I am proud of this photograph.
I looked good. These were the glamorous photographs, with studio make-up, that helped me to see I could look feminine. I fitted conventional thoughts of beauty at the time. The photographer worked to make me comfortable and relaxed. Having your portrait done is a lovely experience.
This one is not too bad either. I used the timer on my camera. I like the surroundings, the quizzical look, the hair and clothes are OK. I like my face. It is more lined than it was twenty years ago, and lines add character.
This programme on image is fascinating. An artist with very short limbs and a fashion photographer took pictures of people who disliked their appearance, and made them look beautiful. One had all her hair fall out when she was eleven, and he made her feel feminine and attractive for the first time, without her wig. One had lost his left leg in an accident, and he looks fine, standing tall on his prosthesis. One had body dysmorphic disorder. She finds the sight of her face unbearable, though she looks pretty enough to me, to the photographer, and to her mother. Her beautiful portrait still did not satisfy her, she still hated how she looked. Having seen herself as beautiful, bald, the other could go out without her wig for the first time.
The first two are physical issues. Hairlessness is not how a woman should be. Limblessness is not how a person should be. Yet- it has to do with thinking positively or negatively. Thinking negatively, I perceive a lack, which is distressing. Thinking positively, I perceive a person with strengths and beauties, and the lack will not vitiate that. That is not to say, the lack does not matter; but that it is not the only important thing. Mourn, accept, move on; recognise everything that is good.
It is OK to be a woman who is bald. She has such beautiful cheekbones. It is OK to be you, just the way you are. Let us celebrate your strengths. Alison Lapper’s ways of getting around in a motorised wheelchair and adapted car- far more expensive than Motability would ever have paid for- overcome her limitations, and let us celebrate the creativity which lets her transcend.
I don’t know whether there are “real” trans women who simply are women, in some way different from me, who would transition even if there were no differences at all in gender roles and expectations apart from the physical reproductive system. That some people might assert that they are does not reduce my uncertainty. For me, it feels that it was not OK to be me as a man, but it was OK to be me, expressing myself female. This Celebrate Yourself gospel pains me, because I could not- so I made the changes so that I could, and am now told they were unnecessary? It had felt that I was not acting, expressing myself female, and now the wig feels like an act; though returning were as tedious as go o’er.
I cycled into Swanston this morning to shop. It drizzled a bit as I went there, and one puddle stretched almost the width of the road. It seemed the cars were not giving me as much space, when passing- the Highway Code says 1.5m, or five feet, is the necessary gap. I hate that scuzzy old waterproof jacket. The fruit stall was not in its usual place, and there was no fruit on the market. As it was raining when I got to the supermarket, I went inside before putting on my wig: I am self-conscious about that, no matter what Alison Lapper says about the beauty of baldness, or my refusal to skulk about changing in lavatories. If I had money, it would have been different. I would be in better clothes, dry, having got out of a car, my wig presentable having been sheltered by an umbrella. The coward slave, we pass him by- I loathe looking poor, and my shame for once seems related to reality. The self-checkout machine did not recognise the weight of the tuna, and I slammed the tins down on the scale then was rude to the assistant. I hate that unavoidable irritations move me to rudeness and violence. Then I pedalled home, telling myself- the weather is good, on the whole. The rain is light. The wind is behind me.
And- that beautiful photograph can still comfort me. I am a beautiful person.