The Whitney Museum chooses silence in an effort to displace, downplay, and negate valid public outrage regarding their policies, ethics and leadership. By Jamara Wakefield May 17th marked the start of the 79th Whitney Biennial. The Biennial is a contemporary art exhibition, featuring typically young and lesser-known artists, at the Whitney Museum of American Art […]
#DropTheTowel Highlights Trans Men’s Body Positivity
As summer’s end fast approaches, Wear Your Voice has saved the release of our last photo shoots for your viewing pleasure – and of course to remind you that while we focus more on #DropTheTowel in the summer months, it is a self-love sentiment that should stay with you all year round. If you’re unfamiliar with the campaign, #DropTheTowel is a call to action, a movement for all shapes, sizes, colors, disabilities and genders to reclaim their place at the beach and proclaim they are done hiding their already beautiful summer body (because we believe every body is a beach body.)
In every photo series conducted, we have highlighted a particular issue that matters most to us. In a recent #DropTheTowel shoot, we focused on the pervasive act of food shaming, while our initial photo shoot created awareness around the Fat Phobia epidemic. In another, we challenged white feminists to bring diversity to gender equality campaigns. With the release of our latest photo series focusing on trans womyn, our intent was to highlight the increasingly alarming rate of trans violence in the United States, and, the photo series presented today underscores that importance by showcasing trans men celebrating their bodies freely and joyfully in a safe space created by community where everyone was able to drop their towel.
A few days prior to the day of our photohoot, writer Sam Dylan Finch, in an article for Ravishly titled I’m Transgender And I Need Body Positivity, Too wrote:
“On my worst days? I can’t leave my apartment. I ugly cry like there’s no tomorrow. And there’s a crushing weight on my chest, making it difficult to breathe, let alone function like the adult I’m supposed to be. “
Sam, who was going to participate in the shoot, but unable to the day of, reiterates why many campaigns that promote body positivity miss the bigger picture. As we’ve seen with the recent #PlusIsEqual photo series, having a campaign with ‘good intentions’ is not enough if they continue to exclude people in the same token mainstream media does. In another shoot, one of our models, Diane Rhodes, who has lived with cerebral palsy and used a wheelchair her entire life said “my father would tell me I could have been a model if I wasn’t disabled.”
To further the need of an all inclusive body positive campaign, Alex Bergeron, who participated in this shoot, was recently featured in an article in the L.A Times where Bergeron opened up about their faith as a practicing Muslim, family abandonment after deciding to live their life authentically, and the body image struggles they face as a trans man:
He knew there would be days when worries over his body image would prevent him from even leaving his apartment. On Facebook this summer, he typed that he was searching for “anyone who has time just to help me just get out the house without crying. I’m reaching out cuz I need help.”
We urge other campaigns to take a stand and be more responsible about making body positive campaigns that are inclusive to ALL people that everyone can resonate with and get behind.
Photo Credit for all images: David Meza of Zap Inc., Creative Director: Natalie Coblentz (pictured left), Assistant Director: Laurel Dickman
(Also featured in above photo from left to right; Olympic Gold Medalist Dustin Diolio, Alex Bergeron, and Mason Jairo Olaya-Smith.)
Wear Your Voice can’t stress the importance of not only highlighting trans male bodies but also integrating them with many other diverse bodies of various gender presentations, colors, and sizes, which we invited to this shoot. We see power in this method of focusing on one marginalized group at a time, while also integrating them with other bodies that run the spectrum of social acceptability. Wear Your Voice strongly believes in Body Positivity for all, and we choose to harness the power of honoring ALL bodies in each and every campaign we create.
In case you weren’t yet convinced of the importance of this message, we conducted a brief interview with Mason to address why trans people need body positivity, and we found his authentic answers so powerful in their truth that we decided to share them here:
WYV: Oftentimes, do you feel as if the trans community is left out of body positive movements?
MJM: Absolutely! There’s a huge misconception that trans people by virtue of being trans must hate our bodies which is the case for a small population but for many of us we actively work towards self love and hope our transitions allow us to change what we can (with or without hormones and surgery) and accept what we can’t. Furthermore trans people are rarely portrayed as desirable or something to strive for so we are typically reduced to our genitals, depictions of botched surgeries, and photos of hate crime/homicide victims
WYV: How has a negative perception of your body affected your emotional/mental well being?
MJM: I’ve lived with Ehler-Danlos Syndrome Type 3 (a complex connective tissue disorder) my entire life which has necessitated 5 orthopedic surgeries and the ongoing use of splints/braces/generally unsexy mobility aids for awhile I stopped wearing my braces or using a cane once I realized people treated me better without them and this was cute for awhile but eventually I got injured way more so unlearning my internalized abelism was the first step to being healthier.
In addition to being disabled I am in recovery from not one but two eating disorders– at my worst I was a binge eater who at 5’2″ weighed nearly 200lbs then after losing 50lbs due to a chronic illness I developed non specific one which I’ve only just started to get a grip on.
My body is hyper pigmented, riddled with stretch marks, and scarred couple this with living in a world that devalued me as a afroxicana bi woman and now demonizes me as an afroxicano queer man and my mental/emotional health is still yet to be where it should
WYV: Why is it important to have an all inclusive body positive movement?
MJM: Even with trans representatives popping up left and right the vast majority of them have access to surgery healthcare white privilege and educational access in addition to being able bodied cis normative (not visibly trans) and gainfully employed for many trans men and women of color however there is no relatable face so as terrified as I was to be on a beach less than 3 months after my top surgery and hysto I thought about how important it was for my imperfections and disability to be depicted and got over it.
HUGE thank you to all of the beautiful models and staff involved in bringing this shoot to life – we appreciate you wearing your voices proudly everyday and for bravely taking the time to #DropTheTowel with us! Stay tuned for the release of our last #DropTheTowel shoot of the summer season, releasing on Monday.