It’s difficult being a trans wedding photographer because this industry peddles the binary existence in a way only certain sectors of our society can truly understand. While I love my wedding industry, I’ve had to take time and evaluate what my personhood means. I’d like to share that with you.
As a kid, I would stare at myself in the mirror and think, “this is it. This is the body I’m stuck with for the rest of my life. Why am I so ugly?” I was awkward and gangly, with stringy hair. I didn’t develop breasts until I was fourteen, which was a personal travesty according to the world of teenagers. When I did though, it still didn’t change how I felt about my body, much to my dismay.
In my adult life, the way I viewed myself morphed even further. Every time someone called me a woman, I felt like a fake. At first, I chalked it up to being in my twenties, where there is no real signal of “now I’m an adult.” I mean, without the patriarchial barometer of getting your period = womanhood or losing virginity = manhood, at what age are we considered “men” or “women”? Eighteen? Twenty-one? When you buy your first house or max out your credit cards?
Even in my early thirties, I wasn’t sure what was going on. Of course, in my twenties, my body was a weapon. Let me tell you, LOTS of weekends were spent trolling the bars, snatching up free booze by semi-attractive boys. By the time I was in my thirties, I was over all of those things twentysomethings do and began to finally do some self-work. This involved intensive therapy and a *ton* of self-work. By a ton, I mean I ripped myself to shreds. Down to the foundation and even deeper. My therapist called it grave digging. A few weeks ago, I joked that the graves were done and now, it was about planting a tree on top of the new ground. But that whole experience, before I made it out to the other end? That was agony. There’s a big reason people don’t do deep self-work. The kind of time and energy required to destroy and rebuild yourself isn’t for the faint of heart. By the time I was truly healing, I was able to focus on what parts of me were left. I don’t remember exactly how it happened anymore, but I do remember that there was a moment where the realization that I wasn’t a woman emerged. It took some real exploration, including a new wardrobe, hair cut, trying on a new name, and of course, what being transgender means. As you can see in the photo below, I’ve done a significant amount of evolution in the last six years. Even my smile has changed. I spent a long time as a kid cultivating the “perfect smile.” As you can see, I now show my bottom teeth. The shit we convince ourselves is important when we’re younger…
Google has defined transgender as, “denoting or relating to a person whose sense of personal identity and gender does not correspond with their birth sex.” Basically, if you don’t relate to your genitals in a familiar and comfortable way, you might be trans. Of course, there are some gatekeepers out there that believe to be trans only counts if you’re MTF or FTM (male-to-female or female-to-male) and contemplating surgical alterations. That is, of course, absolute bullshit. It prescribes to the binary beliefs of Western society and I’m not about that noise. Gender is a construct anyway. Outside of the human desire to attain labels for understanding, it simply doesn’t exist. That’s for another conversation though.
It’s difficult to be trans (especially a trans wedding photographer), while also refusing to prescribe what people expect a trans-human to look like. Often, because some people don’t want/need to transition, they’re suddenly stuck in gender limbo. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve basically begged the people in my life to just stop calling me a woman or lady. I’m not even asking for a pronoun change. The terrible thing is, people think because I’m not binding, transitioning or anything else they expect, that I’m not actually trans.
So I actually identify as trans-masculine and non-binary. I don’t identify with my biological sex. If you’re curious as to what this means, feel free to check out this website. It’s so hard, being trans-masculine. I loathe polo shirts and hate stuffing my breasticles into anything, including bras. I like makeup and don’t care about my pronouns. This seems to give permission for others to continue treating me in a way that makes them comfortable. Frankly, this isn’t just a “me” issue. Society has a loooong way to go in the way of treating trans people as real people.
There’s still so much we don’t know about the human experience. Hell, even psychology is a new science. Especially as we worm our way out of the prescribed constructs of the last few thousand years (mostly Western, because lots of cultures have/had multiple genders), I’m sure we’ll learn more about the human experience and also, more about ourselves. I’m looking forward to the day we normalize asking and using pronouns requested and find gender-neutral terms.
That’s probably at least a decade away but if you’re looking to be a part of the change, start offering and asking pronouns. Make an effort to remember. Do your best and frankly, that’s all anyone can ask of anyone else. In the meantime, I’ll be a proudly out trans wedding photographer, trying to evoke change however I can.