For the past three and a half months I haven’t recognised my own face.
I have been suffering from a violent skin reaction. My body’s response to a combination of emotional stress and busy-ness, laser beard removal and (potentially) also metal elements within the China Clay I was working with last year during ‘Rituals for Change’.
Along the way I have also discovered an allergy to Penicillin and steroids which were prescribed to help and made things much, much worse. It’s caused a prolonged series of swellings and rashes and other misfortunes, making me look like a boxer with two black-eyes or a zombie (and at times both).
It’s been really hard. Of course it is always frustrating to be ill, and it’s hard to be ill when you are working a lot, and when you are self-employed, and when you are the parent of a small child. But that’s not what I mean.
Carrying this infection on my face for 14 weeks has really highlighted that I hold myself to high standards of appearance. That I feel pressure, as a transgender woman, of looking bad, of making a fashion mistake, of Getting It Wrong. It’s not about what gender strangers read me as, that’s always going to fluctuate (and is out of my hands since we cannot control how other people think). But like many, many other women I hold myself to unrealistically high beauty standards – so at times over this period, while I couldn’t wear make up or shave because it was too painful, it has been hard to remain positive about other things too.
Thankfully it’s getting better – I have stepped away from conventional medicines and given my trust to several wise women who have been working more holistically and that trust seems to be working. The swelling has gone down and the redness has faded. I’m still allergic to the make up I would usually wear (and ironically, allergic to the hypo-allergenic lotions that are supposed to be helping) but I’m feeling more in touch with myself again and hopeful to move forwards with a greatly renewed sense of thankfulness for what I have and with the knowledge that this was a passing moment in time.
As I begin to feel connected again with my body and its appearance, I feel I can finally take stock of how I feel after my first 12 months of gender transition. I have been taking oestrogen for over a year now and the changes in my skin tone, hair, smell and body shape have been incredible. I wouldn’t say I feel fundamentally different – but more in focus.
I am looking forward to moving forward into the new year, to be kinder to myself and to celebrate this body and the many blessings I am privilege to.
Happy New Year.