I'll go back in time a bit and describe how I came to be writing a blog at 2 o'clock in the morning. Once upon a time, there was a young man who liked to dress in women's clothes. Girl's clothes, you might say, because the young man wasn't a man yet, and in retrospect, was never a man at all.
The young man dressed in such clothes whenever he got the opportunity to do (always in secret) and when he had something to wear. Then, he'd go back to doing guy things and forget about the clothes until later. Sometimes much later, even years later. But he always did start again. He was young, had a crazy-good metabolism, and as such, was skinny.
The only thing he might've been able to say about body image in those days was when he'd see something on TV about anorexia or bulimia. Occasionally a popular show would focus on the subject, but it never occurred to him as anything remotely resembling a problem. Only girls seemed to have such issues, anyway. I just Googled it, and my memory is correct about one such instance, on Diff'rent Strokes. Ironically, the episode I remember was in 1986, right about the time the fascination with girl's clothes started.
The years passed and as he grew up and became more independent, he started to make bad decisions about his diet. Lots of fast food ensued, among other unhealthy items, and this began to add up on him. Around 17, he thought his metabolism was changing, slowing down, because he wasn't so skinny anymore. Not in his belly, at least. Legs, skinny. Arms, skinny. Belly, not so skinny.
It was not a huge deal, but enough to notice. He didn't blame it on his food choices. No, it had to be chemistry. Right or wrong, his body image issues had started. But he wouldn't have said that to anyone. It didn't seem to be a big deal. He was far from "fat". Just not so skinny as before.
Jumbled in the timeline were the girl's clothes. I (who was the young man) can't remember exactly the sequence of events, other than a period of dressing in college, and I guess all through those older teen, early 20's years. It was called "crossdressing" as I discovered, once the internet came along to confirm the diagnosis. I never heard the term "trans" or anything of that nature until many years later. I crossdressed, I didn't know why, and I didn't care why.
The body image issues grew (quite literally) through my 20's and 30's, weight up and down all the time. I would "dress" for a while, but often go long periods without doing so. And mind you, even when I did dress, no one ever saw me, so it didn't matter if I was a bit chubby in the belly. Which is where I draw a distinction between then and now.
More years pass, and I learn. Then, in my early 40's, it starts coming together and I realize I am transgendered. That's why I periodically needed the girl's clothes. That's why I adopted a feminine persona online. And eventually, I accepted that I was this way. And began to pursue, in fits and starts and hormones, such a life. A transition, of sorts. Now, I wanted (and want) to be "out there" amongst the people.
Now is where the body issues that were long lying in wait for me to get worse, got worse. And if you're trans, I think you'll get this. If you're cis, you might get it, you might not. A cis person might say, "Shannyn, loads of people have body issues. Men have them and decide they need to build muscles. Women have them and decide they need to throw up all their meals to stay skinny. What makes trans people so special when it comes to body image issues?"
I don't know about anybody else, but for me, I can take something common like belly fat and multiply it, because not only is that belly fat there, it's there in what looks like a MAN's belly. A MAN's overall shape. I'm not a man, I'm a woman, and the minute I realized that some years ago, I was suddenly stuck with body images FROM THE OTHER GENDER. Additionally, and I haven't researched this, but I'm sure what has happened to me happens to anyone else, cis or trans, with body image issues: I started to find MORE of them.
I don't need to detail the others; I am trying to stay positive here. I felt a need to explain this, as I need an outlet to see if anyone feels as I do and will tell me that they do. Because I know you're out there. Trans people have an awful time with body image. Whether it's truly a multiple of what cis men and women face or is imagined (we are talking a mental illness, after all), I again don't know.
So, what to do about it? Writing this, I hope, finds me some understanding, or at least some solidarity. In terms of actions, I think I will finally remember to start talking about it with my counselor, to start seeing things differently through therapy. I always forget to mention it, perhaps since it's been with me so long. It's almost like breathing; it's ever-present.
I'll sign off here with a simple wish that, if you feel the way I do, that you hang in there and try to not be so hard on yourself. Seek actions to make it better, if you can. Lord knows, changing eating habits or doing the needed exercise to help with some body image issues can be daunting, to say the least. You gotta love yourself (which I'm working on), willpower (which I need a lot more of), and support. Encouragement is key, so keep in mind, if talking to others, be careful how you provide that "encouragement". It is not optimal to simply say, "well if you want to look better, do better about your appearance".
Thanks for reading. I hope this helps or at least is something to think about. Bye for now!