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Pretty Boys

Mar 14, 2017

“Why don’t you come to the party with us? You might meet someone nice!”

            “I dunno… I’d like to, really, but I don’t think it’s worth the effort. No one there is going to be interested in me.”      


            That’s more or less the same conversation I’ve had over and over with various friends. I’d like to be able to go out and meet cute boys, but I have the settled expectation that even if a cute, gay or bi boy is interested in me, he will immediately back off when he finds out I’m trans. It’s not about whether I feel my gender is valid, or even whether he will. It’s entirely about my own body and my feelings about it, and what I assume other people’s feelings are going to be.

            I don’t exactly think I’m ugly, but I am always certain that my awkward, second-run puberty body, complete with acne, fuzzy moobs, and genitalia, with which I have a complicated relationship, is no one’s idea of a good time.  I think a lot of us have experienced this feeling to some extent or another. Society at large is exacting and pitiless when it comes to assigning sexual desirability to people, and trans people are definitely low on the list. Gay culture in particular can be downright nasty about men's appearance, so on top of any insecurity over in-transition bodies, we get the message that no one is interested in us if we lack a six pack and a ten-inch dick.

            On an intellectual level, we may know it's a wrong. We may know we're valuable and deserve sexual partners who treat us well. We may know phrases like "internalized transphobia" and "body positivity." What we don’t know is how to make these words apply to us, as men. How do we bring the words that we can so easily say down from our heads and get them to settle in our hearts where they'll actually do us some good?

            I don't know.

            I wish I did. Gods, do I wish I did, for my own sake and for all my trans brothers who are hurting like I am. 

            However, I’d like to propose that we, as GBQ trans men, need to start talking about this. We need to start talking about it with our straight trans brothers, and with our GBQ cis brothers. Many of us were, for a large portion of our lives, granted access to women's spaces in which concepts like body positivity were proactively discussed and body shaming forbidden. We may have spent years shrugging uncomfortably at phrases like, "Love your curves,” or wincing when women spoke to us kindly about the need to really connect with our genitals, but in an odd way, this may be an advantage for us.

            Within feminist and queer spaces, it seems to be taken for granted that men need to hear messages about body positivity less than women. This means that most men have never had the experience of hearing these messages directed at them as men. What would happen if we started putting the same energy into saying that skinny men, or short men, or fat men are beautiful that the women’s movement has put into showing how all sorts of women are beautiful? What if we were to explain, loudly, that having a visible six pack is about as reasonable a fitness goal for most men as being a size 2 is for most women? What if we were to encourage other men to view their genitals as something beautiful and positive and worthy of care and gentleness, rather than as a tool for subjugating others?

            The experiences that many of us have had in feminist spaces have given us a unique toolkit for doing this. We need to find the language, and we need to speak out. We and our GBQ cis brothers are suffering in a culture that holds up a single, unattainable ideal as the only body worthy of loving. The existence of this ideal is widely viewed as inescapable, as if men were inherently obsessed with appearances, so what do we expect in a subculture of only masculine aligned people?

            We do not have to accept this. We can open the doors to discussion and start dismantling the patriarchal assumptions about appearances and validity that were so easily transplanted into our communities. It won’t be easy to do, I guarantee that, but it needs to happen. We need to be able to talk about our bodies, and our insecurities about them, because we are beautiful and because it’s okay for us to say so.


Emrys is an artist and writer who tells stories about magic and queer people and preferably both at once. He likes dogs, swords, and hiding in corners at parties. He grew up in the USA, and now lives in Austria. You can follow him on tumblr at: wizard-guff.tumblr.com

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