There's this picture of a girl that I keep coming back to. It's grainy and poorly lit. A selfie of sorts, displaying the sense of calm intimacy which is difficult to portray when someone else is holding the camera. She's slouching easily against a door frame with the smallest of smirks on her face. Relaxed, confident in loose sweatpants and the grey tank she wears to lounge around the house. Her breasts, though small, fit well on her frame, and her hips swell out to either side. She captivates me, in some way, though I can't put my finger on why. Not lust, certainly, nor envy. It's something else. Or rather, the lack of it. It feels like I'm missing something, as though the aesthetic draw makes it too simple, too banal.
In my obsession I've shown the picture to several others, wondering if it eludes them in the same way. Their answers have been straightforward, describing her as cute, pretty, and sexy (though friends are supposed to say such things about each other's preoccupations). But nothing else.
She is terrific in the fullest sense of the word. The visceral fear of looking at her picture is tempered only by the certainty that she is not staring back. It is a luxury I do not have when she gazes back at me from the mirror every morning.
When I started transition, I idolized women like I've become. And though I have difficulty accepting it, I know in an abstract way that I'm attractive. By all appearances, I'm confident and feminine and at ease in my own body. But despite the fact that my physical transition has been very successful, the social transition has been far less so. I remain unemployed, single, and too afraid of leaving the darkened house to rectify either of those things. I own only a dozen articles of androgynously female clothing, and more than half of them remain unworn. And I've found myself mentoring several other people through their own transitions and the look up to me the same way I used to look up to others. It feels disingenuous.
There is the overwhelming feeling of guilt over the success which I have done nothing to earn. I have simply been lucky enough to have won the genetic lottery and to have been born into a family with the means to help me pursue transition. There are many people who deserve success far more. And to be held as a role model for doing nothing other than being passable is disheartening. Knowing that those I admired so much in the past likely felt the same as I do now is even more so.
The picture captures none of this. People see the smirk, the slouch, the breasts and curving waistline. But they don't see the teeth clenched with fear under my lips. Or the slouch as nothing more than the bad posture of a boy trying desperately to disappear into the background.
All they see is a pretty girl. I used to think that would be enough.