One of the striking similarities I’ve seen in both the trans community and in pubescent girls is the love of posing for photographs. If you have a female relative who falls into the latter category, and happen to be friends on Facebook, I have no doubt you are inundated with endless posed pics of them trying to look cute, sexy, fun or even just silly. Not surprisingly, at least to me, I often see many trans Facebook friends doing the exact same thing.
Before everyone thinks I’m getting all preachy and whatnot, I will freely admit that this used to be me as well. I say ‘used to’ because I have noticed that this mostly applies to trans who either identify as Crossdressors, or are in a pre-transition state and identify as TS. It seems that those of us who take those next steps to kick off transition, HRT and full time living, the desire to do this drops considerably. Many of us who used to do this sort of thing feel a teeny bit about it all and given the opportunity, often scrub our FB, MySpace, Google +, and even PE profiles of these now shame inducing snapshots of much more confusing time.
The big question is why do we do it. Why do we, now somewhere between 25 and 65, suddenly feel the need to mimic the behavior of 14 year old girls? I can really only answer for myself, and will go ahead and extrapolate this reasoning to the rest and allow those who beg to differ to let us know in the commentary. I think the number one reason, and the one that makes the most sense, is that it is simply a means to validate our identities. Before sidling up to something as big as full time transition, many have few opportunities to look how they think they ought to look. These times are captured moments that can be looked back upon when feeling hopelessly masculine looking and drab. As an aside, this phenomenon seems to apply way, way more to trans women than trans men, which really does make sense.
The secondary reason, and the one that inspires sharing on social media instead of keeping such things in an eyes only location, is the need to be validated by others. With the lack of opportunity or gumption to live and be interacted with as one’s self, sharing pictures presents a proxy avenue to be seen and understood as one would prefer to be. For me this was a way to have others see me as I wanted to be seen, or at least so I thought at the time. More about that in a moment. I’m guessing there is also a tertiary motive (perhaps the primary one in some) that facilitates the feeling of being desirable in pixel form, if not necessarily in person. I assume this is a strong motive for some given the types of pictures I have seen that don’t seem to hint at much else.
Nothing is wrong with this in and of itself, but it really can pose some problems, the least of which is head smacking shame. Let’s start with that first. In spite of being around women our entire lives, very few of us, without having been properly cultured as such, have no idea how to dress. I was very guilty of this myself. Things such as matching, style, and age appropriateness generally come after many, many mistakes. There is a good chance you are still making them by the truckload at the time you are most inclined to have the moment captured for all eternity. On any given day I may have looked like I shop exclusively from the Delia’s catalog with accessories by Clair’s Boutique. The next one might see me as a refugee from the Blair Catalog, except too old lady-ish. At the time I saw no problem with this, but it is now clear in real life that it is super hard for anyone to take you seriously if you show up looking like Punky Brewster one day, and Betty White the next. So many faux pas in such a short time.
The larger problem is the burning shame you may feel once you know better, and everyone with a computer is able to pull up pics of you looking like you work the corner at Genesee and Mosel catering to shady businessmen with subscriptions to ‘Barely Legal’. Not exactly the kind of thing you want your boss and co-workers looking at, much less family members and children. If you still have Twilight posters on your wall, you can barely get away with this. If you are over 30, forget about it. If you think the Rosanne Rosannadanna wig and some hoochie red lipstick are going to fool anyone into thinking it’s not you, think again. The first time someone comes across it and thinks, “say, that really kind of looks like Carl”, you are about to go viral.
The moral of this story is that we all have the desire to be validated in our true identity. The more the better in fact. Try to keep in mind though that whatever is captured on film for public consumption has the inherent possibility of surfacing at catastrophic times. Even if you are secretly hoping to have your secret exposed and end the charade once and for all, there are better ways of going about that such as blogs; trust me on that. No judgment on the behavior (after all, how could I?); just be careful and think a few months or years down the road and make sure you aren’t on a path of hot today, gone tomorrow.