Black Transgender Females Struggle With Cultural Images of Beauty

19 comments
December 2, 2011 ‐ By

The news last week that Oneal Ron Morris had injected a woman’s butt with cement and fix-a-flat for a mere $700 was tragically comical. The idea that someone would see this technique as worth the risk for the sake of a bigger backside seemed ignorantly vain, but what The Griot has found out is this type of back-room procedure is fairly common among the poor, uninsured, transgendered black community. While the act is evident of the effect cultural expectations of beauty have had on these individuals, the choice to have these procedures is not all about vanity.

“It becomes so dire that you want to match your outside with your inside that you’re willing to roll the dice and take your chances,” Rajee Narinesingh, 48, said in an interview with CBS Miami. Like Morris, Narinesingh was born a man. In her quest to become more feminine, she allowed the unlicensed practitioner to inject material into her face that has left her disfigured. “As a transgender person, you’re thinking ‘Oh, my God, I can start to look like I want to look like and I don’t have to spend a lot of money.'”

Dr. Audrey Lehmann says she understands why African American transgender females would take the risk—they are susceptible to the same images of what a woman should look like—thin in the waist with a curvy backside—that black women who were born female struggle with on a daily basis.

“The minute bio males decide to transition they become more vulnerable to the cultural standards of what they are expected to look like,” Lehmann says. “For example, it’s not uncommon for a transgender woman to start dieting and watching their weight once she has transitioned.”

That effect is hugely evident in the unrealistic shape of Morris’s own body, and the expense of gender reassignment therapy underscores the desperation members of the transgender community feel. According to the American Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, in 2010, the national average for buttocks surgery was between $4,500 and $5000. Morris’ fee was just 15% of that cost in dollars, but the greater cost hardly seems worth it.

Narinesingh, for one, says she’s learned her lesson: “I could have died. I know that now.”

Does the transgendered angle change your opinion of these women who had work done by Morris? Are you surprised that transgendered females struggle with the same expectations of beauty as women born female?

Brande Victorian is a blogger and culture writer in New York City. Follower her on Twitter at @be_vic.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=29001610 Meena Yusuf

    I’m apprehensive to even read the comments on this article because I know how close-minded people in our community can be. And honestly, it is that mind-set that contributes to so many social ills in regard to sexuality, HIV/AIDS transmission, LGBT violence, etc.

    How about we let God be the FINAL judge and the rest of us keep our mouths shut in speaking about something you know nothing of. Point black. Period. 

  • RahTruth

    Transgendered= confused. It’s really sad. BUT….if you were born a male, then that’s what you should remain. Any change is unnatural.

  • Ngoziemereonye

    so true God does not make mistakes He said He is the God of all flesh and nothing is impossible for Him to do. Its just like someone wanting to look like Janet Jackson, or Beyounce or any of these pretty women or a guy wanting to look like Brad Pitt, Ryan Gosleng etc but its never going to happen because we all have our own pecular DNA genetic makeup that makes us who we are no one has the right to change who they are cosmetically unless maybe because of a disfigurement caused by an accident or sickness, I only feel pity for such people.

  • Kayla

    what intrigues me is that, these people are trying to look and to be something they will never be. I wasn’t aware being a woman is summed up in the fact that we have vaginas,hips, and breasts.  and now she is permanently disfigured because she/he didn’t embrace who they are. 

    • Mikeylikesit

      with all due respect kayla…it’s not about “something they will never be” because inwardly it’s something they already are…what is problematic is how they will approach the outward expression of their femininity…the successfull outward change of a transgendered woman has all to due with the surgeon….which isn’t cheap…so a successfull transition is tied to class, economics, and education.  And again…with all due respect…THEY ARE embracing their true nature.

      • dddooonnnttt

        Thoughtful comment. Thank you!

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Katrina-Baker/1516475492 Katrina Baker

        Are you kidding me? embracing their true nature? God man them MEN if he wanted them to be a WOMAN GOD  would have made them one. I agree with Kayla.

        • dddooonnnttt

          If god wanted you to tell other people how to run their lives she would have made you god.

        • Ngoziemereonye

          so true God does not make mistakes He said He is the God of all flesh and nothing is impossible for Him to do.  Its just like someone wanting to look like Janet Jackson, or Beyounce or any of these pretty women or a guy wanting to look like Brad Pitt, Ryan Gosleng etc but its never going to happen because we all have our own pecular DNA genetic makeup that makes us who we are no one has the right to change who they are cosmetically unless maybe because of a disfigurement caused by an accident or sickness, I only feel pity for such people.

          • dddooonnnttt

            If God doesn’t make mistakes then why would a person suppress ‘feelings’ that god gave them if those feelings areen’t a mistake?

    • dddooonnnttt

      SHE feels like a woman despite having those things. She feels hatred and disgust from the outside world because they look at her body and don’t see a vagina, hips and breasts. So who is summing up what it means to be a woman? You, or her?

      • Ngoziemereonye

        but i dont get it when a man says “he feels like a woman inside” and when a woman says she “feels like a man inside” then this “feelings” lead them to believe and go to such lengths as to change their  genders .  Some feelings need to be supressed and cast away it should not be allowed to breath and fester then manifest itself at all.  I’m not trying to prove that I am God or tell anyone how to live their life but as a christian I believe we all have a moral belief to help in advicing someone that maybe has been lead astray and help  the person to have a better self confidence.

        • dddooonnnttt

          Yea, I heard suppression is good for the mind body and soul. People truly grow and learn when the suppress who they really are. That doesn’t end up hurting the individual and the people around them who believe they are one way when in fact they are another. That doesn’t end badly ever.

  • F3ral Anarchy

    what shocks me is the absolute non use of common sense with plastic surgery/surgeons.  ok so you want to transition but its 2011, do you not have enough examples from the MULTIPLE media outlets of sh*t gone wrong to not do background research and be willing to spend money for PROPER procedures?!  smh

    • dddooonnnttt

      I know quite a few trans women. They are discriminated against in almost every venue, including employment. So while 5,000 doesn’t seem like that much to maybe you or I, most transpeople don’t make that kind of money (unless they do some sort of sex work). There are girls who buy their hormones and everything on the black market, and then all of a sudden their supply is cut off. They are fueled by desperation, not stupidity, and I’m sure they know the risks more than we do. They come up with the older girls who have the really bad surgeries and they also see girls who get decent back alley operations, so the risk is worth it to them because there is a chance that they will be closer to their body ideal.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Katrina-Baker/1516475492 Katrina Baker

        Really??????????????? Their Ideal body is what GOD made them to be, not to go changing anything. I don’t feel sorry for them at all. if they would have left their bodies alone they would not be having body issues. Be yourself.

        • dddooonnnttt

          Ideal and actual are not the same thing, when you learn what ‘ideal’ means then you will find the discrepancy between what I said and what you are trying to say.
          Since you want to bring god into it, god doesn’t give someone a burden that they can’t bear. They don’t want you to feel sorry for them, although I’m glad you think your pity can change lives (pause).
          And if you are sitting at that computer screen wearing a weave, or with a perm, or makeup, or wearing heels you too are trying to achieve an ideal that is different from your actual self.