Smile for the Camera

I’m participating in a date auction soon and I was asked to submit a picture to accompany my unusually witty bio. My roommate volunteered to help me take said picture the other day and the results were disastrous. I must have demanded one hundred re-takes until I told him I would take them myself. I then took about fifty more shots before working myself into a three hour spell of trans-related hysteria. I spent a lot of time journalling because somehow, I reasoned, that this blog need not see the darker sides of transitioning. My counsellor convinced me otherwise in the name of helping other people feel less alone in this process.

How hard is it to take a picture of a guy in early transition and make him look male and over the age of ten? Apparently very hard. I think I went through about 150 pictures that made me look too young, too feminine, unattractive, etc without deciding on the one.

I had to put the camera down. My head fell into my hands and it hit me again how dissonant my vision of myself is with my biology. Dysphoric is right. How was I supposed to advertise myself for a date auction if none of the pictures looked like me? I spent hours writing and racking my brain for the answers to painful questions. Is this really me? Where is the confident self I used to know? Despite my best efforts I couldn’t sleep for hours and spent great amounts of time reading blogs and clicking through resource pages. I found In the same way that I know I am transgender I know that I am called to Judaism. I plan on having my adult bar mitzvah when I am much further along in transitioning (I would say at the end but I’m not convinced that transitioning ever does, or ever should, stop). Transtorah has several pdfs of prayers written specifically for transpeople. My night ended with me thanking G-d for being the Transforming One to those who transition and for making me in G-d’s image. Night saved. I went to bed.

I picked up the camera the next morning with a mid-afternoon deadline on sending in a picture. I deleted about 80% of the shots and after an hour or so, narrowed it down to a small handful of pictures where my eyes revealed my soul. I chose the one that I saw the most of myself in; it’s no mistake that in that one my eyes were smiling. In the very literal face of gender dissonance it is very easy to lose track of your core self. I spent my next counselling session re-assembling the reasons I have to be confident in myself. We called that my core self. We agreed that even when my transness seems like the biggest thing in the world I can still take comfort in the fact that I’m a good man, Charlie Brown. I have a big heart and I care about my community. I’m a good listener and a steward of the Earth. These things are not contingent upon my gender.

Tonight I think of the prayer that I wrote on the other side of the notecard that holds those first prayers from TransTorah.

Baruch Ata Adonai Eloheinu Melech Ha’Olam Sh’ hechianu, v’ kimanu, v’ higiyanu, la’zman hazeh – Blessed are You, Eternal One, our God Ruler of Time and Space who has kept us alive and sustained us and helped us to arrive at this moment.

The site suggests this prayer should be used for things that are happening for the first time (hormones, surgery, etc). I have been using it daily because sometime this moment is just as much of a victory and just as new as those for which the prayer was intended.

Tonight I also think of a song that my friend performed tonight as part of our school’s show-tune fest. She performed “I Know Where I’ve Been” from Hairspray. I looked it up on youtube after I got home tonight to find that even Queen Latifah can’t sing it like she does. She made me cry tonight. There is nothing more beautiful than the sung human experience. Her performance touched so many people in so many ways, and brought the house down. Here’s a version on youtube that’s close but I’ll keep tonight in my heart. Enjoy.

One Response to “Smile for the Camera”
  1. Brittany says:

    Eli, I agree with you on the song from Hairspray. I don’t cry in movies AT ALL (unless a dog dies or it’s a Disney cartoon [not joking]), but at this part of the movie I did cry. It was the same with ‘Grand Night.’ It’s a very powerful song that speaks a lot of truth which ALL people – black, white, red, yellow, gay, straight, bi, tri, trans, etc – can relate. We ALL have struggles, and we are all constantly striving to improve. At least, in my opinion. I think it’s great that you are taking steps to find yourself, and I’m sure it is hard. In the short time I’ve known you, I can tell you are a strong individual, and I’m glad you’re able to use faith to help you, even if it’s not the faith I believe in. We are all beautiful, and we are all GOD’s chosen ones.

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