Body Dysmorphia & Social Media

Two nights ago I was in a bit of A Mood™️ and I decided to give a little air time to my frustrations on social media.  The responses to my post got me thinking about how we react to people’s bodies, and feelings about their bodies, on social media.  Fair warning: this is not your typical, predictable post about body image and Instagram models.

Understanding My Face

my profile, showing my retracted chin
Come thru, chin defect!

I was born with what’s clinically diagnosed as a “retracted chin”; instead of my chin extending out to match the shape of my forehead and nose, it retreats back under my lips.  It’s a genetic defect and it’s also a feature I share with my Narcissist-with-a-capital-N father.

For most of my young life I could not figure out what was wrong with my face.  I would stare at photos of myself with other friends with non-defected facial structure and I was absolutely stumped as to why my face looked so wrong.  My own dysmorphia and distorted perception of myself made it hard to view my face as “mine”, let alone to understand its individual features.  Discovering that my retracted chin is an actual, diagnosable, defect made me happy.

I wasn’t crazy.  My face was fixable.

In the years since pinning down my facial defect, I have researched doctors.  I am lucky to have a home base in Massachusetts — a state with some of the best medical facilities in the country, possibly the entire continent.  I came close to saving up the roughly $5k that corrective surgery will cost but unfortunately had to spend my savings when the startup company I was working for in NYC could no longer support my salary.

That setback has been devastatingly frustrating in many ways.

Controlling Perception

For the most part, I have kept my plans to get corrective surgery to myself.  We live in a culture that looks down upon people that choose to alter their bodies in many ways.  People who choose cosmetic surgery are seen as vain, people who pierce and tattoo their bodies are seen as freaks, and people who are born transgender and choose to take hormones and/or pursue surgery face discrimination.

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You’re Not Going to Canada

From the moment it became clear that Donald Trump’s run for presidency was no longer a joke, statements about fleeing the country if he won started popping up all around us.  From celebrities to friends in our newsfeeds, many were letting it be known that the idea of a Trump presidency was so unacceptable to them that they would abandon ship.

This is not new.  Every election cycle people break out the ultimatums and Canada is always the obvious choice for liberals.  But let’s face it — 99% of you are not going to Canada.

I say this as someone who was born and raised in America but whose family on both sides is only one generation removed from Canadian immigrants to the United States.  Every summer vacation I ever went on as a kid was to Canada.  I know all the words to O Canada and I can name all the provinces and territories and their capitals.  My mother proudly holds dual citizenship and God willing, so will I – but don’t think that desire is an election-based whim – it’s been a lifelong plan.

And that’s where my exasperation at those who declare “I’m moving to Canada” originates.  Moving to Canada is not like moving across state lines.  They have immigration laws, and obtaining a visa and later, citizenship, is a process that costs both years of your life and hundreds to thousands of dollars.  It is not something that can or should be done on a whim.

Yet, I do understand the impulse.  We are faced with a frightening consequence of our election — a president who has inspired the ugliest underbelly of our country to step into the light and make their hateful statements heard.  For anyone who is not a straight, white, cisgendered, Christian male, it’s a scary time.  And for anyone with a conscience, it’s just downright embarrassing to be associated with our new orange overlord.

The thing is, you can escape a Trump presidency without abandoning your country.  Living and working abroad does not require you to relinquish US citizenship and you can still vote absentee (and you should because in 2018 all 435 seats in the House of Representatives and 33/100 seats in the Senate will be contested).

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Marriage Equality, Pride, & Refusing to Be Invisible

NYC Pride as seen looking east on 5th Ave, between 12th and 13th St.

A few weekends ago, a couple friends and I went to the NYC Pride Parade.  It had been ten years since I had been to an LGBT event.  I’m not afraid of being out, nor am I suffering from internalized homophobia, but I do get exhausted by the internal politics of gay culture, and for awhile it was less uplifting and more frustrating to participate.

This year we had more than our usual annual pride.  We saw an undeniably historic SCOTUS decision.  I remember well when gay marriage was legalized in my home state of Massachusetts — I was 12 years old, had recently come out (or rather, been outed), and I ended up writing a paper for my English class on the issue.  At the time of writing said paper, I saw the issue, and the community, as fairly black and white.  Gay people and straight allies were categorically good — it was the kind of immature and dichotomous thinking that is characteristic of young teenagers (and that we see so often in Tumblr-brand slacktivism).  Later that same school year I attended my first pride parade in Northampton.  And it was one of the most depressing days of my young life.  The participants were all very homogenous: butch-adjacent lesbian couples in hiking mandals with young children.  The parade was for gay marriage and gay adoption rights.  It was — and there’s really no other word for it — conservative.

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