PART I // A looking glass, I call it my kissing booth.
For Part One of my Body Art series, I’d like to express an inner demon I’ve dealt with since as young as I can remember. One of my earliest memories is when I was growing up in Chicago I was the kid that constantly gravitated to girly ideas of fun and glamour. It didn’t help that my fraternal twin brother had his action-packed thrills to share with our older brother. They both were obsessed with break dancing, Michael Jackson and superhero’s, not to mention the gang related movies our uncles had us watch as they babysat us. For myself, I wanted to always watch Thumbelina, Care Bears and of course Disney princesses were frequently on my mind.
There would be countless times when we would visit the toy section at k-mart and our stunning mother would allow us one toy to grab. Time after time my heart was broken with not being allowed to buy toys that weren’t suitable for lil boys. One time, I remember wanting to buy the Sky Dancer dolls that launched into the air by pulling a string and she’d gracefully levitate around your living room, as depicted in the commercial. How about the time I dramatically cried because I couldn’t leave the store with the rhythmic gymnastic ribbons that girls flaunted around in their leotard during their dance routines. Yeah, one would agree that I learnt about rejection at an early age and might be my toxic trait in adulthood. Rejection just doesn’t effect me at all and I’ll continue to go get what I deserve out of life.
Not only toys, I also wanted to do ballet or tap dancing but my family was strictly a sporty bunch. My parents only knew how to navigate the world of athletics and for the most part they were our actual in-real-life coaches for school and club games. And to be honest probably the only reason I got to play as much as I did on the basketball courts. Don’t get me wrong, I had a slender sporty build and I was athletic, it came natural to me but was that something I was passionate about – not really. My favourite was playing on defence, I could box anyone out and hustle hard enough to intimidate a player to not score, but don’t pass me the ball to shoot because I just didn’t have the heart to naturally sink buckets. That was where my twin brother contributed and he nailed them three-pointers like a pro.
When I was in about second or third grade I remember learning a word to describe girls that were favourable to sports. One of my dodgeball besties at Elm Grove was the prettiest girl throughout grade school but she loved playing ball. Other kids would call her a tomboy and that was most likely the first time that I found something to identify as. Yet, I was taught that I’m a boy and so internally I thought to myself does that make me a tomgirl but that title didn’t sit right with me. As a full-fledged momma’s boy, I would always express to my mom that I’m a girl and she would correct me but I then followed up with saying I wanted to be one.
Since I couldn’t have girlie toys, I naturally became girl-presenting in the way I talked, and especially in the way I walked. As much as I love my grandpa now, I didn’t like the sight of him growing up because he made it clear that he didn’t approve of me. I’m forever scarred in the fact that he literally would whoop my ass because I mimicked the way my mother and most ladies in the 90’s walked. You remember, the —heavy on the quotation marks— “ghetto” women stereotype that chewed their gum loudly and strutted around with their nose in the air coupled with a limp wrist. Yeah, that was my ass in kindergarten and my grandpa would imitate me heavy with absolute disgust. It started out as something funny for him as a joke thinking his humour would influence me to stop but I kept rocking with it until he started becoming physical with me. And I’m talking about a bruised bum after he was done giving me a beating, so when he was around I acted as butch as I could. Please understand he loved me then and will do anything to save my life today but the 90’s was a completely different era for trans children. It just clearly wasn’t accepted or understood and lowkey still isn’t in 2020.
The most traumatising time for me in my preteens adolescent years was understanding how my body would change during puberty. The fact that young boys would experience a deeper voice and the concept of sprouting hair growth didn’t bring motivation to looking forward to growing up at all. Ughhh I remember praying to the Heavens that my voice wouldn’t change and pleading to not grow facial or any body hair. However, the cry for help would only be in vain because I couldn’t go against the natural way of growing into adulthood with a male body.
The first time I personally started to take control of how I physically presented myself to the world was with my eyebrows. I was in the fifth grade and I started to tweeze my eyebrows to make them less manly. What was more embarrassing for me was when my stunning mother had friends over and she would call me out to display my craft to her girlfriends. Each friend would immediately ask me to do their eyebrows, I was like maybe 12 but I still only know how to do mine, sorry.
Once I started growing a beard, well more of a goatee at first, I started experiencing low self-esteem. To the point where I couldn’t look myself in the mirror. It was a tough sight to adjust to and I never got accustomed to seeing myself with facial hair. Each time I had five o’clock shadow I ran to the bathroom and immediately hacked it off. It was a terrible time that I lost my trust in using shaving cream because I felt like there were ingredients within it that promoted thick and faster hair growth. Thankfully I am Polynesian, Sāmoan descent to be exact, so hair grows sparingly in tropical climates but credit goes to the shaving cream because it faithfully returned thicker.
Not until about four years ago, I was living and working in Hawaii for my aunt’s Mālie Cannabis Clinic, I encountered a gentleman in scrubs and found out he was a laser technician and not a nurse. My entire energy glowed with excitement because I had always wondered if getting your buttcrack hairs laser’d off was a thing. He responded saying that’s mainly all he does and he invited us to come do a treated session. That’s where my Body Art comes into play, my aunt got her armpits done, a normal thing for women, but myself, I needed to get rid of my low self-esteem image by lasering off my entire beard and neck hairs.
Allow me to break down how Laser Hair Removal works to achieve stunted hair growth. The most common laser we can find in spas are the Nd:YAG machines that are also frequently used in dentistry, for diabetes, to improve eye sight and for amazing facials that cure acne prone skin types. When operated by professionals the laser is omitted into the targeted area and it naturally gravitates to hair follicles because of its dark consistency. Once the energy reaches it that rooted bulb is basically burnt and later on your body will naturally purge it out because it’s no longer alive. However, please note that it could possible take a minimum of six sessions or if needed a few more treatments for the stubborn roots to be fully purged. Yet you should see results after the first procedure. Also, I was taught that lighter hairs like red and white aren’t the best candidates for laser hair removal because the laser won’t actually notice that it’s present.
The first session for me was thee second most excruciating pain that I’ve ever felt in my life at the time. At first, I was told it was a slight sensation like a rubber band snapping on the skin but that must be how it feels on the legs with less saturated follicles. To me, it felt like I was getting stabbed with searing hot needles that poked into each hair follicle with every single zap. It lasted about 30 minutes but personally it felt like I was there for centuries. There were times my entire body jolted out of the seat and I had to sit on my hands to help me cope with my life long dream.
Finally, I can look at myself in the mirror and see the person that I’ve always been. Laser hair removal may not be the typical body art that anyone would consider an added bonus to what shelters our soul. Yet for me, it has been a liberating rite of passage that has served as an extreme self-esteem booster. Right before I started doing electrolysis people would say that I just wanted to remain looking extremely young but really I wanted to match the image of myself in my minds eye to my reality. I wanted to look like the confident girl that I know I am inside.
Currently, I’ve completed about 9 sessions and I feel that I need at least two more to wipe my face clean of any evidence of facial hair. Once I’ve done that I want to pursue surgery that will feminize my face. And to be honest I don’t need much but to remove the visibility of a brow ridge. Apparently only male bodies and testosterone levels will develop a bump around your eyebrows compared to females, their foreheads are petite and smooth with no signs of any brow bone. Growing up I did extensive research on facial feminisation surgeries and it has been a dream of mine to accomplish. It’s the last thing that’s keeping my self-esteem low when I personally see it in photos of myself. Perhaps in the near future I can find the means to carry out my last conquest of feeling and looking like the best version of me.
Habitually, I’ve noticed that I am more comfortable with taking selfies much more frequently. When I use Snapchat, I’ve found myself saving a lot more of my selfies before I send them out because in the past I knew the images would only last 10 seconds. That app was helpful in hiding my insecurities whilst still allowing me to be social because I knew there wasn’t a commitment or basically I knew the image wouldn’t stay permanently somewhere. Now, I find myself excited to create dating-app profiles and I have better options to choose from. Rather than supplying images that either didn’t give up-close details of my face or providing group photographs of me with my friends, just to take the pressure off of focusing on my face. The only problem I have now is finding a way for apps to not delete my profile because I’m only attracted to cis-males that identify as straight. Anyway, that’s another story-time for a later post, I suppose.
In conclusion, I am now entirely happy with the reflection that stares back at me when I look in the mirror. The amount of money I’ve saved from not having to constantly buy disposable razors and shaving cream make for an added bonus in my savings account. The most important part is that I am more positive towards my self-image and how my reality is aligning with my subconscious self. A simple physical alteration can do wonders to your mental health.