Rituals are all I know. Most days are manageable because I have a ritual I can practice; I practice my rituals as a way to avoid picking myself apart in the mirror before I leave the house. I brush my teeth, wonder what I want to look like today, what perceptions I am ready to confront.
How I physically present myself to the world seems to determine how I am affirmed. Some days I wake up feeling like I am a shell—I don’t know who that person is staring back at me. Most familiar at a distance, I try to see past my past-self. On the days I feel gender dysphoria, it can be a challenge to see myself as adequate. It is challenging to feel like my body is incongruent with my internal world. It is confusing, it is painful, it is something I would like to live without for at least one day. I throw around a few pieces of clothing, trying to figure out my vibe for the day. My choices depend on where I am going, who might be seeing me, what is familiar.
Moving to Mexico City from Los Angeles has given me some anonymity to show up as who I am without worrying about seeing someone who knows I am in a transition stage. After a slew of clothing changes, nothing feels right— is it because I haven’t shaved? I dread shaving; not only because it is painful and irritating to my skin, but also because it is the one physical reminder that makes me feel very dysphoric about my gender. I want to wear makeup today… but then that means I have to shave with my beard trimmer and go over it with a razor, then cover my five-o-clock shadow and the texture of the stubble, which never lasts under a face mask. Still, I go to the sink, I begin to wash my face, and that is when another ritual begins. Now I am fully immersed in the tactile sense of the water and skincare products on my skin. Now I tell myself that I have control over how I care for my body—and that is more important than shaping it for an external perception.
As I continue to wash my face, I feel the stubble on my fingers, something I have always disliked feeling. I cannot stand to rub in circular motions, so I usually rub side to side to avoid feeling the sharp hairs peeking through my face. Ready to shave, I try to go through the process as quickly as possible, standing as far from the mirror as I can because I don’t like seeing the way my face naturally aging makes me look so masculine, or how my facial hair casts a green shadow on the lower half of my face. I self-soothe my anxiety in this process by focusing on what it is I am doing to care for myself instead of looking at it as some proof of what I am missing. I have been going through preliminary consultations for electrolysis hair removal treatments of my beard, which will be a painful, lengthy, and taxing process on my skin. Every day I have to make decisions about how I want to move forward with my physical transition, and choose what I am willing to risk in order to achieve my desired expression. Removing my beard feels like it could be the answer to my anguish, but it also comes with side effects. It all feels anxiety-inducing, but if I have learned anything through transitioning, it is that we must move through our discomfort to get closer to our truths.
As I look in the mirror from a distance, I think about what my acupuncturist and doctor each told me earlier this year: that I store tension in my body, and the tension shows up in physical symptoms. These medical professionals confirmed something that I had long known my whole life: my mind, my body, and my spirit are directly linked. Having grown up diminishing my true gender identity, I have been accustomed to invalidating my own experiences, feelings, and intuition. This means that when I feel those physical symptoms, I have told myself I am overreacting, that I am being dramatic and hypersensitive, especially when it comes to experiencing gender dysphoria, which affects how I see myself. It has also kept me from fully embracing any gender euphoria that I could have the chance to feel. My body knows my pain, and my body will remind me of it when I ignore my mental and emotional health.
Transition is something that is different for every trans person. It is not always purely physical. When I go through my day, I try to remember that the more I listen to my inner self, the less I am affected by external perception of my physical presentation. My transition belongs to me. My identity belongs to me. My transition is something I describe as a self-remembrance; I am not discovering who I am, I am remembering who I have always been.
Today I shaved my face. I decided not to wear makeup because I probably won’t be leaving the house. But the saving grace of the pandemic has been the ability to cover the portion of my face that makes me feel self-conscious when I do go out into the world. I end up wearing my all-black sweats to hide the shape of my body, which makes me feel happy with myself. And before I continue on with my day, which can really take any turn, I repeat my five daily mantras to prepare myself for what is ahead. This may be my best ritual of all, these words that I can reflect on throughout the day to get myself through the difficult moments that may come up:
I am bigger than my body.
My peace belongs to me.
Reach for the better feeling—there is always a better feeling.
I can destroy myself, or I can just be.
Written by V Go for Youth To The People