One of the toughest things I have had to struggle with since beginning my transition is getting past the “physical”. I doubt I’m alone in this – this shared obsession with our appearance and gender presentation stem from our absolute need to pass within society. Newcomers to the transgender journey typically begin with making some drastic physical change that, for them, makes them feel more comfortable in their skin. Whether it be wearing a ton of makeup daily or cutting one’s hair or binding, we all subconsciously know that “passing” is what’s going to help mitigate confrontation, dysphoria, and, ultimately, keep us alive when out and about.
As of my birthday in early August, I’ll be three years into my transition. In that time, I’ve learned a lot about myself, and who I was always meant to be. I deliberately put myself through the ringer of suffering through minimal makeup encouraging seemingly incredulous stares, wore clothes that weren’t what I believed aligned with my gender identity, and forced myself to experience the shame of not belonging wrapped in crippling doubt and fear of being outed by other females. These painful hardships cultivated the rock-solid foundation of the woman I am now. For the first time, I’d like to attempt to break down my process to achieving self-love and self-acceptance.
One of the first, and most transformational, mindsets I had to own in overcoming my obsession with portraying a “hyper-feminine” appearance was remembering that no matter what I changed on the outside, the “mental” and “emotional” transition was where I needed to keep my focus. Conceptually, this sounds simple, but then you remember that those two aspects of our personality are actually quite fickle & can’t be as easily controlled. When doubt and low self-esteem has already rooted that you won’t be truly “seen”, it’s difficult to just let go, love yourself and be you.
Right around when I had begun transitioning, I was also starting my third contract at WebMD – my first time working any job as “Nina”. I knew that the time would eventually come where I would need to be comfortable with going natural (or at the very least not spend literally ninety minutes on it daily). So, like with any fear or bad habit, I weened myself off of makeup gradually. Also, to take the focus off myself, I added another layer by treating this as a social experiment; I would track the responsiveness of the people I encountered daily. Starting on Monday, I’d gradually wear less makeup as the week progressed until I was only wearing cover-up of problem areas and some eyeliner.
The results led me to a number of observations about society and a clearer understanding of myself.
- People don’t care as much as you think they do. The people who do will act.
- Fuck attention or stares. You have no one to impress.
- If cisgender people are still who they are without society’s validation, you too are valid.
- Your masculinity/femininity is defined by you and you alone.
These realizations began to empower me and, as a commuter into NYC, thickened my skin in a way that put me in full control of my femininity & gender identity. I was starting to understand what it meant to love myself and embrace the imperfections of my physical appearance that created the chemical to slowly erode away the presence of body dysphoria. This was the beginning of my mental and emotional maturation as the female I needed to be and the acceptance of the intense, outspoken, confident girl who filled this blog in secret during my college years…
This entry was getting too long. I will continue this subject of lessening the emphasis on the “physical” transition in my next post. As always, thanks for reading.