I’ve always been uncomfortable with my body, but not because I’m insecure. I thought my body looked nice, and within the context of sexual relationships, I was always happy to let people see it. In general, I just had this feeling that people should be uncomfortable with their bodies. I was always shocked to meet people who said they walked around naked or in their underwear, because I was always fully clothed unless I was showering or having sex. It took me five years to get to the point where I would do any clothes changing in front of my roommate, even though we shared a bedroom and were exes so she’d already seen everything. Even when I was by myself, I planned changing clothes so that I spent as little time uncovered as possible. I didn’t go out without a bra unless I had so many layers on, no one could tell. But this was all before. When I was livin’ life as a woman.
Tonight I decided to go for a walk. When I stepped outside, I suddenly realized I didn’t have anything on under my shirt. I hadn’t put my chest compressor on because I hadn’t planned the walk and thought I’d be home by myself all night. If I’d thought about it, I probably would’ve put on my chest compressor, or possibly one of the bras I still have hanging around because I’m lazy. But I didn’t think about it. And when I realized I’d forgotten, I didn’t care. I didn’t want to go all the way back upstairs. I just wanted to go for a walk.
I stopped shaving my legs a while ago — even before my transition. But I was in an uncomfortable middle ground: I was rebellious enough to not shave my legs, but not rebellious enough to ever let anyone see them. In the middle of a scorching summer, I said to my roommate, “I really need to shave my legs so I can stop wearing long pants every day.” Knowing just how hot it was at the time, she, quite reasonably, looked at me with concern and asked if I’d really been wearing long pants every single day, and I confirmed that, yes, I had. The idea of letting anyone see my unshaven legs was just unthinkable.
So I was dreading my first summer as a trans man. The fact that I’m not passing and anyone who doesn’t know me still perceives me as a woman caused a double-edged sword: if I shaved my legs, I’d seem even more like a woman, but if I didn’t, I’d get the same judgmental looks I’d been so afraid of last summer. I’d resigned myself to another summer of being uncomfortably hot in long pants. Then one day, it was really hot, and I thought to myself: I should just buy shorts and wear them. Why wouldn’t I? Suddenly, there didn’t seem to be an important reason.
I was wearing my new shorts when I went out tonight. I was walking around with my breasts completely unbound and my unshaven legs exposed — a situation that, just a few months ago, I would’ve considered a nightmare. But now I’ve gone through coming out as trans. I’ve gone through sitting in my cubicle while knowing that, in the next room, an HR rep was explaining to a bunch of VPs I’d barely met that I’m a dude without a dick (those probably weren’t her actual words). I’d gone through explaining to a million confused, blank staring strangers that I’m not a woman, seriously, I’m not. And as I walked around, probably looking like shit, definitely looking like someone who wasn’t adhering to traditional gender roles, I couldn’t believe I was the same person who’d spent years afraid to transition primarily because I was worried about how I’d look as a guy. In moments of dysphoria, I would consider transitioning and then worry about my hair and my body and think I just couldn’t go through life like that. And now I can’t believe I was ever that hung up on conforming to how anyone else thinks I should look.
I’ve always been compulsively modest. All of my Facebook pictures have always been taken by other people. I mean, I couldn’t let anyone think I’d be proud enough of my appearance to take a picture and post it! I’d look ridiculous! I looked forward to Halloween every year in part because of the excuse to actually show people my appearance, and even then, I was sparing with the pictures so I didn’t look too proud. Last weekend, I was lying in bed and looking at my stomach, and I happened to like the way it looked, so I took a couple of pictures and tweeted them. My feminine, distinctly-lacking-in-abs, pink-pajama-pants-clad stomach.
Before I transitioned, I worried so much about how I was going to look; I worried that I’d never fit my ideal of what a man should look like. Living up to any ideal is so far from my mind now. And maybe that’s part of growing up for everyone. Maybe I’ve seen insecurity and low self-esteem destroy too many of my friends, and I’m just full of righteous anger at beauty standards. Maybe I’ve been in enough relationships with people who thought I was beautiful to realize that having other people think you’re attractive won’t make you respected or listened to or happy, anyway. But my favorite theory is that coming out as trans and finally living as the person I want to be has made me stronger. At the end of the day, we all know the truth: I’m super lazy, way too lazy to put together appropriate outfits all the time or shave or workout. And since learning to not be lazy just ain’t gonna happen, I’ve learned to be comfortable with myself instead.
I’m pretty happy with the compromise.
Lenny watches an amount of TV that has been described as “impressive” and “a problem.” You can talk to him about TV and cute boys on Twitter @lennyburnham.
Image courtesy of mmarchin.