Trigger warning: transphobia, body image, invalidation by cis queer counsellor, chest dysphoria, use of word ‘breasts’.
Around two years ago, I had attended a two-hour long body positivity workshop organized by one of the most famous LGBTQ+ organizations, with just a half-hour slot to address trans bodies and positivity. The last thing I expected from this workshop was to leave fuming with anger, I could even feel the heat leave my skull!
First of all, an activity that was so poorly thought out and executed was one of the biggest problems. One had to write or draw their insecurities about their bodies on a piece of paper. This paper was then folded and shuffled and redistributed to everyone. Which means you’ll land with a paper that’s not yours, and you have to read out or describe its contents and then say something affirming and nice to the person whose paper you’ve got. Now you know that there is going to be one insensitive comment coming from a cis person, there has to be! Cis brains are apparently wired that way, but what I expected was a better moderation of that activity, which also didn’t happen.
So what went wrong with the activity you ask?
So many things about the activity were harmful from the get go – it was poorly planned, you cannot control how people will respond even though you have told them to say something affirming and nice – and what I was concerned about the most was that it was a body positivity workshop which has trans individuals attending it too.
A cisgender queer person (a therapist who teaches queer affirmative counselling practice) from the group got a paper that read something like this: “I have extremely large breasts and I don’t like them at all, they cause me a lot of discomfort.” Now mind you, this person could be cis or trans, nobody knows. But the apparent affirmation and nice thing that was expected from this cisgender queer person, who read it out loud was neither affirming nor nice. She went on to say, and I quote, because I clearly remember her words even today, “I don’t know why you don’t like your breasts, isn’t that something that’s preferred and liked by a lot of people anyway, and maybe you should just get rid of it because it’s easy these days.”
You and I both know that this statement is the worst thing you could say to anybody, I don’t need to tell you why, and what’s wrong with this statement. The moderation was so bad that the moderator never said anything to that statement. I, as an enby trans masc person who wants top surgery one day, who knows how it is not ‘so easy these days’ or on any day (!!), couldn’t keep quiet. I had to speak up against that ghastly statement and I did. And then I left, angry with myself for wasting my entire day travelling from Thane to Kamala Mills for this.
Image description: A three-panel cat meme. In the first panel is a ginger kitten looking down shyly with this text appearing on the right “Person: I don’t like my chest, I wish I didn’t have these lumps of fat on my chest.” In the second panel is a tabby kitten that appears to be laughing, with this text appearing to the right “Cis queer person (Also a therapist): Why don’t you get rid of them? It is anyway easier these days.” In the third panel is a ginger kitten that appears to be screeching, with the text on the right being “Me: Blasphemy!!!!!!”
I left angry, sad and upset. A space that was supposed to make me feel positive and better about myself did the opposite. The last thing you’d expect is for a queer therapist to utter that kinda nonsense, which further exposes our radical cisgender queer feminism – what is it that makes them who they are? This person used extremely harmful statements to cis and trans people alike, whilst sitting among a group of people who were there to feel positive about their bodies. If this person has used such words here, in the most inclusive and accepting place that it was supposed to be, imagine the amount of damage they’ve done at their so called “Inclusivity at workplaces” workshops and talks they keep giving to students in the name of awareness, or have they refrained from using such language there because they get paid for those things?
Our very understanding of body positivity is that our bodies don’t exist to please others, to make other people feel comfortable in their own, our bodies exist for ourselves and nobody else and nothing else.
She did apologize for what she said later when confronted, but I didn’t find it enough. These people will continue invading spaces meant for trans identities and trample on our bodies and earn money out of it, by preaching about inclusivity, conducting gender and sexuality workshops.
Cisgender spaces, be it gay or hetero, will always be like this because they take zero accountability for their actions, the power has to remain on that side and it will continue to happen because their narratives suit the larger population, and makes everyone else feel comfortable about the queer experience. Trans/enby experiences do the opposite you see, they question everything that cisgender people grew up understanding.
I won’t go into explaining where these people come from to be able to say such heinous things to another person… because I don’t know. I will only leave this here for you to ask as many questions as you can.
Why are these spaces still existing?
Why are they continuing to destroy our authorities over our own body?
Why are we not holding these people accountable for their actions?
For how long will we allow the system to corrode from within to a point there’s nothing left?
When will organizations stop abusing the word safe space and actually do something to make it a safe space?
Dan Rebello (they/them) is a 27-year-old trans/enby asexual person. They are a primary school teacher and an anxious cat who loves painting and writing their heart out.