How you see yourself is a topic that concerns us all.
So much hangs on this: whether you feel right, feel good or bad; whether you have high self-worth, strong self-confidence, the self-assurance to meet and speak with just anybody, and if necessary to be properly assertive with them. The very motivation for leaving your front door and facing the outside world.
And mainly we must be talking about what your face looks like, and what your voice sounds like. The rest can be concealed in a sack. But of all things, your identity depends on face and voice.
Voice first. As you know, I have consistently thumped the drum for getting - and using, and refining - a very good voice. I am amazed how unseriously this is taken by many trans girls, who put off any proper attempt to get it right. I'm not having a go at anyone close to me, but it really won't do to put on a strange high-pitched squeak when needed, and think that's all you have to do to get by. Getting by is no more than a starting position. If you want credibility, you must acquire a realistic female voice. And if you have this, then even if your clothes are a mess and your makeup is bizarre, you will be accepted as a girl or a woman (depending on age) without argument. I'll chance my arm and say that you can even have a very unpretty face. So long as it's hairless and framed by female-looking hair, natural or not, kempt or not, a good natural voice will rescue you and keep you out of difficulties. A good voice gets you served. A good voice gets you through customs. A good voice lets you speak to anyone you please, for directions, for information, or to say how much you like them.
The converse is not true: the prettiest face in the world, and the most lissom figure, and the best dress sense, avail you naught if your voice is wrong. It's just a matter of using your vocal apparatus differently. Anyone can do it. But it takes effort and practice - practice, practice, practice, practice, all day long, from waking till bedtime, for months and months until you get there. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: my voice may have cost £2,000 in fees and a year of concentrated personal effort, but I think that it has proved to be the most decisive female indicator I could ever have, and therefore magnificent value for money. Hair-removal comes very close, but is second in the race. The softening and plumping-out effects of hormones - and growing my head hair long - are both some way behind. And so far as public appearance goes, the genital surgery finishes nowhere, although obviously the personal benefit is enormous.
In a nutshell: imagine you are inside a box, and nobody can see you. You can communicate only by speaking. Girls will be let out. Chaps won't. Now, which will it be for you? Freedom or suffocation?
All right, lecture over.
What about the face? I admit to having a problem 'seeing myself as I really am'. Despite all the photos I keep on taking, despite all the mirrors I peer into. Are you exactly the same? Here's a for-instance set of photos, all taken in the last few days:
Are any of these 'true' likenesses, or has the camera lens distorted the image? The two lower shots, taken by holding the camera at only arm's-length, are bound to have accentuated those parts of my face closest to the camera. I'm not displeased with the picures, but did I really look like this? Or did I really look like Desperate Dan about to tuck into cow pie? I'm bound to accept the 'objectivity' of a photo that isn't too extreme, and was honestly taken, but I'm not totally convinced. For one thing, there is no movement, and the expressions that flickered across my face are not recorded. And look how the two lower shots are subtly different, because my face is not quite in the same position, and because the sun came out. And see how the indoors shot (top) compares to the two taken outdoors. The effect is very different. And which is the real me?
Putting it another way, which shot should I rely on to tell me whether I need facial surgery? On this showing, I'd say none of these pictures suggest that surgery is urgently required. But from other angles, and in mirrors at home, I'm not so certain. That nose...but then it dips down, and so visually it's a good nose in one way, because it apparently reduces my nose-to-lips gap. It's breadth and bulbous tip aren't attractive, but then it's a genuine family nose that strongly recalls my Dad - as indeed the entire bottom half of my face does - and do I really want to get rid of that? And would a slimmed-up, turned-up little nose look any better? Wouldn't it clash somewhat with the general heaviness of the lower face, and in short look unnatural? It would certainly clash with the bags under my eyes, unless of course I'm going to fund a series of surgeries to fix all the incompatabilites that might arise from changing one starting feature.
It's in the the same area as growing boobs. OK, the growth (albeit chemically induced) is a natural process, and not from surgical intervention, but look at the result. Teenage breasts! Little, fresh-looking, youthful breasts that, as it happens, look fine on my particulat chest, but might not have. And no way are they the boobs of an older woman. So they might excite comment if ever revealed in company...
The thing is, at it stands my face isn't perfect, but it works as a face. It functions perfectly, and without tucks and numb patches or anything stretched. Its all been dragged down in one integrated piece by decades of gravity. Even the eyebags look correct for a woman who is 60 in only 443 days! I am not a teenager. I do not have to look especially attractive. Maybe it would in fact pay not to be eye-catching. And the hormones have done much, and may well do more...
So rationally speaking, I'm fairly satisfied with my facial appearance. Even if I'm not quite sure what other people see. It clearly passes muster. And I don't mind if all eyes are on pretty young things in the bloom of their youth, or even interesting-looking thirty-somethings. It sort of lets me off the hook. It would be rather hard to blend in and move about unnoticed if I were turning heads.