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I was once asked this question from an anonymous follower of my blog.. “Why so many selfies?” The same question has been asked of other transgender women that post about their transitions.

Let’s assume that this was an innocent question for a moment and give it a simple answer:

I take lots of selfies because my body is slowly starting to match the sense of self that has always been there. I post some of them along with the narratives that I write about my life because both the photos and the narrative give hope to other transgender people. This website and my blog are for them, it is not for anyone who wants to look at transgender women for “other” purposes. The feedback I receive from other transgender or non-binary people is amazing and it lifts me up, so I benefit from sharing my story as well (see the bottom of my home page for samples of the support I receive from other people like me).

Beyond this simple answer, is a more complex one that I hope takes on yet another stereotype of transgender women.

You see, a funny thing happened once my outside started to match my inside. I began to love myself again. I have gone from being in a 242 lb dysphoria inducing body that was pre-diabetic and condemned to being on cholesterol medication, to living in a body that is healthy, happy, and dare I say growing more beautiful by the day. Now, the stereotype is that transgender women are narcissistic. Apparently we only want attention, and that is the only reason why we post pictures on the internet. As I mentioned above, we are putting our stories and our pictures out there to support each other and to present ourselves accurately. Imagine turning on the nightly news and having a politician or a pastor demonize you on a national news story when they know nothing about you. THAT IS WHAT WE FACE. The nightly news, movies, radio programs, authors and bloggers all misrepresent us. We are not able to trust anyone else to tell our stories, so many of us have chosen to do it ourselves.

“But you just said ‘I began to love myself again,’ which makes you narcissistic” – If this is what you may be thinking at this point, my response would be to point you to a dictionary.

Narcissism means: excessive or erotic interest in oneself and one’s physical appearanceThis is not the same thing as having a healthy love of yourself or in finding joy in walking a path that is difficult but leads to extreme growth. I tie a few photos to every post that I write. It captures a moment in time. It shows how I looked that day and it captures the subtle tension in my face or the lack thereof. It captures the joy in my face of finding acceptance from yet another family member or friend. It can capture confidence and courage that I may need to look for again on a bad day. For me, it also shows me the evolution of my makeup skills over time and reminds me of things that I probably should not try again 😉

People that call out women for being narcissistic do so from a very misogynistic viewpoint. This misogynistic attitude purports that women are not allowed to call attention to their beauty and are not allowed to think of themselves as beautiful. If a girl is complimented on her looks and says anything other than “thank you” then she is seen as being narcissistic. She can be told she is beautiful, but she better not think she is beautiful on her own. This is of course, complete and utter garbage.

Women, whether transgender or not, are beautiful and have the right to love themselves for who they are. They have the right to share their stories with those who draw encouragement from their experiences.

Stop calling women narcissistic for having confidence and for sharing that confidence.

-Ariana Danielle

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Transition is a perfectly reasonable choice for a transgender person. There are many people out there who speak against the idea of transition and say that transgender people need to instead seek treatment for a mental disorder that doesn’t even exist(*). They choose to ignore the findings of MODERN medicine and wish to instead hold onto incorrect and biased beliefs that were put to paper by certain medical professionals during the last century. What we are really talking about is the idea of Forced Conformity or Conversion Therapy vs. Social Acceptance of Transition.

Today a transgender person is condemned to constantly be at war.

First, there is a war within themselves. There is what can perhaps be best described as an in-congruence between the mind and the body. The old thinking was, that obviously we just need to try to fix the mind, because this is not normal. Not common and not normal are too very different things. It is my opinion that being born transgender is simply another possible outcome of the dice roll that is part DNA, genetics, pre-natal development (search: hormone exposure in the womb), and variation in “coding”. Whether you believe that we were intelligently created beings or not can be entirely beside the point here. We are just another valid variation of a human being. Forced Conformity or Conversion Therapy can really at best delay the war with a fake truce. Replacing it with a cold war where both sides still hate each other and still do damage to one another. Ultimately both sides (mind and body) will still suffer greatly.

Accepting oneself is the next war. Whether transition even comes into play or not, a transgender person needs to be able to accept who they are. Society, family, and even friends all quietly but consistently enforce gender stereotypes on us even before we are born. (Is it a boy or girl? A boy? Okay blue walls in his room then, clothes with toy cars or trains on them, etc.) We play along and learn what is “not for us” extremely early. We conform, even though we know something is off. Thus begins the first war mentioned above. Some of us will rise up and fight against conformity while we are very young, others will do so in their teens. Many will be brought up in ultra conservative households or live in ultra conservative towns and bury things so deep that they somehow get by until they are much older. At some point though, they may finally choose to face their gender dysphoria head on. Hopefully, they learn to love and accept themselves.

Finding acceptance socially is the next war. This is the war that I am currently waging in my personal life. It is a complex and painful war that is being fought on multiple fronts all at once. I am not fighting this war alone though. I have many new friends and have re-connected with some of my old ones. Some battles were lost and there are those that refuse to accept me and have cut off all communication. It is hard to win a battle when the other side decides their opponent is not even worth fighting. Even if one finds acceptance from most of the people in their life, we still have to defend our very existence from strangers or from those who have decided to attack us openly (such as the family research council and other hate groups disguised as religious organizations). Hate groups that target transgender people feed on misconceptions, stereotypes, and fear. I can only come against these groups with my story. They want to label me a pervert or a sexual deviant because they can only see a couple of reasons why somebody would transition. They think I want to “pretend to be a woman” to fool men into sleeping with me, or they think I am fulfilling some deep-seated fantasy of my own by becoming my own twisted version of a sex object. If you don’t believe me look at the comments section on any news story that has anything to do with transgender topics. Especially if the article paints transgender people in a positive light, the hate mongers will attack and fill the comments with their filth. Big surprise by the way.. the reasons they assume that I have for transitioning are all categorically WRONG!

This is only part of my lived story. It cannot be denied, and it cannot be argued against, because it is My Life and My Experience.

My transition started out as an attempt to simply find relief from crippling gender dysphoria. I had not decided to transition fully at that time. However, beginning Hormone Replacement Therapy brought me incredible balance as my brain and body were finally running on the right fuel. Just a few weeks in, my entire being breathed one huge sigh of relief.

Whatever your belief on how transgender people should be treated by the medical community, I beg you to listen to those who have actually had access to proper care from doctors and therapists that follow the modern and accepted way of treating transgender patients. Don’t discount their first hand knowledge of the difference it makes. Listen to their stories and attempt to understand. The science is catching up. In my experience, something biochemical and profound changed for me and I am absolutely certain that there was an in-congruence that existed between my brain and the once “male” hormones that I carried. It has absolutely changed my life for the better and has saved me from a dark place that now seems like a fading memory. Please fight for transgender people to have access to affordable health care.

I am living proof that HRT works. I live a happy and productive life. The only pain I have related to HRT and transitioning is brought on by social stigma, misconceptions, hatred, and incorrect assumptions that other people subscribe to.

I AM HAPPY. I AM HEALTHY. I AM NOT A PERVERT OR PREDATOR. I AM NOT DOING THIS FOR ANY REASON OTHER THAN TO IMPROVE MY HEALTH AND WELL BEING AND LIVE THE BEST LIFE I POSSIBLY CAN. I HAVE MET MANY TRANSGENDER PEOPLE FOR WHICH I CAN SAY THE SAME.

Stop the hate. Stop perpetuating the misconceptions. Help end that war. Please.

Ariana Danielle

* According to DSM-5, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition, the American Psychiatric Association does not classify being transgender as having a mental disorder or mental illness – opinions to the contrary are part of a harmful stigma still being perpetuated despite scientific study proving otherwise.