Hi. My name is Erin, and I am my dad’s first born son.
This isn’t really a joke. Although I was born female, I have never considered myself as such.
I was not raised as such.
I don’t mean this in a super-famous-right-now, Bruce-is-Caitlin Jenner kind of way. I am not having a gender identity crisis. Although I haven’t considered myself female, I haven’t considered myself male, either.
I’m not “girl.” I’m not “boy.” I’m just ME.
In the same way a frog doesn’t consider that he’s a frog, clouds don’t know they’re clouds, and in our daily life we don’t usually consider that we’re breathing (because we just DO IT), my gender is a non-issue. It just IS. It exists without my consideration, without need of acknowledgment or attention.
Yes, my gender is like that.
For the most part, my nondescript gender has been great. I have never felt confined to any specific role due to the plumbing between my legs. I have never felt limited in choice based on my sexual grouping, and I have never butted my head against any genital-induced ceiling. (Ew.) I am me ONLY AND JUST, not defined by any category, designation, class, or division.
Except for those times when I’m not.
Like when I shop for shirts.
No other time in all of my life have I thought about “what gender am I” than when I’m shopping for a fitted, feminine shirt, BECAUSE SHOULDERS.
Look at these things.
As a kid, I got away with wearing whatever I could find. I wore a lot of unisex stuff. No worries.
As a young adult, I did try once or twice to dress like a girl.
Shopping for shirts and embracing the reality of my huge shoulders was the first shake-awakening I had with regard to my gender. It was my very first experience with body image.
It was as frustrating as hell.
From the back, shoulder to shoulder, I fit into a men’s size large.
Around the chest, I wear a women’s size medium. (who am I kidding, now it’s a small)
At my thinnest, around my stomach I wore a women’s size small. Right now it’s a gentle medium.
All those things considered, unless shirts were 1) custom tailored, 2) schizophrenic, 3) unbuttoned at the bottom and tied Daisy Duke style, 4) sleeveless, or 5) horribly uncomfortable, they just didn’t fit.
I suppose it would have been easy for me to project that fact onto my person. Instead of “the shirts don’t fit,” I could have said “I don’t fit.”
I never did, but I think I know why.
Just like the self-discovery I had with my hands, my shoulders serve as a visual reminder of my unique identity. When I look in the mirror, I see “me.” Not “girl,” not “boy,” but ME. My shoulders are comparatively masculine, but a fairly feminine version of what they are. They are a paradox. A dichotomy. An enigma.
And THOSE things, I will happily project onto my person.
I feel a bit odd, writing this post. The last …well, ALL, have been somewhat emotional in nature. They’ve been written about body parts that hold a measure of control over my worth and value. For each of the past articles, I’ve had to dig into myself a bit, poke around, explore the painful spaces, and find the fear.
I hate to say it out loud, but maybe it’s because no one teased me about my shoulders. They were actually praised, seen as a trait of strength. It’s a good thing, to have a part of me that escaped ridicule, but I hate to think that my self-confidence and self-acceptance is so pliable and easily manipulated, my very identity could be molded and formed by those who came before me. I don’t want anyone to have had that power over me, intentional or otherwise.
I hate to say it, but I think it’s at least PARTLY true.
Which means, conversely, that a great deal of my self-hate and self-loathing was also put there, at least in part, by those who came before me.
I suppose on some level, that part should be a relief.
It should be a relief, because that means I am not built to self-destruct. It means that if I keep looking and digging, I can root out those bad seeds of thought and replace them with better things. It means that maybe the people who said those things, maybe they were wrong, and maybe. JUST MAYBE. Maybe the idea that “I am enough, just as I am,” can actually be true.
It is true, damnit.
And of all the things The Body Image Project is meant to do, it is that. To help us DECIDE. All great change starts with a concrete decision, a shift in perspective, and absolute acceptance of real-life reality. JUST DECIDE TO BE WORTH IT. Decide that YOU ARE ENOUGH, and you will be.
(well, you already are. you just have to see it, too.) :)
The phrase “shoulder the burden” is an appropriate title for this post. Not just “because duh,” but because that is what we are meant to do with our reality. Shoulder it. Hike it up on our own backs, accept all fault and responsibility for every part of it, and then MOVE.
When you shoulder the full weight of your reality, you are completely in control of where it goes.
Once I shouldered the reality of my gender, all of it, all the parts and ins and outs, it became MINE. I do not need to define myself by the stereotypes or opinions of others, but only how I choose to do so.
I am me, and that is enough.
You can do the same, as soon as you own your life.
Once you do, you can change your world.
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Live every day like it’s your last one. Find yourself, own your truth, and change your whole world. Forge Depth, and never stop digging.
Push on, my friend.
Always push on.