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A Short Guide to Supporting Each Other with Body Changes

April 21st, 2014     by deb singh     Comments

As some readers may know, I wrote a lot about my pregnancy. Thanks to everyone who read my series, Queer Brown Girl Trying to Get Pregnant because your support was awesome and much appreciated. It certainly made this queer, Brown girl feel less alone in a pretty intense process.

That said, since I was ‘knocked up,’ I had a few interactions (MANY actually) with folks that were very different from interactions when I was not pregnant. A lot of these had to do with body image. Allow me to share…

As a cisgender woman (the biological sex I was assigned at birth matches my brain’s gender identity), I experience lots of judgment and overt comments about my body; how I am suppose to look or pass as a woman and what I can do to improve or stay in line with current ideas of femininity. And while I wouldn’t say that society is getting better at not making fat comments, or your mom no longer comments on what you are wearing, but perhaps there are improvements.

Has anyone made a comment about your weight? Said your outfit is too slutty or too revealing? Has anyone made a comment on your style as being too this or too that? Has anyone ever told you ‘No, that’s for boys’ or ‘No, that’s for girls’?

Since becoming pregnant I believe I have returned to that part of life where people think its okay to make all sorts of comments on my body. Instead of focusing on the negativity of those body comments (which have ranged from weird to downright rude), I decided to put together a short list of ways to big each other up instead of bring each other down.

1. Speak from your own experience Not everyone has the same experiences as you with body image or body changes. People who identify as Black, for example, don’t all have the same experiences with racism, just as fat people or skinny people don’t all share comparable body image prejudices. No need to generalize for everyone, just share what you have gone through yourself.

2. Think about the comment before you make it Does this comment feel supportive to you? Is it a kind comment? Would you like it if someone said this to you on your worst day? How is this comment productive to your interaction with this person right now? For example, sometimes we think it’s a huge compliment to tell someone they have lost weight, but it’s actually still a judgment and it reinforces the idea that being thin is better than where their weight was at before.

3. Make loving compliments about looking great! … And fewer comments based on gender binary norms. Sometimes we get caught up with a girl wearing a tie or a boy wearing nail polish. While I realize readers here are a sophisticated bunch, I am sadly sure that it’s still hard for gender bending folks out there in the world to buy clothes without people making judgments based on gender norms, like girls should wear skirts and boys shouldn’t. If you feel uncomfortable with trans folks or gender queer people in your space because you “don’t know” whether or not that’s a boy or girl, ask yourself: If you knew the answer, what would it change?

4. Refrain from judging the size of pregnant bodies. A friend of mine sees me over the course of my pregnancy and calls me radiant, full of light and beautiful. Another friend calls me “Huuuge….oh and beautiful”. What’s the point? As a person with issues, (and I know I am not alone out here) I don’t really get the point of calling me big, huge or growing. Like duh, I’m supposed to be bigger every time you see me. Are people calling my baby fat? I also know that people say things like ‘Oh, that baby is so small.’ My point, why comment on my unborn kid’s size already?

5. You don’t need to say anything at all. I know this suggestion might seem weird since we really spend a lot of time on looks: “You look great”,”Have you lost weight?”, “Oh you’re so skinny!” Maybe replace some of these comments with no comments at all.

6. Replace looks-based comments with big-ups about other things. I find people love it when instead of focusing on the exterior, I make a comment like: “Your performance was amazing; it really struck something in me” vs. “You looked great out there.” This can allow people to respond with more depth and interact with you about themselves, rather than just receive a compliment about how they look.

7. Practice collective care. Many of us have heard the term self-care before but I am also into caring for the collective of us, in our various families, communities, groupings. To me, collective care starts with treating folks the way you would want to be treated, with lots of mutual respect and loving communication. It extends to doing things that support other people to care for themselves. For example, every time one of my co-workers needs a day for self-care, I support them by sending a supportive text when they call in sick or say something encouraging about them taking care of themselves (instead of being annoyed that it may impede upon my own work).

8. Sharing our scary places Finally, I have found there are lots of unspoken moments about body changes during pregnancy and I suspect one of the reasons people aren’t talking about them is because they are viewed as scary; gross; seem too personal; or they are not going to be celebrated because they are associated with the mysteries of pregnancy, and women’s or trans bodies. My antidote to this is SHARE! It may be gross, hell, it’s pregnancy or it may be TMI (too much information) but if we don’t demystify it, whatever the body issue/change is, it has power over us. Not only that, we often can end up feeling alone.

While the list may seem like the points are narrowed to only certain situations, I know sophisticated readers will find many ways to support our friends and family members with encouragement to love each other and ourselves through our bodies and manage these ups and downs with grace, love, and ease. It’s quite the radical thing to do, actually: to love ourselves and support others in doing the same.

Tags: body politics, queeriosities

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