We all have complicated relationships with our bodies. We have so many assumed expectations and standards to live up to that make us reluctant to allow other people to see us without our clothes on. That’s too sexual, that’s too ugly, that’s too big, that’s too small etc. but how willing would you be to take your clothes off in front of other people if it meant people would perceive you as the wrong gender?
I firmly believe that one of the biggest causes of low self esteem people have about their bodies comes from the fact that we aren’t used to seeing what other people’s bodies actually look like. We all expect that if somebody saw that veiny patch of skin on our right breast or that big mole on our left butt cheek or that birthmark on our right inner thigh that looks a bit like Pacman they would freak out because nobody expects to see something weird like that, right!? I think it’s a shame that for most of us the only time we ever get naked in front of other people is when we’re about to have sex… because in that moment we all want our partners to see us as beautiful and sexy and attractive and we want to be everything that they desire! That’s quite a lot of pressure to be under in that moment… also you’re naked!
This is why I think it’s liberating to be free of your clothes in an environment where your body isn’t meant to be something sexual and it’s… just another body. Just like everybody else has one… except yours has you driving it. I’ve found going to naturist events and just being around other naked people in a calm, neutral environment a really effective way to help me feel less self-critical about my body. Especially when you start talking to people and you’re reminded that behind these naked bodies which we’re supposed to find so intimidating there are entire human beings with opinions and things they want to tell you about and a cool hobby and a favourite kind of music and an opinion about cats. When you’re naked in an environment like that you don’t have to embody everything they desire, you just have to be nice! You get to interact with people as if you would normally and before long the nakedness just fades into the background along with your weird birthmark.
I am a woman with a winky. I don’t mind that I have a winky, it’s been with me my whole life and although I have taken hormones that have modified my body in a way to make day to day life as a woman a little easier I still harbour no resentment towards my winky and thankfully neither does anybody else in my life. I would say that among those who are aware of its existence my winky is widely regarded with indifference which suits me just fine. I wish that was the case for more of us though because for better or for worse trans people have been appearing in the media spotlight a lot recently (even though we have been around since basically forever). But you only have to look up statistics regarding violence against trans people just in the last year… in 2013… to see the world still hasn’t gotten over us yet. It doesn’t help that most people’s exposure to trans people is through undeniably harmful, dehumanising jokes on mainstream television or sensationalist tabloid articles or porn that fetishises the configuration of our genitals. We are more than that; we are human beings with lives and families. We are artists, doctors, engineers, brothers and sisters, we are someone’s parent, someone’s child, someone’s lover, someone’s best friend and yes, some of us are porn stars and activists and drag performers as well and that’s not a big deal but the point I must emphasise is… behind our bodies and lady-winkies and man-clitorises and scars and porn and pregnant men and behind the headlines we are still, first and foremost people. We even have opinions about cats! I know we have a long way to go but I would like to see a time where people can see bodies like ours and just see other people and I think it’s essential for trans bodies to be seen in neutral, non-sexualised, situations. So here are our trans bodies. We like cats and John makes an amazing risotto, here’s his delicious recipe!
Lentil Risotto with Roasted Squash and Rocket
Ingredients: 75g risotto rice, 75g red lentils ,1 small – medium butternut squash or similar, 1 large handful rocket, 1 medium onion, 2 cloves garlic, 2 tbspns chopped fresh basil (or 1 heaped tspn dried basil), Salt, Black pepper, 1 tsp cumin seeds, 0.5 tsp vegan stock powder, Smoked paprika, 3 tbsp olive oil, 2 tbsp vegetable oil
Peel and slice the squash, keeping the pulp and seeds.
Finely chop the onion and crush the garlic.
Put the vegetable oil in a roasting dish, put it in the oven and preheat to 250c.
In a large pan, bring 1.5 pints of water to the boil. Put the squash in, bring back to the boil, and simmer gently for five minutes.
Heat 1tbspn olive oil in a heavy bottomed saucepan on a low heat. Sauté the onions and garlic till soft and slightly sweet (about 10 minutes).
When the squash is cooked, turn off the heat, scoop out of the pan with a slotted spoon AND KEEP THE WATER to cook the risotto with. Let the squash steam its self dry for a few minutes. Season with salt and pepper and add the cumin seeds, toss vigorously to coat all the squash pieces with seasoning. This also roughs up the surface so they go crispy when you roast them.
When the oven is preheated, test that the oil is hot (it should spit like an angry cat when you drop a piece of squash in), add the squash and stir or toss to coat all the squash in oil.
Cook for about 40 minutes, stirring occasionally.
When you get an opportune moment, separate the seeds from the pulp then put the pulp into the water you cooked the squash in. Keep the seeds.
When the onions are cooked, add the rice and stir to coat in the oil. Cook on a medium heat for about five minutes, making sure the rice doesn’t brown. Add a ladle of the squash water (and stand back while warm water meets superheated pan) and stir.
Add the lentils and stock powder (and dried basil, if using), and another ladle of water if necessary. Keep cooking the risotto with the squash water till it’s done (if you run out of squash water just use hot water from the kettle). If you don’t know how to cook risotto, consult the interwebs, where many people have put it better than I will.
While the squash and risotto are cooking, rinse and drain the rocket. Heat the remaining olive oil in a small saucepan on a low heat (you want it on as low a heat as you can that still makes the squash seeds sizzle). Add the seeds and about half a tspn of salt. Cook for about 10-15 minutes, stirring frequently. Scatter onto kitchen towel and leave to cool a bit.
When everything is cooked, take the risotto off the heat and stir in two thirds of the rocket, all the basil, about half the squash (and as many of the caramelised bits you can scrape off the roasting tray) and a good pinch of black pepper. Serve in a wide bowl (or plate) topped with the remaining rocket, the squash, the seeds, and a good pinch of smoked paprika.
For a less-hassle (and less tasty) version, cook risotto with stock, simmer the squash for about seven minutes (or until fully cooked) when the risotto is nearly done and forget about roasting.
Taste Test! Seriously, taste everything as it’s cooking, and adjust what you’re doing accordingly. Learning to use every sense you have while cooking is an effort, but when it pays off, it’s worth it. For home made vegan bacon-bits, get the seeds toasted to perfection and see how much they taste like bacon (hint: the answer is ‘exactly’. Creepy, but delicious).