The bodies we choose

Something yesterday brought to mind a comment I read on a blog months ago. I might have written about this before, but I can’t really be bothered to check and see. Long story short: either the original post or the thread had to do with trans* identities, and one commenter (a woman? I think? can’t remember) prefaced an argument by saying something along the lines of “Well, those of us who aren’t in our chosen bodies…” She was making a larger point about transitioning, but it really rubbed me the wrong way. For one thing, it can be read as a pretty gross oversimplification of trans* narratives. (Or, even worse, the trans* narrative…) And then on the other hand, putting it that way more or less implies that we cisgender folk somehow won the body lottery.

A lot of us aren’t in bodies we “chose” by any means. And I’m not just talking about the whole “I hate my nose/waist/eyes/hips” crap. Because it’s true that, particularly among women, a lot of the things we dislike about our bodies we dislike specifically because we’ve been conditioned that way–thin is good, “real” women look a certain way, blondes have more fun… But even outside that patriarchical bullshit, a lot of us would choose different bodies. Or, in my case, different brains for the rest of the world.

My chosen body wouldn’t look very different from the one I’m wearing today, but it would be coded unmistakingly female. Anyone who looked at me, even (especially!) just for a few seconds at the bathroom sink, would know immediately that I’m a woman. There wouldn’t be a question. There wouldn’t be need for a second look, a deeper appraisal, a nearby security guard.

But I can’t have that body, because I refuse to “choose” from the options currently available. We do choose an awful lot of things for our bodies. The foods we eat, the workouts we’ll take on, the alterations we’ll make. And I could choose to grow my hair out, wear different clothing, put on makeup. But I won’t, and realistically even those changes wouldn’t make a difference to some people. I would look, and most likely feel, like a man in painful drag.

Then again, my chosen body would care a hell of a lot less what other people think.


2 Responses to The bodies we choose

  1. Jemima says:

    Damn straight! If I could choose I’d choose a body with fewer physical weaknesses. Like get rid of the hypermobility and the fact that I’ll probably have arthiritis before I’m 30. I’d get rid of the constant back pains and I’d get rid of the genetically inherited high risk of a rather nasty chronic disease. The question I have to ponder is whether I’d have the personal strength to stop at the practical things and not start choosing features that would conform to society’s beauty standards. I’m not sure I’d be strong enough not to do that. Not that I’ll ever actually know.

  2. pandanose says:

    That is the question, isn’t it? At a certain point, it becomes unclear whether what we think are our own aesthetic preferences are really just the ideals that have been drummed into our brains.

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