Loving yourself as a trans woman is… complicated. On the one hand, trans people are great at loving themselves, or at least who they are deep down, because of the nature of how you come to realise you’re trans; the tremendous amount of introspection (and therapy!) it requires to get there, usually means you’ve done the work and figured out who you are at your core.
Loving how you look is a whole other kettle of fish. Heck, sometimes what you see in the mirror is so disgusting to you, it may as well be a kettle of fish. An ugly, rusty old kettle stacked to the brim (breem lol) with fish heads, overflowing onto the bench, their googly eyes all staring back at you, taunting you, telling you “Oh, this? Yeah, this is what you look like.”
What you see in the mirror doesn’t reflect the you that you see inside yourself, the one you know you are. It’s called dysphoria and it sucks. Gender dysphoria is an awful, debilitating feeling. An inescapable anxiety and depression caused by a disconnect between the internal and external selves. Have you ever felt euphoria? Need help checking? Some examples: Have you ever felt true love? Or seen a tiny puppy? Or sent a killer reply to a passive aggressive email? Well, yeah, it’s the opposite of that.
Little moments of gender euphoria begin to emerge through your transition though. With any luck, the further in you get, the stronger and more frequent they become. “Your skin looks so soft” is an early one trans women undertaking hormone replacement therapy tend to get, as your once rough, crusty man skin becomes soft and silky like the gorgeous girl you are.
Yes, your happiness shouldn’t hinge on other people. Anyone who’s gone through a breakup from what it turns out in retrospect was too codependent of a relationship knows that. But sometimes, particularly for trans women like myself, external validation can be a tremendous source of gender euphoria and inclusion in a community you may not feel fully welcome yet.
I know I remember so fondly the first time I stood in a line at a pub and someone gestured to me and said, “I think this lady was first.” I nearly had to ask for my schooner of Reschs through a cascade of happy tears.
“Are you OK?”
“Yes, sorry. I, uh, just love beer.”
That guy took a punt and it paid off. Bless him for it too. He’ll never know quite what he did for my confidence that day. I felt like I was really making progress from that moment on. Of course I have bad days, we all do, and I’m still pretty far from where I want to be. But that comment gave me such a boost, such encouragement.
But if you’re not as sure as that guy, just ask. “What are your pronouns?” is a great way to ensure you’re not getting someone’s wrong and invalidating their identity. I’m sure you’d rather ask and get it right than be awkwardly corrected.
People calling me “girl”, “miss”, “doll”, “honey”; if it’s coming in the right spirit, it makes me feel part of the team I know I was always supposed to be on. Hell, a friend once stopped to tell me that I “have girl arse now.” I wouldn’t go around saying that to anyone you don’t have that kind of relationship with, but if you do, hell, it was one of the best compliments I’ve ever received.
I think to truly feel beautiful and comfortable in your skin, you just need to feel happy with who you are. That may involve arriving somewhere with how you look that’s comforting or even brings you genuine joy or excitement that doesn’t detract from your overall happiness.
That’s where true confidence and sense of self comes from and if you can help validate someone’s idea of who they are, it’s tremendous allyship and goes a long, long way. Loving yourself can be complicated, but loving others doesn’t always have to be.