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  • Posted on April 13, 2014 at 12:02 pm

You know those pictures on ‘inner beauty’? Heart warming images of the old and wise, the no-longer attractive, or even the disfigured and disabled. They’re an invitation to see people differently, and to redefine beauty.

This last week there was an online furore and newspaper columns concerning an advert (since withdrawn) for Veet depilation cream. Another broke out over men posting online non-consensual videos of women daring to snack on the underground. A lot of very sensible things were said, mainly by women, about being taught by a male-dominated society what was acceptable or not about the natural female body in order to be the desired beautiful, as if we owe it. We fart, shit, grow hair, get hungry, get stressed and cry. We just don’t joke about it the same way as men do. We want honest bodies. Female hair fetishists aside, hairy legs and arms are a no-no, a real turn-off. But then so are prickly legs and arms two days after. Our faces are so much more acceptable with make-up to enhance them, that it becomes a dare-to-bare thing online to show an un-made-up face on Facebook. The list of feminine attributes that require daily modification is not one made up by women.

You are beautiful if …
I find you attractive when …
I will love you more if you …
You are less beautiful when you don’t …
I don’t find you attractive when you don’t …
I only love you because you fit my image of what I need you to be …

I feel a need to be ‘presentable’ when I get ready for work each morning. I like to look ‘good’ if I’m going out or entertaining. Partly, it is so that I am not in danger of being misgendered, about which I am still a bit sensitive – not because I will be upset, but to avoid mistakes and explanations and chatter in the wings.

Almost every trans* person when they make their decision to start living as they feel has this worry. Trans men fear being too naturally soft and feminine, trans women fear being too naturally angular and masculine. When we say we want to ‘pass’ we mean that we want others to see us as attractive or beautiful people, not as mistakes, approximations, odd or ‘different’. Some you may look at and wonder how a particular transsexual person could ever have presented differently. I watched an interview with rock star Laura Jane Grace and felt (tattoos aside) how lovely it would be to have been so naturally feminine. I feel too old to be beautiful.

It does work the other way round too, so this is not just a feminist diatribe. My ex-wife had a thing about men wearing smart overcoats. I had one. In fact because I was reluctant to wear one, I had several, because none was quite right enough to want to wear it. What I really disliked was that I did not want to be the handsome man, and there is nothing like a smart overcoat to make you a handsome mature man. What is more, at the age of something like six or seven, my Mum produced an overcoat as junior imitation of grown-up smart. (One did this, then, when ‘going to town’) and I hated it. Other men say the same about the hairstyle their wives like, which isn’t quite what they want.

We want other people to be attractive. We want them to be beautiful to us.

I have had this enormous fear since transition that I will never be attractive to another. I get the kind of heart-warming admiration-of-the-inner, phrased as bravery or courage, which can be a way of saying ‘nice spirit, shame about the face’. Why do I feel that people need to focus away from my appearance, or like the female body au naturelle, need it to be more conforming to be likeable, let alone lovable? I feel this! I epilate, do my make-up, check my breast development, buy hair products, and brush to hide my male-pattern hairline recession. And still no-one has given me a second glance that indicates attraction! I pass. That feels like a grade ‘C’.

A beautiful dance, a dance of the beautiful

On Friday night I went to 5 Rhythms dance again, after a very mentally-active week at work. I needed the lyricism, maybe the chaos, certainly the flow … Unusually (because this rarely happens) someone chose to dance with me, and what followed was the most wonderful, tender, almost symbiotic experience I’ve had for years. It was a dance of shared understanding, of empathy and trust. Maybe not unusual in 5 Rhythms for a lot of people, but deeper than anything I’ve experience there so far. I was glad that the other was damp with sweat too; we both were, and we were close enough to blend it, and it didn’t matter, it was almost part of it. It was two women sharing something unspoken but understood, in dance.

I had spoken exchanges afterwards with three people that affirmed something I also shared in the group circle. ‘Tonight I was going to say it was a beautiful time. What I realise I really wanted to say, is that tonight I felt beautiful.’

I have no idea where my dance comes from. It is unlearned, uninstructed, arrived out of the blue at the age of 56, and finds me with a surprising balance, lightness of feet and grace. Others say so.

And I felt beautiful. Don’t place me in a disco with a square metre of my own, to jerk around to 4/4 tunes. Give me a hall where I can explore space and really move. I am beautiful, not because I have a wizened face and wisdom, not because I’ve navigated the very difficult experience of being transsexual with courage, but because I express the inner with grace and to no-one’s pattern but my own.

This morning I used the epilator on my legs and arms. Because I like it that way, not for anyone else. And I am still a 40A and happy with that.