Sarah | Agender, White, They/Them

What does “body positivity” mean to you? How has your body image changed over time? How does your body image play a role in your identity or even in your daily life?

I’m not sure I understand the concept of body positivity so much as the concept of body neutrality. I haven’t had the most positive relationship with my body, partially because of gender dysphoria and partially because of health and disability stuff. I’ve historically thought of my body as something that needs to be fixed — but I don’t really believe that anymore. I’m moving toward my preferred gender expression, and my disability is what it is. Right now, I’m OK with this body. It serves its purposes, allowing me to do the work I think is important. My body is not a broken thing. And I would like to love it someday.

How has body image affected your mental and emotional health? What’s something that helps you feel comfortable in your own skin?

Things have become much easier as I’ve cut my hair and started binding (which means concealing my breasts). And I’m getting gender affirming surgery this summer* (!!!!). These are things that have helped me immensely. I think I’ll be able to stand a little taller. Though I do think nonbinary people can generally have a rough go of it in terms of other people’s understanding. People assign gender quite definitively, meaning that when I get ma’am-ed or sir-ed — and both happen quite often — I am being misgendered! And I think dealing with the fact that people only rarely default to nonbinary pronouns speaks to larger social problems, but also speaks to a reality of “not-passing” that I don’t know I’ll ever escape, and that I’ll need to be ok with.

Comfort is not something I feel except when I am alone and stretching out, allowing myself to feel rather than feel looked at.

How can we talk about our body image with our loved ones in a way that is supportive and helpful? How has the media influenced your body image?

I think I can only really think about this in terms of myself, not others — so I don’t know who will agree with this — but I don’t think any discourse about what or who is healthy or unhealthy is helpful in most conversations. Often I hear arguments to treat disabled or fat people well because “they could be perfectly healthy.” And it is unfair to assume you know someone’s health status based on their appearance. But I think unhealthy people need to have their autonomy respected too. Whether we’re fat or addicts or smoke or don’t exercise or make other “poor choices,” someone’s health should have no bearing on your judgment of them. Our bodies, our choices.

A lot of bodies in the media look like mine, I think because whiteness and thinness are conflated with beauty a lot. Greater diversity in front of our eyes is a good idea. I don’t think that’s as simple as putting diverse bodies in front of our eyes and ears, though — I think we need more directors, more writers, more artists who aren’t white, who aren’t thin, who are disabled, who are women, who aren’t cisgender and heterosexual. I can’t really think of another way to do media that doesn’t just fetishize and tokenize difference. And I don’t want to dismiss the question, but like, every single person ought to make more art that expresses how they feel and think. Especially if we’re bad at it. That is much more fulfilling than looking for echoes of ourselves in media.

Is there a specific message that you’d like to convey by participating in this project?

I want to think about vulnerability in a world where I feel generally unsafe, conscious of the fact that very much could be done to me without my being able to stop it. This is true for everyone, by the way — we are all acutely fragile. Some just have to feel that fragility more than others, particularly those on the margins. So choosing to be vulnerable, naked, leave all my bodily fragility and embarrassments on the table, feels a bit like a radical acknowledgement of the ways that vulnerability isn’t just a weakness but is a form of connection and love. And I hope that, if I were given the choice to be perfectly invulnerable, I would turn it down. But also ACAB and Black Lives Matter.

If you could describe your body in one word, what would it be?


*”[T]his summer” is in reference to the summer of 2023.