Reclaiming your image during a pandemic

By: Jasper Scelsi, Columnist

I’ve seen many people brag about learning a language or a skill during the quarantine, but personally I feel like I’ve just stagnated. I picked up Duolingo and tried to learn Spanish for a week or two, then gave up. I’ve cooked a lot, but I’ve been cooking for myself for years and didn’t really try anything adventurous. And with the lack of physical activity due to not leaving the house except for emergencies, I’ve even picked up a few pounds… My lack of a productive quarantine has really been bothering me.

But isn’t that normal? Faced with a pandemic, with lives being turned upside down and stress being piled on top of stress, aren’t most people going to be less productive? It certainly feels logical. Yes, I had a lot more time to myself in which I could have done something to “better myself,” but no, that doesn’t mean I’ve failed if I haven’t. So even if you haven’t picked up a new skill set, don’t be too hard on yourself!

Body image, however, is a whole different story (for me, at least). As a transgender man who hasn’t had top surgery, I have a lot of breast tissue that makes me extremely dysphoric. On most days I wear a compression top called a binder to help flatten that and masculinize my chest, but lately I’ve been staying in pajamas all day because barely anyone sees me. This makes me extremely aware of my chest and the fact that it doesn’t look like the chest people would expect on a man. The apartment’s maintenance crew has seen me in a pajama top, I helped a UPS employee carry a package up the stairs in pajamas… all while acutely aware that my chest isn’t flat enough for me to feel comfortable. The UPS employee even said “sorry, I wouldn’t have asked for your help if I knew you were a girl” which was extremely upsetting. I’m 1 year 10 months on testosterone, I have a beard, I don’t want to be seen as a girl. I can’t be certain it was my chest that caused that assumption, but I feel that is a likely culprit.

Masks are now mandated in most locations, and they are both solving and causing issues in the transgender community. For me, it hides my strong jawline and facial hair, which makes me get perceived as more feminine. For my boyfriend, it hides his softer features and makes him appear more masculine. For my roommate, it hides her facial hair and helps her look more feminine. While to most people a mask is an inconvenience and a fact of life, they are highly polarized in the transgender community.

So how can you reclaim your image, even when the pandemic has changed it? You can start at the mask. The designs on masks can help with perception of gender identity. You can opt for a design that is typically more masculine, feminine, or somewhere in the middle. Another option is a pronouns mask or something with a fun and affirming quote such as “binaries are for computers, not people!” Sometimes I like to dress up with a nice shirt and a tie, it’s a little “extra” but it helps me enjoy the way I look. Also, even though I can’t change my chest right at this moment I try to do affirmations along the lines of “some men have chests that look like mine” to remind myself that bodies come in all shapes and sizes and there is no one, true “male” look.

Quarantine can cause body image issues, as well as other self-image issues. It’s important to remember that even if we stayed in and didn’t change much in our lives, or we don’t look as great as we want to, that we should still love ourselves. We are all in a new semester and can have a fresh start.


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