Beyond 'Real Women' and 'Real Men'

01/15/2016 04:59 pm ET Updated Jan 18, 2017
Vector modern transgender symbol on white background. type of sexual minorities
Vector modern transgender symbol on white background. type of sexual minorities

Last night, while conducting my routine survey of viral Body Positive imagery, I happened upon a rare link in my Facebook Newsfeed: a photograph campaign featuring Queer Muslims. "Finally!" I exclaimed out loud, long-frustrated with the binarism that is inherent to the mainstream Body Positive movement. In recent years "real woman" imagery has expanded to include "real men" as well, but those who identify as both, neither, and/or transgender continue to be excluded from mainstream photograph series and campaigns.

"Why does this matter?" you might ask yourself, especially if you easily identify with the gender assigned to you at birth and happily comply with the attendant gender norms. It matters because Body Positive imagery is supposed to represent "real people" in all their diverse glory. The purpose of this imagery is to validate marginalized bodies through affirmative representation. However, by omitting the most endangered bodies from "real" person campaigns, this naturalized and binary imagery trivializes the existence of transgender, genderqueer, and otherwise non-conforming individuals (such as women who keep their body hair or facial hair, as I've blogged about previously).

The time is nigh to evolve beyond the binary campaign framing of "real men" and "real women" to "real people." If Body Positive imagery is supposed to reflect what "real people" look like, then it must begin to acknowledge gender diversity. The viewership that propels "real woman" imagery to viral status is aware that other genders exist besides cisgender "woman" and cisgender "man." Twelve-plus years in, this movement must expand to include binarism in the list of -isms it has so admirably challenged. It is time for producers of Body Positive imagery to acknowledge those who need affirmation the most, even if it means alienating transphobic viewers. It is time to become radically inclusive, Body Positive Movement. We are ready to evolve if you are.