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May 03 2015

Smile!

This whole chain of thoughts is because of the recently highly watched Bruce Jenner Interview as a special on ABC’s 20/20. If you have not seen it but wish to the link is here. ABC did a good job with the interview in many ways, not so well done in others. However, it is worth watching in my opinion. I will write a separate article about my detailed reactions to the interview.

I tried out many different names for this article. I thought “Smile!” was the most appropriate because out of all the commands, all the favors, all the requests I have had over the years that one was by far the hardest. “Say Cheese!” I always loved cheese, except when in this context. Partly because it was not real cheese, But mostly because I knew I would not be happy with the result. For eighteen years of my life, I hated every picture taken of me. I do have to qualify; there was no picture I liked I knew was being taken of me. Fully candid pictures were somehow different.

Bruce Jenner, when looking at photos of himself (he told people during the interview to use he/him at least for a little while longer) saw the fear, terror, anxiety in his eyes. I did too. It was not all my pictures, and it is not recent pictures either. It is only a specific set. However, I had no way to realize that.

As my life progressed, I very intentionally threw out all my pictures. Every time I found a picture of myself, I attempted to remove it from my life. I was incredibly successful at this throughout my life. I have no pictures of myself from any point in my life. My mom and dad each have some framed in their houses that I could not remove (although I did try a couple of times) but they were not helpful to this process. Then a very interesting gift found its way to my heart.

My adoptive mom always sent my birth mom pictures and letters as my life was lead. My birth mom ended up making a scrapbook from her perspective of my life. There was at least one picture from almost every year of my life. They started day I was born, and went until 2002 (when I turned seventeen.) However, there was a very conspicuous gap between May 1995 and September 1998. When the pictures started again, they were different.

In the pictures from 1985 to 1995, I see a child with loving family, loving friends, smiling true smiles and being happy. Although as I was looking though the pictures I just noticed that any time there are friends around in those years there are girls and boys in a pretty even distribution. I love having pictures taken, I loved being in front of the camera. I seemed content to life and be happy. One of the pages during this period had a message inscribed from my birth mother next to a picture of me with my best friend at the time. The message inscribed was “Everyone thinks you look like me. All I know is you look happy.” I was happy. I was at the theme park with my best friend, who was a girl. She moved away shortly after, and my best friend would never be a girl again…

In the pictures from 1998 to 2002, I see nothing but a terrified boy who does not know where he is going, or even what is happening to him. I see a deer in the headlights look that I am trying to cover up because someone said “Smile!” So many different ways to say “I’m about to take a picture of you.” To me each one of them was a moment of terror. I knew my terror was going to have a record for the rest of my life. All of a sudden, I strived to be on the other side of the camera taking the picture instead of being in the picture. I was becoming less and less comfortable with how I looked. I started hating what was happening to my body. In addition, I noticed that my friends changed to be all boys in these pictures. Nobody seemed to notice the terror in my eyes, the anger in my eyes. People liked a good deal of these pictures. I wish I could share their opinion.

Candid pictures were except from this problem though. If I didn’t know the picture of me was being taken I could be lost in a moment of enjoyment and for a split second a picture could be taken where I was just enjoying whatever I was doing. That fear, would be absent. I could lose myself in the moment. However, the moment someone said “Smile!” the fear was back. I was anxious for at least the next half hour, the smile vanished off my face, and I had to find a way to fake it. Sometimes, I would not smile big enough or right for people and it lead to two or three pictures in a heart and soul wrenching experience. For me, pictures and cameras filled with terror anxiety and self-hate, unless I was on the other side, taking the picture.

This was the era where pictures of me had no place in my life. I strived to discard them. Some of them I hated so much, I even burned them. I became camera shy. Most of my pictures became of beautiful scenery and object. People, but particularly me, never appeared in pictures I had close to me.

As I transition, I am finding myself more comfortable in the camera again. At first, I was fearful that the fear was still there, but as more pictures happen, I see that inherent fear less and less. The first time I found a posed picture of myself that I have liked in many years… Really since 1995… was in the last couple of months.

The camera captures more than the picture; it captures the soul…

About the author

Josie

I’ve never been good at writing about myself. I’ve never been good at ‘talking up my strengths’ but at least I should try…

I am a 30 year old (gasp), woman. To me, it is just that simple. My life is slowly coming together into a form where I can be proud to call it my life.

Who am I? I’m a strong, loving woman that was assigned male at birth and is finally correcting that egregious error by biology. For most women if they have an urge like wearing a sundress, they just do it. For my first 29 years on this planet, that wasn’t a possibility.

I write to heal, then publish to inform. I hope my journey can make the journeys of people that come after me just a little less painful.

I also have a ‘day job’ as a Data Center Technician. I do an incredibly physical job lifting fixing and moving servers. I daily, walk into and then maintain ‘the cloud.’ Servers are still quite a bit larger and heavier than your desktop at home. So much so that I am the only woman on my team of 20 and one of 5 in the entire building of about 75. Technology is without a doubt a male dominated industry. Which makes me quite sad.

I wish I could better express who I am. I don’t feel like I’ve done justice to my history, my life, and my story, but for now, this will have to do. To me the most beautiful thing in the world is understanding and empathy. If we can have only one thing for each other person on this planet, I choose empathy.

1 ping

  1. Grieving for Joe | UberPocky

    […] nice comments from parents. Here is one of those, for context purposes it was in response to the “Smile!” article I put up not along ago. This appears to be a mother embracing her affirmed daughter and […]

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