Body positivity, or bopo, has become a very popular topic in recent years, social media is packed with women (and men) of all shapes, sizes and colour promoting love of their body. With the rise of eating disorders and underweight models in the fashion world in the 90’s/00’s, my generations view of ourselves was altered by what we saw others wearing, what we should look like, what we should and shouldn’t eat. I can’t speak for Gen X but with the continued issue of eating disorders prevalent in teenagers it’s fair to say that body image is still a society wide problem. Myself and my peers learnt that is was ‘bad’ to have scars or birthmarks, that it was bad to have tummy rolls. Now bopo is making its way through society (mostly online at the moment) and influencing people to love the body they have and to feel comfortable with what they look like, without hurting themselves in the process. Finally something combating societies outdated views on body shape.
Bopo is a tough topic for anyone with any kind of disability or illness, be it physical or mental. It’s hard to love your body when it’s the very thing fighting you. From the outside bopo on social media can seem inaccessible to people who are disabled, most of the bopo role models are young, white and abled bodied, much like those we were taught were what we should look like from a young age. However recently there has been a rise in bopo within the outlaying communities, people becoming more confident in who they are regardless of their physical/mental differences. One of the most famous of these is Megan Jayne Crabbe (who I adore), she’s recovered from anorexia and is now beginning to take centre stage of the bopo community. Another to mention is Imogen who is disabled and also recovering from an eating disorder.
I’m learning that I can still love my body even if I have to use crutches or wear braces to keep myself together. My body’s working as hard as it can to keep me running. So yeah my knees and hips go the wrong way, hurt and click, but damn I have some lovely squishy thighs. My wrists and fingers may get too stiff or bend in ways they shouldn’t but they allow me to write things like this. So what if my body feels like it’s on fire one minute then crawling with frozen ants the next, it also feel great on my skin to wear new pj’s and use my weighted blanket, to have a nice hot bath. I’m more than what my body doesn’t do properly and it doesn’t mean I am unable to love it.
Personally I’ve struggled with how I looked since a very young age, I was bullied (quite badly) all the way through primary and secondary school. That’s 11 years of being told my body was too fat, too ugly, that it needed to change. In the end this left me with bulimia and depression, I started self harming because of what these boy’s (it was mostly boys who made these comments) told me, I learnt from them to hate myself. I’m currently recovering from bulimia, I’m trying my best to eat healthily and when I need to. And to not punish myself when I eat the ‘wrong’ food, I had pizza for dinner last night and for breakfast this morning and you know what, it was fucking tasty and I enjoyed it. I’m also learning that there is no ‘wrong’ food, just food that society has said that fat people shouldn’t eat. I did attend a group therapy programme as an outpatient around 2015, which I still use skills from. But since my health went down hill it seemed even more impossible to ever be able to love my body.
On top of all this I began questioning my gender at around 14/15, I began binding my chest and only wanted to wear ‘masculine’ clothing, I never wore skirts to school and cut my hair short. I think I was 16 when I realised I was transgender, it almost gave me an answer as to why I felt so uncomfortable within myself. The past few years I’ve learnt through the community and through others that I am non-binary transgender. I’m proud of my identity it just means that I’m going from ‘female’ to non-binary. I want to take up space on the gender squiggle somewhere near ‘male’. But that’s for a whole other post. I’m still a few years away from being in a body which I feel fits me but in the mean time I can work with what I have.
Now back to bopo, the combination of an eating disorder, disability and gender identity questions have made it very hard to understand how I can love my body. Since starting to take testosterone last September I already feel more confident. I actually talk to people in shops, I make phone calls (!?!?) and I take more pride in how I look and present myself. I’m becoming more proud of my queer disabled body. As much as I’ve tried to hurt it in the past and how it doesn’t always work the way it should, it’s kept me alive for 22 years so far, it’s doing it’s best. So it deserves some kindness towards it on my part.
I posted a photo on instagram the other day of something I never ever for a million years thought I’d post. A photo of my tummy, stretch marks and rolls. And I’ve had nothing but love from it. I’m soft and squishy, which makes me very good at cuddles. I’m more than the fat on my body, I hate hearing people say they’re ‘fat’. It implies that that is all they are, that the fat in their body defines the amount of love they think they deserve. I may have fat, I may have too much fat in my body, but that doesn’t for one second mean I’m unworthy of love and kindness, from myself or from others. But we also have to be careful when talking about ‘being fat’, telling people that it’s bad to call themselves fat still implies that fat is a bad descriptor. MJC wrote a very good post about this a couple years back, read it here.
It’s also been extremely hot here in the UK the past week, and it’s a time when it’s actually dangerous for me to go out in my binder with all the layers I would normally have on to cover myself up. But you know what, through loving myself and not giving a fuck what others think, I’ve been wearing shorts (?!) for the first time I can remember whilst being out as trans. I’ve been so much cooler with just shorts and a top on ad it also mean I don’t overheat and make myself feel more unwell. I’ve also (TMI sorry mum) been chilling round the flat butt naked because I don’t care, it’s fricken hot!! I don’t have to cover up, no one’s here, why should I feel ashamed of my squish and make myself needlessly hot. Please if you see someone out today in the sun in something you don’t think they should be wearing, just remind yourself that they’re just as hot as you are, just because someone isn’t slim or muscular, abled bodied or they have scars etc doesn’t mean they need to cover up for your sake. Let people wear what they want in whatever weather. Unless it’s crocs… never let a friend wear crocs 😉
Everything I’ve written is what I wish I could have said to the young me who grew up thinking that the fat they had defined them negatively. That it was a legitimate and deserving reason for them to hate themselves. I hope that at least one person takes something from this, that who ever is reading this knows that only they set the boundaries for the love they get, not society, not bullies, not partners, they do. It’s taken me a long time to learn it, and there may be people reading this that, like I did, don’t think this applies to them, that they don’t think they deserve love. You do.