Started in Daniel Oliver’s Neuro-diverse writing group, also in response to conversation with Isa Fontbona Mola. 

Reflecting on past choices, initially looking at gender and ways at which I tried to be a successful woman. I had spent so long surviving/ I didn’t have time to challenge where I was really coming from, what I wanted, how I saw myself, how I would like to be. Everything has been reaction, rather than the reflexive inquiry which I believe is beginning to take place now, in my forties.

At some point I decided to challenge my perception of gender by working physically to take on characteristics of the binary opposite. In reflection I feel this may have been in response to:

  • Growing up surrounded by some extreme toxic masculinity, equally a time where women somehow stood behind men or even appeared to ‘operate’ them.
  • Ingrained family or generational homophobia.
  • Repeatedly experiencing domestic violence over many years and other incidents male perpetrator violence.
  • Perceiving my ‘successful female-ness’ as currency and part of an economy that could keep me ‘safe’.
  • female expressed as victim – culturally this being totally acceptable.

Whilst all these things are happening its hard to contextualise who and what you are. 

I came to place where I learnt to modify myself and body being part of that. Here not only could I draw a protective ring but remove myself from the usual pressure of the male gaze – or swap it for one I was less accustomed to. Interestingly, the gaze I swapped it for is one where my body was judged in comparison to male muscular bodies. I became physically self-assured, however not completely confident as this was new and somewhat unstable territory for me. 

This brought up a deeper questioning of my personal positioning of gender and where/what was my inquiry via bodybuilding. I had never been ‘girlie’, and some respect totally withdrew and could not associate with some aspects of culturally portrayed feminine. ‘Basic’ traits felt completely alien to me, e.g. playing with dolls. Take away the binary, there is no issue. There’s no pure expectation of women or scale of woman to adhere to. (To be revisited)

Other lenses that might be just as relevant for me around bodybuilding are that of control, substance use+abuse/medical perspective+intervention that may roll into each other. 

Self-historical issues like:

  • Teenage to early 20s mixed substance addiction (doc heroin), which developed a perspective of control over feelings/states of mind. Also suited my dissociative/dehumanisation disorder.
  • Consequentially lead to development of unusual relationship with medicine and deep fascination with the body and anatomy, but also (self) control over body.
  • Previously as a young teenager I suffered from eating disorders, Bulimia then Anorexia and was able to display discipline and control over food.

Here, bodybuilding was able to feed different facets of my lived but also comfortable and familiar experience. I find that I have an excessively poor memory, which I link to dissociative disorder – however over and over again, I’m drawn to pieces of a puzzle which I can eventually link together over time. I leave breadcrumbs to discover and trace back to something I already knew.