Since the dawn of capitalism, mainstream media has sold a one-size-fits-none ideal of the human body, particularly in advertising. More and more media and ad campaigns are boldly featuring real bodies—bodies of all shapes, sizes, colors, and abilities—but it is still incredibly rare for transgender and non-binary people to be represented positively in all of our fabulous bodily diversity.
It’s no surprise that the vast majority of the trans people who attain positive fame and fortune are people who, in one or more ways, embody normative standards of attractiveness. Case in point: Aydian Dowling, a trans man whose image went viral after he became a finalist as a cover model for Men’s Health and was eventually featured on the cover of Gay Times.
No shade on Aydian, but his body is the stereotypical masculine ideal, and idolizing it as the epitome of “health” or beauty probably won’t do the majority of the trans community much good. Even famous trans women of color like Laverne Cox and Janet Mock have been the first to own the fact that much of their worth in the eyes of the mainstream depends on embodying stereotypical femininity and the ability to “pass” as non-trans.
Trans and non-binary people have complex relationships with our bodies. For those who are survivors of sexual violence, these relationships are even more complex. We may have been told by abusers that our bodies are not beautiful or valuable. Sexual violence can have a dramatic impact on our conceptions of our bodies’ worth and can have emotional and physical consequences, including substance use, eating disorders, and self-harm.
Laverne Cox started the campaign #TransIsBeautiful two years ago “as a way to celebrate all those things that make trans folks uniquely trans, those things that don’t necessarily align with [mainstream] beauty standards.” The statement “trans is beautiful” flies in the face of what we are sold by the media and mainstream culture.
Laverne has said that “loving trans people is a revolutionary act.” This extends to our love for ourselves. Loving ourselves, as trans people, is a revolutionary act.
Trans selfies as a revolutionary act
Maybe you love your body, maybe you don’t; probably, it’s complicated. But one revolutionary way you can start to counteract negative messages is by taking selfies. You don’t have to post them anywhere. You don’t even have to show them to anyone. Taking selfies and looking at your beautiful and worthy self can be cathartic, fun, and silly. It can be radical, revolutionary, and an act of defiance! It can be loving, sweet, and sexy. All in all, you can be you—in all of your glory and just for your own viewing pleasure.
Or, if you’re feeling particularly brave and fierce, do post your awesomesauce self on social media. Do compliment yourself and give yourself your very own hashtags—like #ConfidenceKing and #GenderGODDESS and #ImFineAsHell—and make funny faces or smile or pout. Take a pic when you get all dressed up for the day, the night, or—heck—simply for the selfie. Create a Facebook album entitled, “My Freaking Bad-Ass Self,” and load it up. Print your selfies and frame them all over your bathroom or kitchen or bedroom so you can look at your beauty-some self any time of day!
Not quite ready for all that yet? That’s totally fine. Self-love is a journey. There are lots of ways you can begin and/or continue that journey. Selfies just might be one of those ways.
Here are some resources all about body love as a way to inspire your self-healing journey:
- FORGE’s Espavo Project: A photo narrative project that shows trans and non-binary folks and loved ones together with messages of resilience and healing. Follow FORGE on Instagram to participate!
- The Body is Not An Apology: A fabulous body love site that does a pretty good job of including trans folks in their work. Follow them on Instagram and consider uploading one of your selfies to their “Bad Picture Monday” campaign that aims to help you appreciate your body—even when you don’t feel so hot.
- Eff Your Beauty Standards: A campaign to promote radical body love by Tess Holiday, a self-proclaimed plus-size model. They feature folks of all sizes, abilities, and expressions as well as little “pick me up” body love notes.
- Follow the hashtag #TransIsBeautiful and @transandinked on Instagram for trans selfies of all kinds.