What Lies Behind the Smile
The image I've included is my new favourite photo. I'm smiling, showing teeth more than ever, in a way so unfamiliar I barely recognize myself. In this image I radiate confidence, happiness, wholesome fuckability. Hardly Hollywood good-looks, but I feel beautiful. Let alien technologies millennia from now recreate me with this picture.
Yet what you see is the light of a distant star, long since collapsed on itself. I've been happy, I've been sad, since I clicked the image with my laptop. Isn't this how social media works? I send you visions of my alpha self, the kind I capture after ten failed attempts, and followed later by lows and general meh. This image is barely ever me: originally, I took it from the opposite side of the kitchen table, and I looked so bad: I was distressed. Repeated pictures showed how skewed and asymetrical I was, a face at odds with itself, the worst things accentuated. I tried the other side of the table out of exasperation, the sun now on my left. Suddenly every image was a winner. I could have stayed for hours, savouring a moment I might never again capture, almost like a curse: a particular place, at the certain time, my glow never to be achieved again. Days later I return to the same spot to take the picture. It doesn't flatter. I sigh, and delete. Click again. Sigh again, and delete. Encore. Stop. Give up.
I wanted to practise smiling, showing teeth, in a way I never used to. But it's soul-destroying to catch a vision of yourself, as close to perfection as you'll ever be, and afterwards, you can't recreate it. You go mad, perhaps, like Dorian Gray before the painting got corrupted. A glimpse of transcendence at a particular time and place. Then this window to your cosmic ideal, closes.So what now, social media? I send life-affirming stories of transgender happiness on twitter and sometimes get 'likes.' I send tales of frustration and it's like whispering into the void. It's strange how social media makes and breaks you with barely a click. Since joining twitter, I seek validation like never before. It compromises my narrative, makes me more careful of what I post. I have a feeling this posting won't be popular, yet it's something I want to record. To be trans, as I experience it, is to watch as I transform, two steps forward, one step back, then with photographs, sometimes not even steps, sometimes soaring through the sky, the sunlight hits me (from the left side). Then days later, I fail to leave the ground, jumping up and down pathetically, flapping arms to no effect. Two steps forward, and then, like the steps were just a dream. And you're left wondering: is it the act of transitioning, or using social media, that has you chasing impossible ideals, in a soul-destroying hall of smoke and mirrors.