When it comes to my gender identity, I sometimes feel at a loss regarding any conception of active self-love. Sure, I have lots of tools at my disposal courtesy of the body positive community that have changed my life and perspective drastically. But there's something about my trans identity and the gender dysphoria that comes with it that often causes me to leave gender out of the conversation. As someone who doesn't always feel like they were born in the right body, it's difficult to make peace with myself regarding my gender and all of the ways in which my biological body betrays me.
The thing is, I don't feel this way because society tells me I should. Trans identities are still often perceived as less than desirable by a majority that sometimes struggles to understand them. I don't want a penis because of self-loathing or negative media messaging or a painful upbringing. I feel this way because I simply believe that I was born in the wrong form. I love my body, but my mismatched vagina sometimes feels like a taunting reminder of how my appearance conflicts with how I feel inside.
However, I believe that it's only through self-love that I can feel better about my genitals and gender dysphoria. From one trans body positive warrior to another, I can assure you there are ways for us to practice body positivity while simultaneously wishing for genitals or a chest to match our identities. Here are a few ways to start.
1. Embrace Body Mods
Feeling dysphoric can often come with a sense of resentment over not being able to control parts of our appearance. Having experienced this myself, I know that getting a drastic haircut, trying our a new hair dye, or getting a fresh tattoo can be great ways to take back the power you feel you've been missing.
Besides the delight that often comes with feeling agency over how your body looks, some of these mods (like super short haircuts) can be incredibly gender-affirming in their own right.
2. Go Shopping
One surefire way for me to practice body positivity in my day-to-day is by presenting more masculinely through the clothes that I wear. As someone who often rocks skirts (something I love to do despite how tied up with femininity they arguably are), it feels like a real treat to put on something that makes me look and feel super masculine.
Of course, this isn't always affirming since clothes for trans people are not very mainstream. If you have the funds, I would reccomend investing in a tailor-made Bindle And Keep suit, a chest binder featuring a fun print, or some Syro heels. Taking steps to masculinize or feminize parts of your body is one of the most magical forms of self-love out there, IMO.
3. Consider Hormones Or Transition
In my own experience, I've seen gender affirming hormones and procedures framed as something drastic, irreversible, and potentially dangerous. In reality, these steps can be purely body positive and self-actualizing.
For those who want to take hormones or transition but are afraid of negative implications, consider how body positive it is to work towards being your true self. And for those who are already on this path, try to honor each procedure or injection with the respect they deserve. Don't forget to remember that you are so strong.
4. Try Out Some Mantras
One of the most effective ways I've found to transmute negative self talk into body positive love is by using mantras. Vocalizing mantras specifically for dysphoria — like "my dick is feminine" — might just hit the spot.
5. Try Sensate Focus Touch
In my experience, the best way to promote some body pos vibes is often through personal sexuality and my nude body. But when I feel disassociated from my vagina and touching it sexually results in discomfort (psychological or physical) sensate focus touch — whereby "couples touch one another in specific ways and agree to not touch the entire body, only a selected area," according to women's site HelloFlo — can help me get closer to the parts of my body that don't feel quite right. It can also be practiced solo, of course.
6. Do Mindfulness Exercises
I've been discussing gender in therapy a lot lately, and how I want to learn to love my vagina as the masculine thing I want it to be (since I don't want to get it surgically altered, at least not yet). Recently, my therapist recommended I contemplate my reasonable brain, my emotional brain, and my wise brain regarding my perception of it.
Through this exercise, I aim to consolidate my reasonable brain (my vagina doesn't make me a woman and is masculine) with my emotional brain (but society tells me vagina equals masculine) to create a wisdom brain that might help me accept my genitalia as something other than feminine and entrapping.
7. Embrace the Impermanence & Ever-Fluid Nature Of Your Body
Dysphoria and ever-shifting desires regarding gender and presentation can be pretty exhausting. I often find myself wishing I could stick with one feeling, or that I could accelerate my transition into manhood.
Though it's difficult, I've been trying to embrace the impermanence and fluidity of my identity. Even though it feels chaotic sometimes, it's pretty wonderful that I have such a range of modes and options when it comes to who I am or who I want to be perceived as.
8. Rename Your Genitals
Another way to feel more body positive about your genitals can be through renaming. If the penis or vagina label feel too limiting or incorrect, make your own. It can be a combination of the two words, a cute name that you think matches your genitals, or something fun and absurd like "alien candy." There's no need to stay trapped in a label that's just not affirming.
9. Reclaim Your Nude Body
One of my favorite tools to utilize on the path to empowerment is nudity. When certain parts of our bodies are so heavily sexualized and/or gendered by society, taking back agency over your own might just be essential in growing comfortable with the body you're in. Through nude photos, masturbation, and even public (or semi-public) exposure, you can reframe your penis as feminine or your breasts as masculine.
10. Tuck & Pack
Pete Packer Underwear Trunks, $39, babeland.com
If you're feeling self-conscious about the silhouette of your groin, own your gender by tucking or packing to your heart's content. Even if you don't have the funds for surgery, you deserve to feel confident about your genitals and rock your very own penis or vagina.
11. Wear A Strap-On During Sex
Perhaps the most body pos and gender-affirming thing I've ever done was fucking my partner from behind with a strap on. With my partner's encouragement and body positivity surrounding my masculinity, I feel I can embrace the strap-on as my own penis to help me look and feel as masculine as I deserve.
Using these methods and so many more, we can hopefully all begin to feel more body pos about our dysphoria. With a condition that is so often confused with self hatred, it's essential that we create more conversation surrounding how we can be empowered, body positive individuals — and simultaneously trans.
Images: Meg Zulch; Getty Images (3); Courtesy Babeland