"So yeah, the "Nothing But Light" photo shoot was today....
I'd heard about it when a friend of mine posed. It was intriguing. But my initial reaction was that, much as it was tempting to do it, in my case being naked in that way would put the focus on who I'm _not_ rather than who I am. You see I'm trans. A male-bodied woman. One who is just starting physical transformations to make the outside match how I feel on the inside.
I decided to push through that feeling. To face down my fears. To show that it was possible for someone with a body like mine could love a body like mine, even when the body doesn't reflect the spirit.
I pushed myself too hard. Sometimes when you stare into the abyss, the abyss not only stares back, but swallows you whole.
I don't have a problem getting naked. I've been performing burlesque where people see me strip down to a thong and pasties, and there's plenty of photos of me performing that have been posted publicly. I appeared nearly nude in another photo project that got a bit of international attention.
So I knew what I was getting into to. Anastasia was lovely, respectful, and excellent at putting me at ease. We had a great conversation about trans issues, gender issues and many other things during the shoot.
But while the spirit was willing, the body was saying fuck off. As we were reviewing the photos together after the shoot, Anastasia commented that during the shoot I rarely moved around during the shoot, and all my poses were tightly controlled -- poses with "pretty hands" and "pretty legs" and otherwise positioning my body to looks as "feminine" as possible. It wasn't something I did consciously.
She said normally people start this way but usually loosen up after a bit. With people who perform it takes longer (since they're used to presenting their body to an audience) -- one reason she does a fairly long shoot.
I never did loosen up.
I knew this wasn't going to be a glamour shoot -- but part of the appeal was the challenge of communicating my femininity when the make-up, the padding, the clothes were all stripped away. But going through the photos all I could think was that my hair looked awful (it had frizzed that morning and I didn't have time to fix it), my skin without foundation looked red and blotchy, I had man-boobs instead of breasts, my belly was all-too-prominent. I looked fat and old and ugly -- and far too male.
I wish I was more self-accepting of the body I have now. I _want_ to be more self-accepting. I _need_ to be more self-accepting. But it wasn't happening today.
As we picked out a half-dozen photos in which I don't look as hideous, I put on a brave face and acted enthusiastic. Partly I didn't want to disappoint Anastasia, when I'd already felt like I'd given her an uninteresting photoshoot. Part of it was being in the midst of the initial shock of seeing the photos and trying to convince myself that they weren't as upsetting as they were. Part of it was that Anastasia thought some of the photos were "adorable," and one reason I was interested in doing the photo shoot (and others I've done) is that it's chance to see myself through others' eyes. So I was also trying believe in what she saw in me.
I do have the option asking her to withdraw the photos from the project -- that was an upfront option she makes available to all the models. Not sure if I'll exercise it. I need more time to process the experience, we'll see how I feel when she sends copies of the photos to me.
I may never think of them as photos I _like,_ but they may be photos that I'm willing to have seen publicly. The project was intended to explore boundaries, vulnerability, and consent -- and it succeeded. Just not in the ways I'd expected."
"I went through the photos from the shoot tonight. Vodka and tears were involved, both in generous quantities.
At first it was hard to see anything but the things I hated. The bad hair day. My face, dotted red from electrolysis -- the first salvos in what will be a months-long battle to rid myself of my beard. The discomfort. The sadness. The trying to be home in my skin, and not succeeding. The trying to hold it together.
But ultimately it was cathartic. Confronting images from a photoshoot where I've felt the ugliest I have in awhile, there were bits and pieces that I could look at and not flinch at, sometime even embrace. The occasional look in my eye, the curve of my calf, my nails looking long and elegant. The times when the vulnerability showed through. Even the wariness and guardedness.
I'm still having trouble being self-accepting of the body I see in the photos. In the mirror I can see what I want to see, but the camera is a harsh mistress that sees things as they are, not how I'd like them to be. Seeing the body I have now, not the body I desire. But I can now look at the photos and... well... maybe not embrace what I see, but rather come to a detente with it. That's a start."