Xay: Beauty Standards and Other Contradictions.

Xay is an educator and human rights activist from Chicago, Illinois.

“Everyone is not going to fit into Eurocentric beauty standards. There are even people of European descent who have never fit into Eurocentric beauty standards at all. Beauty is subjective, and everyone’s beautiful in their own way. Likewise, “beauty standards” are really problematic because that implies that everyone is going to come to a consensus on what they deem as beautiful or attractive. And of course, that’s just not going to happen. It doesn’t make sense to implement an objective measurement of what beauty is when it’s completely subjective. I think that’s very damaging. “

“For example, in other countries, being a bit bigger is attractive whereas in the western world it’s not. Eurocentrism has really played a part in generalizing beauty and putting people into brackets that measure their beauty. It has created some really exclusive ideas about beauty that few people can fit into. Especially for women, it has set up a system where your proximity to whiteness is better for you and more lucrative. In this country, having a closer proximity to whiteness gets you more access to things. It’s been adopted that if you’re lighter skin, you’re better. In the past, because a lighter skin color gave you more access sometimes people used to decide whether or not they wanted to be someone’s partner based on coloration. And now, it’s just been ingrained that lighter skin is more attractive.”

“For me, I was born in the early 90s, and growing up, every iteration of a successful black woman had pressed or relaxed hair, and she was light-skinned. Also, black girls in music videos always had bone-straight hair, and they had the body type from 0-6. I was a teenager in the age where Nia Long, Megan Good, and Halle Berry personified black beauty. They all had the same very lean body type and had nice straight hair. And as a trans woman specifically, those were the women that I wanted to model myself after because that was what informed my generation.”

“We choose things a lot of things based on media, and media readily informs you about what you should be presenting yourself as in the world. And when you don’t see yourself presented, you inherently feel like you have to change yourself. You think - well, if I can’t be a white girl in this tv show that I like, then I’m going to have to visualize what a black girl would be like in the show. But eventually, you actually want to be somebody in the show. And then there’s this phenomenon in the media when they’ll put black characters in TV shows where the character primarily white in order to show black people how they’re supposed to look and present if they want to fit in. And this makes you feel as if your genuine identity does not fit in the space that they’ve created. It still makes you feel like they haven’t truly taken the time to think about you.”

“It’s the intention vs. the impact. Even if the intent is inclusion, the impact can still be exclusive because some black characters in media are still a white portrayal and narrative of what a black person should be. So, it doesn’t feel inclusive. It’s very challenging to genuinely represent people, but we’ve been here for a while, and we make up a good percentage of the population, so we deserve to be genuinely represented in some capacity.”

“The fact of the matter is that black people are here, and we’re trying to make the most of it, but we are not provided enough representation for our identities to thrive at the same pace as others. I’m very optimistic though. “

“As for the LGBTQ community, we’re trying to make progress. We’re trying break away from cis heteronormativity or the idea that we have to emulate, copy, or prove that we’re just like cisgender hetero people. However, the idea of “realness” is still very prominent in the LGBTQ community. When it comes to transwomen, there’s still a lot of questions like - “how come you don’t look like a woman?” that even come from the LGBTQ community.”

“The need for “realness” has always been about surviving. Any girl who feels “clockable” feels a much harder time just doing basic things, and that can be very terrifying. I think because we’ve all been indoctrinated into cis heteronormativity through a white patriarchal lens, it’s very difficult to fully escape that fear.”

“Moreover, beauty standards are already very challenging for cis women. And the more you’re away from those patriarchal Eurocentric ideas of femininity, the harder it is to survive. So, if your assigned male at birth, you’re inclined to have more masculine features which go directly against ideas of feminine beauty. So, beauty standards are very damaging and can even become very dangerous for trans women. Even if you get hormone replacement therapy, and you want to get body stuff done, you’re still demonized because you weren’t assigned female at birth. Therefore, as a transwoman, feminine beauty standards readily impact how you see yourself and how you move through the world.”

“A lot of transwomen present really really femme so they can live authentically in a safe way and move through the world. Before and even a lot of times now, you have to be read as a woman at every turn. You had to do that to exist comfortability, and it took money and resources to do that. In the past, transwomen had to know how to do makeup well, match what cis women were doing, they had to have their body right, and they had to have their entire presentation on point, especially in front of men if they wanted to survive. If a hetero cis man looks at you from afar and is attracted, but if upon coming closer he doesn’t read you as a woman and finds out that you’re trans, you could potentially be in danger. They could murder or harm you as they do now, and maybe no one will even come to your aid because you’re trans.”

“People are put off by trans people maybe because of their religion or because they just don’t understand it. If the idea of a trans person existing bothers you, you should wonder why - especially if it’s not even a religious thing. If someone’s experience is not hurting you, then why is it bad?”

“People have all of these dialogues about how transwomen look and why it’s wrong, but the truth is that the beauty standards you’re measuring us by are actually exclusive of most people.”