There is a lot of discussion about how harmful it is that the media dictates a standard of what “perfect body” should look like. However, people like myself in the LGBTQ community face unique body image challenges that are often ignored. I am only one voice and I can only speak to my own personal experience, but it is a start.
If you are part of the LGBTQ community, I hope you find some solace that you are not alone in these challenges.
I identify as gay, and I also identify as femme – a gay woman that presents as very feminine. I have experienced a lot of judgment, not only from heterosexual people but also from people in my own community. Because I do not fit the stereotype of what a gay woman looks like, people feel like they have the right to interrogate my sexual orientation and comment on my appearance.
No matter how many times this happens, the pain of being scrutinized and criticized never goes away. I struggle with internalizing these comments and suffering from horrific body image.
One way that this scrutiny manifests is the expectation that as a gay woman I should be more masculine, so my body should be more androgynous and less feminine.
I have been made to feel ashamed of my body fat and womanly shape – not because it doesn’t match up to a standard of beauty set by mainstream society, but because people seem to think my femininity and womanly curves contradict my sexual orientation.
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When men sexualize and comment on my body and tell me “I don’t look gay because I’m too feminine,” it upsets me on so many levels. As a woman, I feel objectified and disrespected, and as a gay woman I struggle with hating my body for suggesting to others that I am not a “real” gay woman.
My body hatred is a classic example of blaming the victim and how it becomes internalized; this happens all the time due to misogyny.
When women are sexually assaulted they are told it is their fault because of how their body looked or what they were wearing, and when my sexual orientation is invasively commented on and questioned, people justify it by suggesting that by looking the way I do, I am “asking” to be scrutinized. I am here today to tell you:
Your appearance and presentation does not invalidate who you are as a person.
Your body and whether or not it meets an arbitrary social standard does not dictate your worth.
Your body is not to blame for things that happen to you that are out of your control.
No one has the right to comment on your body without your consent.
While I cannot extensively comment on the experiences of other LGBTQ people, I want to briefly mention that gay men and trans* people also have unique body image challenges.
In the gay male community, being very muscular and toned and spending a lot of time working out is considered very important. One of my closest friends has been rejected by many men simply because he doesn’t possess this ideal body type.
For some trans* people it is extremely complicated and painful because their anatomy does not match their gender identity. A lot of trans* people struggle with eating disorders due to body dysphoria, and I wish this was discussed more.
It is our responsibility to strive for body acceptance; it is also our responsibility to challenge societal norms and speak out against institutions that police our bodies.
I will never stop advocating for body acceptance and confronting people when they claim my body dictates my sexual orientation. Will you join me?
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