Thursday, May 28, 2015

Shirtless Anxiety (Outfit of the Day Included!)

Contrary to what I wrote in my last post, I am currently in the process of trying to slim down and get fit. I know I'm not significantly overweight or anything, and I'm pretty lucky in terms of having a decent body shape without really trying, but there's always room for a little improvement, and ever since I started filling out in my early twenties, I've lamented the loss of my super-skinny teenage physique:

I've been sporadically trying various things over the years with limited results, but just this spring, I've witnessed my own brother get totally into shape, and it's been inspiring. It's one thing if you read or hear second-hand a bunch of tips on diet and exercise and things like that, or see some movie star with millions of dollars to throw around on personal trainers and career weight-training get fit for a movie or something, but it's another thing entirely when somebody you know, in your own little world of personal acquaintances, accomplishes the same thing right before your very eyes.

So I've borrowed his regimen for slimming down (since I don't care to be overly muscle-bound) - which relies on three simple rules: exercise more, eat less, and cut out the sweets - and so far the effects have been impressive. I've dropped at least 15 pounds in about a month or so, built up just a little bit of muscle, and I feel like I'm just getting started!

I got a little sunburn...

As far as muscle is concerned, my philosophy is "a little bit is alright". Just enough to look toned and help keep me fit. I don't want to be buff, I want to be lean.

So anyway, I'm a nudist, right? And an exhibitionist - take your pick. I like to wear as little clothing as I can get away with. And, I feel more confident showing off my body if I have a nice body to show off. Now, maybe this is terrible (I wouldn't have wrote that last blog post if I didn't have some anxiety about this), but I feel as though you have to be attractive to earn the privilege of showing off your body. In a perfect world, it wouldn't matter - the nudist ethos would reign throughout society. But I know that people disparage other people who show off anything less than a perfect body, and my anxiety can't help but tune in to that.

So for the few years now that I've been occasionally walking the trail at this one park not too far from where I live, I've had it in my mind that I'd like to walk with my shirt off on those hot, summer days, but I haven't had the confidence to do so, until just recently. And it's kind of silly, because at that same park there's a pool that I've been to (it's the one I complain about not allowing Speedos - here, and again here), so it's not like I haven't walked around nearly the same area without a shirt on before!

But it's one of those context things. Men are expected to be shirtless at the pool. I feel like if you're just walking around the trail, you need an excuse if you're going to take your shirt off - and that actually means I push myself to jog more than I otherwise would, because I want people who see me to think, "oh, he took his shirt off because he's exercising and it's hot", and not, "huh, that guy's not wearing a shirt, I wonder why (is he a pervert)?"

Think about it. As far as I know, there are no laws restricting a man or a woman from wearing, essentially, a swimsuit outdoors in public. But how often do you see women wearing no more than a bikini while just walking down the street? Maybe on the boardwalk, but everywhere else? It's legal. But socially, it's kind of frowned upon (I guess, in a woman's case, there are issues involved with getting unwanted attention from men).

As much as a socio-political radical as I am, you'd think I'd be more gung-ho about pushing the boundaries of what's socially acceptable, especially when I can do so without breaking any laws. Think of it this way - if public nudity were explicitly protected by law, don't you think I'd be out there on the streets in my birthday suit, whether it was socially acceptable yet or not? Yet how often do you see topless women in those few places where topfreedom is protected by law? I often think to myself, I wish I were a woman living in one of those places, so I could be one of the activists who takes advantage of topfreedom to try and acclimate the local culture into being more desensitized to this legal behavior.

And yet, there are things I could be doing instead, that maybe I'm not doing enough of. Like not wearing a shirt outdoors in the summer. Though I see guys doing this on occasion, and most of the time, they're skinny, or they have tattoos and stuff to show off, or when they're not, they're fat and hairy and my social programming makes me feel like they're doing something wrong, and again I feel like that kind of exposure is a privilege enforced by society via the piercing tongue of shame.

On the other hand, I am already involved in a lot of desensitizing activities - like wearing the skimpiest swimsuit I think I can get away with at the pool or beach (while being a man, since this is normal for women to do), or wearing dresses in public. But that's another issue that adds to my anxiety about going topless. I'm transgender, and since I identify with and frequently present as female, I feel a little uncomfortable going topless in public, because it's like announcing to the whole neighborhood - yeah, I'm not really a woman, I just like to wear women's clothes.

Is it unfair of me to want people to treat me as female, when I'm willing to turn around and take advantage of male privilege in the form of going topless in public? Or am I merely making the most of my situation? After all, my philosophy is that men and women alike should be able to go topless (and bottomless!) in public without any hassle. But I'm not actually a woman - I'm a sexed male who identifies as female, and in other cases, I have no problem cherry-picking what I like from the male and female columns.

But I don't know where I stand in the eyes of the rest of my community, and I sometimes feel as though I'm better off letting them just think I'm female for as long as possible, without confusing them with my bigendered, "female today, male tomorrow" performance (although in reality, it's usually some in-between chimera). It doesn't help that I live in a fairly backwards town. But it's not completely realistic for me to be all female all the time, because I'm simply not. If I tried to wear a bikini at the pool, for example, few people would be fooled long enough for me to get away with it. And I don't want to be all male all the time - because I'm not that, either.

So, anyway, this is what I wore on the trail today. The other thing is that by taking off my shirt, I was hoping to even out my tan a little. I'm not a fan of tan lines. I don't want the dark nudist tan, either - I like my pale skin - but a little summer color is fine, and probably unavoidable. It's just that if all I'm ever wearing out in the sunshine (when I'm not visiting a nudist camp) is basically shorts and a t-shirt, then I get those awkward lines on my arms and thighs where my skin color transitions from sun-kissed to moonlight-bright. Although taking my shirt off doesn't help with my thighs. I'm tempted to lay out on the porch in a thong, but it's not very private, and it doesn't get a lot of direct sunlight in the first place...

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