While I will admit, my overall feelings about my body have skyrocketed compared to where they were pre-transition, the reality is that for the trans and non-binary community, our selfies are our growth charts.
When I was growing up, I always assumed everyone hated their body as much as I hated mine. I mean, there was no shortage of “Very Special Episodes” of all the shows I watched where the teen characters would help each other deal with their body or self-image over the course of a half-hour.
It was not until I came to terms with my gender identity and began to live my life as a man that I realized how much deeper my “body issues” were than that of a cisgender person. While I hated my curves, it was not that they were too big, it was that they were ever there at all. My body was a constant reminder that I was wrong, broken. Clearly female on the outside but assuredly male inside my head.
While I have no shortage of people in my corner supporting me, none of it matters if I cannot see the changes myself. Currently, I am far enough into my medical transition that barring a pool party, I look no different than a typical cisgender man, I still have multiple days a week where I find myself having to fight off the idea that I am never going to look masculine enough and that all the pain and anxiety of transitioning is not worth it. I still have mornings where I argue with myself to get out of bed because I am lost in my head with my criticisms of my transition. I also have a long way to go and knowing that is a heavy weight to carry around daily.
None of these self-criticisms seem apparent to anyone who follows my Instagram or Snapchat, because on social media I seemingly have the vanity of the worst kind of person. Pre-transition I posted pictures of as little of my actual body as possible, and now I have a phone full of polished selfies and gym pictures. While I will admit, my overall feelings about my body have skyrocketed compared to where they were pre-transition, the reality is that for the trans and non-binary community, our selfies are our growth charts.
All the supportive words in the world do nothing to scratch my own perception of myself. Our selfies are our transition scrapbooks. They document when our faces started to look the way we would imagine in our heads. I can look back at myself in pictures from even as recent as a month ago and notice things that are just now starting to surface, and honestly its having that tangible record of growth and progress that keep me from breaking down when I accidently hit a nerve during my shot and must start over, with now double the anxiety and apprehension. When I am having a day where either my binder is just not sitting the right way, or I have myself convinced it is not, being able to look at a picture from last fall and realize that comparably I have a sculpted chest and abdomen now, I feel genuinely sheepish for being as hard on myself as I am. The anxiety of having to go to the doctor, something that was once a minor annoyance and is now a stomach-flipping debacle that usually sees me shedding some tears at least once over the day, is now bearable because I have this literal proof I can shove in my own face when I wonder if it is even worth it. Because it is.
It is worth everything to be able to learn to love my own body for the first time in my adult life.
There is a perception among some of the cis community that transgender people are vain, because we are constantly uploading pictures of ourselves. Some of us are. This is not a blanketed issue, obviously there are transgender people who are obsessed with their self-image to an unhealthy obsession, but the reality is that for the majority of us, our ability to see a physical record of our transition is our strongest weapon for our mental health. Forty-two percent of Americans who identity as transgender have attempted suicide. That is two out of every five transgender people. I have at least a dozen close friends who are trans or non-binary and I wish I could tell you that statistic does not apply to my peer group. Realistically, if taking a hundred pictures of myself daily would help keep me from being that low again, I would.
The reality is that all of us, regardless of gender identity, age, race, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status or otherwise, suffer from the effects of being human. None of us has the “ideal” body, and if anyone stands in front of a mirror long enough, they will find themselves with a laundry list of self-diagnosed beauty flaws. However, for transgender people, our body dysphoria is rooted in the fact that we are literally living in the wrong body. I hate my body because when I look in the mirror after a shower, the person staring back at me has never matched the person living inside.
While there is no one way to transition; and identifying as transgender (or non-binary) does not mean one has to do anything to present as a certain gender, the majority of us want to do exactly that. When I leave my house each day, I want there to be no doubt to other people that I am a man. I do not want people staring at me trying to figure out how to address me, and I really do not want to be mis-gendered. Those thoughts and fears are just playing on repeat in my brain, daily. Whether I am reminding myself the struggle is worth it or I simply need to just see my progress, being able to watch myself transition through my pictures makes every hurdle manageable.
And in the spirit of Pride Month, I think that being proud of one’s own journey is just as important as proving to the rest of the world that we are here, we are most certainly queer, and we are never, ever going anywhere.
Asher Kennedy is a chef, freelance writer and transman living in Eastern West Virginia, about an hour outside of Washington D.C.