Black Transgender Females Struggle With Cultural Images of Beauty

December 2, 2011  |  

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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