This photo is my first selfie (taken on a selfie-stick, no less), and I'm sharing it with you all as part of a shift in my regard to myself. What does it represent? Previously, I'd got to the stage of so hating how I looked (as a man) that I wouldn't allow people to photograph me. Case in point: last Christmas (2015), the students on my course had a 'get-together' photo and I managed to hide myself pathetically at the last second. I would say that since at least 2007, I tried avoiding having photos taken of me at all, except when needed with IDs. This selfie, I realized after it was taken, was further evidence of how much more relaxed I've become about being photographed.
Do other transsexuals experience this phobia of being represented in an image in their 'wrong' gender? I don't know. I've never been particularly photogenic, and also had lots of hang-ups about my looks since high school, that glorious British institution where name-calling and violence on school buses, on playgrounds and in changing rooms are the most enduring legacies I can remember. But now that I'm out as a trans female? Name-calling I can take, unless it comes with the threat of violence. Name-calling is now on my terms. I look the way I want to, so if it bothers anyone I can only shrug. Yes, it would be great to look more 'womanly', to actually pass as a woman (and a photogenic one at that). But if not a woman, then being a trans woman is fine, it's still so much better than before. What I see in the reflections of windows and mirrors, and in selfies or photographs taken in bars, or on cold stone steps (see my website's opening page), is a source of curiosity to me now.
Take this selfie, for example. My eyes are so huge that I look like I'm on cocaine. But I find that funny, not a source of dismay. Previously, I would allow myself a second's glimpse at a picture taken of me, then look away, process what horrors I saw, then return to it in a series of glances, hating every incriminating pixel. I think those days are over.
This selfie actually deserves a mention for other reasons too. In the picture with me are three flatmates from my halls of residence on Holyrood Road. First, Yesi (Yesenia) from Chile, who became like a sister to me this year as I started coming out (in fact I sometimes blame her for my new transgender status). Then Yu-Lun and Xin-Lei, whom I came out to in the kitchen of our communal kitchen/lounge area. To say I was anxious about how my flatmates would react is underselling it. However, I entered the kitchen one day in April and there they were, and loved how I looked, and later told me they'd never seen me so happy.
Back to this selfie, then, and one additional, curious thing; it apparently uses an app that makes people look better in the photo. I don't know how this works, whether it removes the glare or adds a matt coating over people's blemishes. I'm not sure what the value of such an app is, since it can only lead to disappointment. But anyway, behold before your eyes Gina Maya, artificially enhanced by an app, on a selfie-stick.