Pretty and Witty and Gay: On trans body positivity

Queer people face unique and not easily attainable body expectations

If you’ve been around me for any length of time, you’ve probably heard me crack jokes about my own weight. I’m not particularly insecure about my weight; in fact, I’m mostly fine with the way my body looks.

This isn’t to say I’m not concerned about my own health, because like many other fat people, I am very aware of the risks associated with poor diet and little exercise. Frankly, it’s no one’s business but my own, but that’s beside the point.

Just like the unhealthy media portrayal of female body image, LGBTQ folks face unique body expectations. Who do you tend to associate with the word “gay?” Probably a cisgender, fit, able-bodied white man… which makes sense, considering the overwhelming media representation of that demographic. We know that there are plenty of gay people who don’t fit this description, but these people may feel the pressure to look like the glamorous and successful stereotype.

Transgender people, too, face these expectations, but in a slightly different sense. Many cisgender people believe that trans people are always trying to appear as the gender opposite of what they were assigned. When we meet a trans woman, we assume she either has or is pursuing a myriad of gender-affirming surgeries. When we meet a trans man, we assume his first goal is to start taking testosterone as soon as possible. Nonbinary folks get caught up in these assumptions, too: people suspect a name change, a pronoun change or a change in clothing style. While many trans people are pursuing some form of transition (whether it be medical or social), many trans people don’t want to. Many trans people simply do not have the adequate health or resources to transition. Pile on the pressures of achieving societal beauty standards (i.e. Eurocentric and therefore white) and actually attaining the “ideal” becomes nearly, if not entirely, impossible.

So the laundry list of expectations for my body goes as follows:

  • I am supposed to have had top surgery.
  • I am supposed to have had bottom surgery.
  • I am supposed to be fit.
  • I am supposed to appear masculine.
  • I am supposed to be white.
  • I am supposed to be able-bodied.
  • I am supposed to have broad shoulders.
  • I am supposed to have narrow hips.

I am privileged in that I am able to realistically pursue these expectations, but I also don’t want to pretend that said expectations don’t also weigh heavily (no pun intended) on me. I am tired of the idea that my body is too much or not enough. My beautiful, fat, transgender body is just right.

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Mac Ploetz
Mac Ploetz ('18) is majoring in Women's and Gender Studies. He is the 2017-18 President of the Vanderbilt Lambda Association, Vanderbilt's undergraduate gender, sexuality, and intersex alliance, and he's in his third year as a Sex Educator in Vandy Sex Ed. He has spent his time at Vanderbilt discovering and affirming his identity as a transgender person, and he works to help others affirm their identities as well. In his free time, Mac enjoys eating $30 worth of McDonald's and watching poorly-produced mid-2000s YouTube documentaries.