“I’m outa luck, outa love. Got a photograph, picture of…” – Def Leppard
My whole life I have hated getting my picture taken.
I suppose in retrospect this makes sense. I have always had issues with my reflection whether it be by mirror or photograph.
I feel bad for my father. It means a lot to him that each time my brother and I meet him for our quarterly brunch that he gets an updated photograph of the three of us together.
It’s gotten to the point where I can hardly conceal my disdain for the whole affair.
“Yeah, get it over with.” or “Okay, if we must.” 🙄
My own photo collections only include scenery or other people.
Any pictures I do have of myself feel empty. Utterly devoid of any meaningful context or memories.
A hollow record created for the comfort of someone else.
My girlfriend likes to send me selfies. She’s gorgeous. I love getting them.
Every dozen of them or so that she sends me, I feel that I should at least try and reciprocate.
So, I’d take a selfie of myself. Some guy who doesn’t exist. I imagine this makes her happy because she gets to see me as the person she loves. The man she fell for. Not what I have become.
I’m not the least bit photogenic so fifteen selfies might yield two that I could deem acceptable for sending back to her. I hate them all though. Just pictures of a ghost that haunts me.
My relationship with pictures changed for me this year.
When I get to present as female (my correct gender), I now like most of the pics I take. Like an easy 8 out of 10. What a change this is for me.
The unfortunate part is I feel that these pics make my girlfriend sad. So I share very little with her. She tries to be encouraging but I can only see her squirming as she is reminded only of what she lost.
These aren’t just pictures to me. Now I have moments.
The time I got my first real dress and saw myself as truly female for the first time. “Oh fuck.” I muttered to myself as I realized I had an epic problem.
The first time I got to dress up among friends or the first time a friend did my full makeup.
The time I actually had clothes that fit and looked nice and I put on a fashion show for a friend and my girlfriend. The time I actually figured basic makeup out and went out in public for the first time. People talked to me and a biker checked me out.
The time I went out and had to use the bathroom at the mall. I had to actually make a decision to use the correct washroom. Amazing.
The time the woman at Save-on-Foods called me ma’am and complimented me on the boots I was wearing. (Honestly, I love those boots – Alli)
All these moments that are so meaningful to me.
I meet with my therapist outdoors. We walk in the park and talk. One day we came across a dead-end bit of fence in a forested area. As we talked, she remarked that the lighting looked nice as the sun broke through the trees and that “You probably don’t have many pics of you that aren’t selfies.” This is correct.
She asked if I wanted to her to take my picture. I said yes.
Once again, props to my therapist for guessing that a picture taken by someone else may be nice for me.
She gets me.
After our session she texted me three pictures. They were nice enough. There was a woman in them and they were nice to see.
Some hours later she texted me another picture. I was in the middle of speaking (when I shouldn’t have been). Something about this picture affected me deeply.
There right in front of me I saw a picture of just a regular woman caught in a natural moment. She looked feminine, pretty-enough, dressed nicely, and she looked content (she was) and as though she enjoyed the moment (she did).
The dark part of me also imagined that THIS was the pic they show in the media after I’m murdered for being trans. Poor girl. Wrong place – wrong-time. She had so much to live for. They’ll probably deadname and/or misgender me in the article.
I think about this picture a lot and about what it means to me to just have these moments where I can be myself and more than that, by some miracle, that I can actually see myself. A not entirely unattractive woman…
Never in my wildest dreams would I have ever imagined I could see myself this way.
This was only possible by being my authentic self, by stepping out into the universe.
Now I’m not delusional. I don’t pass for female under any direct social conditions but I have been blessed with being able to see that I look much better than I would have ever dreamed.
I can walk out the door, no gender-affirming surgery whatsoever (and at almost 50 years old) and be who I truly am. I would have never believed this was possible.
No more a hollow endeavor for the benefit of others. My pictures now reflect the real me and some wonderfully meaningful moments.
I get to see me and it’s wonderful that some other people do now too.
A thousand words…
Photo credit – Matt Hardy