I don’t want this site to be solely about being transgender. From my experiences so far, it’s not even something I could write about every week – being in the closet is far more intense and frustrating and writeable. However, there are moments when things happen, unique to trans people. I’d like to share those moments with you, and let you into the mystery.
Gina's Trans Diary, 23.10.16: entry 11 When the Mirror Lies
It was in The Matrix that I first heard of residual self-image, the picture of ourselves that we carry around with us in our heads. It's the perfect us, the 'Dorian Gray' portrait that never ages. It affects us all to some degree, at least in the West, where our faces are so important to us and, we assume, to everyone. It affects us because, I'm guessing, at a certain point you start to age and become shocked at what you see in the mirror, or more so, in the photograph. Or even without aging, sometimes what we see of ourselves in photographs is disturbing, horrible, an 'us' we can barely look at.
As a trans woman, it's doubly the case. I see myself in certain mirrors, with a certain light, and I like how I look. The mirror in the university's disabled toilets makes me look good. I go to that place for reassurance sometimes (and yes, to check my appearance is okay, and even other things too). There's a mirror in my apartment that also helps me feel good about myself. I wonder if all these 'good' mirrors have the connection of making my slim face slightly rounder and wider than it normally is, thus making me look simultaneously better-looking and more 'womanly'.
I'm writing this, in case you're wondering, because I went to the photo booth today in Boots to get my first 'Gina' passport photos. I'm in the process of updating my university name and image, and will update my card and the gender I present as. A big deal, a milestone, even. Bureaucracy can be one of those things either life-affirming or soul-destroying, during those few times you engage with it. I wonder if the bureaucrats of the world understand the power they hold over me, not just legally, but spiritually.
Anyway, my passport photos. Shockingly, my face is not as I imagine it, or see it in nice mirrors, or kind photos. My face looks thin, too thin, I look like a man or at best, a goth, a bloke who listens to The Cure. I look again at the photos (five for £5, a thin, shit face times five). Maybe it's not as bad as the first time I looked at it, an hour ago, but still not great. Is my brain adjusting the situation, to help me deal with these photos? Trying to make reality fit my illusion/delusion/aspirations? If I look again in an hour's time, will I see a better me?
I walked back from Boots to the university and didn't want anyone to look at me, I was so ashamed of how I looked. All those people who look at me, and I wondered if they were looking at me because they thought I looked nice. No, they were looking at me, thinking 'freak.' A man wearing make-up. Ugly, too. Disturbed, perhaps? Who goes around with that kind of delusion? You're a bloke, mate, get over it. Wash that shit off your face. Put on proper clothes.
I rarely get these kinds of doubts but they're rushing out now. That not only do I not pass, but I look ridiculous. Are these the thoughts that will arise each time I use my student card? Or is this another signal, a reminder: welcome to the human race. You thought you'd become an angel, with transition? A 'residual, self-image' perfect 'you'? Think again.