named male on his birth certificate. I am not sure what can be more natural than who someone internally is.
Discrimination against transgender and gender non-conforming individuals seems to me to be nothing more than a poor excuse to separate some bodies as a type of alien and to normalize others as good. And, if there are good and bad bodies, instead of just human bodies, then one can be deemed as a threat, while others the target. In other words, categorizing bodies as such allows someone (in their skewed judgement) to stay on top of the power schema (patriarchy in its grossest form).
The crucial aspect of this that is missed in the firing lines of discrimination is that when deeming certain bodies, a threat on a haphazard basis, they are marginalized on an unsound, unfair, and certainly arbitrary basis. In becoming marginalized, the bodies deemed a threat become threatened themselves, as they are held up to abject condemnation and discrimination; simply because they are who they are.
It seems to me that the fear that some political and religious circles have of transgender and gender non-conforming bodies is based on a false idea of “what should be” or “what was”. To those that discriminate against them, transgender bodies are nothing more than a symbol of a progressing world that threatens a narrowly constructed idea of gender identity. This would mean changing the way we think about gender and the very basis of discrimination rests in an undesirability of change.
Well, boohoo for haters. What we understand and know about gender and sexual identity is changing. Science tells us so.
When a threat is falsely perceived, it is because the person(s) claiming it are in fact, deflecting from the threat they are instigating.
Freedom for all cannot exist with extorted conditions of body hate. We all have a body we live in that is natural to who we internally are. However, when they become symbols of fear for groups with discriminatory beliefs, then bodies of marginalized people become more than an outer shell. They become a hunted bulls eye.
Bodies are only a threat so long as people make them a threat. And, this threat is no more substantial than any reason for discrimination. Condemning the presence of specific groups of people is about body hate that bleeds heavy with devastating social, political, and cultural effects for those that are beleaguered.
If people keeping clinging to the rule of “what was” or “this is just how it is”, there can be no real human progress. Sure, society might keep making technological and scientific advances, but what good are they if we cannot fall back into a place of simple human connection and love?
I repeat, all bodies are human. All bodies are just bodies that say nothing about who people are underneath the superficial shell of themselves. To fear certain bodies and make them a threat, when they are in fact the ones who are threatened, is to deny the worthiness of their life. To fear certain bodies because they fit into a more appropriate gender and sex spectrum than a binary, means to invalidate their personhood.
There is much work to be done. There is much time to put into changing outdated and discriminatory conceptions of which bodies are “natural” or “unnatural”. Categorizing bodies into a strict schema that does not fit the true spectrum of gender and sex identity only serves hate-fulfilling agendas that treat marginalized groups as a different species, mentally ill, incorrect, and non-valid. I am not naïve and I know that this is not an overnight matter and for some that truly believe in the inferiority of others, there is no changing their minds.
However, in the meantime, we can change our conversation about how we talk about bodies. We need to understand what the fears are (as terrifying, biased, illogical, and hateful as they are) of certain bodies that are routinely threatened if we must know how to change the conversation about them.
We need to look at the human side of all of us. We all live in a body. Categorizing standard body types, whether that be by size, shape, weight, or gender, undercuts and dissociates those that do not fit into them.
Next time you find yourself in conversation about or reflecting on the concept of body acceptance and love, I encourage you to think about ALL the ways bodies are perceived and affected on a mass level. Think about how we can contemplate and reflect the true meaning of body acceptance and how it NEEDS to be encompassed into the realm of social justice.
To embrace the true meaning of body-love, we need to dig deeper than the surface. We need to look farther than aesthetics and look at what exactly is feared and what are the dangerous assumptions about bodies and identities.