I have been fully out as a trans person for eight years. And throughout this time, I have experienced countless moments of revelation within myself. One of the most profound being that I no longer view my trans body as a burden. The perpetrator of suffering has never been the body I was born in or the way my brain was formed, it has always been and continues to be the perceptions of others- the societal assumptions and expectations forced upon my trans body that have been the inflictors of harm.
I often think about the version of myself that I only know through photographs. A sweet, cheerful child with long curly hair running topeless through the sprinklers. Just a glimpse of their laughter is overflowing with an unabashed joy that would become so foreign to me once my consciousness caught up to the expectations of my body and what is deemed an acceptable way to exist within it.
My relationship to clothing and expression is a journey riddled with complexity. Before I was out, clothing was merely something to hide beneath. Wearing layers upon layers of baggy clothing, I could hide away every curve, forcing the distinguishing outlines of my body to become utterly unapparent. I dressed for my body to look indiscernible- invisible. All the countless and compiled moments of agonizing disconnect experienced in dressing rooms, reckoning with the knowlege that every garment I held was crafted carefully and intricately in the image of a cisgender body. The reinforced and ever apparent reminder of an unattainable masculinity intrinsically linked to cisnormativity, furthering the feelings of alienation from my own body.
Since coming out I have been able to present more authentically and finally exist within a gender presentation that was denied to me throughout much of my life. But to say that I am finally free of the constraints of gendered expectations would be untrue. In an idealistic world, my relationship to clothing would be simply defined as a vessel for self expression completely devoid of gendered perception. But the necessity of self preservation and safety in the context of living amongst rampant transphobic rhetoric provides new restraints. I have found myself in a handful of dangerous situations in which the seemingly simple decision to embrace a broader spectrum of gender expression in how I dress has put me at risk. I often times feel I have to sacrifice authenticity for the sake of safety.
I feel most myself when I’m with members of my community, where I can know with certainty that no matter how I’m presenting myself or what I am wearing I will be seen as me in entirety and fullness. Being a part of this project gave me the space to connect with that younger version of myself I’ve seen in photographs. To connect to that joy, that freedom. It is a beautiful thing to have the chance to express myself without constraints.