Learning to Smile
When I smiled, it was always awkward. My tightly closed lips – if you look at the other pictures of me in my Transgender Diary, you'll notice that you never see my teeth. In no photo of me going back to early childhood will you ever see my teeth. But then, in the final years before I came out as trans, you'll struggle to find any photos of me anyway. I guess I never liked my looks, felt ashamed, or not connected. Like lots of kids, I was bullied about my looks. 'God, you're ugly,' is one that stands out, for its honest, well-meaning appraisal in the boy's dressing room many decades ago, as puberty stretched me in all kinds of angles: six feet tall by fourteen years of age. An extremely sensitive boy who didn't want to be one, towering over many, like a beacon saying 'hit me.'
These past few days have seen me breaking out. I'm going to skype as Gina for the first time. I wondered what I'd look like. It's one thing to take selfies, but quite another to see yourself in motion on the screen. It was weird to begin with. I realized I needed to be comfortable with my smile, and not to hide it anymore.
Two nights ago, I began practising smiling, showing my teeth. Began snapping images of me, teeth emerging tentatively from behind my lips. Suddenly, I see a different me, one who smiles more openly. Funny and disconcerting, my open smile finally begins to thaw. It still feels awkward; it still feels artificial, trying to be natural.I have a row of pictures of me smiling, showing my teeth: slightly; less slightly; even less slightly. Too much and I look like Batman's nemesis, the Joker. But among all the administrative battles to become me, all the medical things, the social stuff, here's my landmark moment. Looking into the camera, consciously, for the first time in my life. Smiling openly. Proudly, hesitantly, this is me. I am Gina.