Body Inclusivity is Not a Trend But a Movement
Historically, the inclusivity of all transgender people in movements for acceptance has been hard-won. Black and brown voices have fought to be heard, as have marginalized groups such as disabled transgender people or people who are non-binary. Plus-sized transgender people often find themselves in a sub-group that may be overlooked or face further discrimination at work or socially.
As any plus-sized person could tell you, the options available to us that are trend-conscious or fashion-forward are severely limited. Clothing companies may make a large production out of being “inclusive” and offering plus-sized options, but those options are often confined to a select few pieces and separated from the general collection in-store and online. The higher someone’s size may be, the more limited their options become.
The Common Thread of Dehumanization
I found myself in a unique predicament where being plus-sized was more of a challenge, at times, than being transgender was.
The common denominator with being transgender and plus-sized is that dehumanizing rhetoric will come at you from all sides. This is where the body inclusivity movement and the transgender visibility movement cross paths. Brene Brown wrote that dehumanizing always starts with language and then moves to images. Plus-sized people can likely pinpoint the dehumanizing language and images that surround them. Studies have shown that non-plus sized people feel people considered “obese” are less evolved than their thinner counterparts. Support for policies that discriminate against the obese typically follows this dehumanization.
Trans activists had fought to eliminate dehumanizing language and images as well. Both movements have gained in strength and support over the years, but both also have a long way to go.
Social Media’s Double-Edged Sword
Social media has dramatically increased awareness of the body positivity movement for all people, not just members of the LGBTQ+ community. There are popular and successful body positivity influencers, and better visibility has led to companies reevaluating their policies and marketing. Social media has contributed to many people learning about acceptance and inclusivity.
It has also contributed to more harassment and discriminatory behavior towards groups considered outside the status quo, including transgender and plus-sized people. Recently, trans activist Jazz Jennings revealed a 100 pound weight gain. Her revelation was met with global support, but, as is the case with anything on the internet, vile remarks about her body as well.
The body positivity movement has swelled in the last year, with the hashtag #bodypositivity gaining over 4 million uses in 2020. While this is a wonderful turn of events, activists must continue to demand needed changes. Like many members of groups that have faced discrimination, I am wary of people and companies making public overtures of support (like hashtags) without much to back it up in the way of action.
Not a Moment, a Movement
Much like transgender awareness is dismissed by some as simply a “woke” trend, people have similarly dismissed the body positivity movement as a trend. Body positivity must remain an active movement.
Despite strides in the body positivity movement, plus-sized women still experience discrimination in the workplace. Plus-sized sections are still relegated to the back corner of stores more often than not. Studies have shown that plus-sized people are statistically more apt to be paid less. They often have to fight an uphill battle against the myths surrounding larger people, such as inherent laziness or unkemptness.
Plus-sized women want to feel beautiful, stylish, and on-trend. Plus-sized men still want to feel handsome and find pride in their appearance.
With being transgender comes an awareness of our bodies: how they look, feel, and change. Being plus-sized and transgender gives one layers of body awareness. Our job as unique members of marginalized groups fighting the detrimental effects of dehumanizing language and imagery is to elevate our voices and the voices of activists around us. With a goal of greater understanding and more people hearing our stories, we can further the body positivity movement for not only the trans community but the society as a whole.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Wynne Nowland is the CEO of Bradley & Parker, she is also a transgender woman. At the age of 56, she came out as trans to her entire company in an email—featured in the WSJ—saying "You've all known me as Wayne, but tomorrow morning I will arrive to work as Wynne." She was already out to her family and many friends, but coming out at work was her final step to being who she truly was and almost everyone at her firm greeted her with open arms. As one of very few trans CEOs, Wynne is able to provide unique insight on trans issues and topics as a trans business leader and entrepreneur.