Seeing Your Old Self After Transition
By Mila Madison
There was always a strange feeling associated with it and I was never quite sure what the problem was. Usually I would think it was some form of vanity issue. I even felt shame and embarrassment for feeling that way. Regardless, I would just stare at the image of myself. It was like a strange happening that you can’t look away from. I couldn’t figure it out. It all just seemed so wrong, more like seeing someone else but I knew it was me that I was looking at. And it wasn’t just with photos. The problem extended to mirrors, movies, store windows, puddles, and anything else that would give off a reflection. I could never even focus on it correctly as there was always this fun house mirror effect associated with my reflected image. At least in my brain it was anyway. I would later learn this issue was due to the effects of having gender dysphoria.
“THE FURTHER ALONG I MOVE IN MY TRANSITION, THE MORE OF A STRANGER THIS PERSON BECOMES TO ME.”
The further along I move in my transition, the more of a stranger this person becomes to me. In the beginning, the mere sight of my former self would trigger my dysphoria to some degree. But now it is almost as if I am looking at some other person, yet that person happens to be me and I don’t recognize myself in that image. It gets kind of confusing, but these days I find myself marveling at this person, the old, wrong version of myself. I often wonder how I was able to exist in this presentation for so long. It is almost like someone else’s life, yet I hold this person’s memories.
I also feel a degree of sadness when I think of the fact that some people have their own memories associated with some of these pictures. Even though a part of me wants to tear every one of them to shreds, there are moments and experiences attached to them. Do I deny my wife the memory of her wedding? My kids the images of their childhood as I raised them? Does my mother have to pretend she never had a child? After all, these are also my moments, however confusing for me they may have been, and I shouldn’t be ashamed of whom I was before. I am the same person even if I can no longer recognize myself in those photos.
“I REALIZE THAT I COULD NEVER GO BACK TO THAT EXISTENCE. I WOULDN’T EVER WANT TO ANYWAY, BUT IT SEEMS SO IMPOSSIBLE TO ME NOW.”
I realize that I could never go back to that existence. I wouldn’t ever want to anyway, but it seems so impossible to me now. In a way it goes to show how far I have come. I wonder how it will feel, as I get further away from it. As time goes on, the old images don’t seem to trigger my dysphoria as much as they used to. The truth is I will never be able to run away from whom I was, and that is okay. Even though I was in pain all those years I did manage to find moments to cherish, even if I am unable to see myself in the recorded images that celebrate them. I will always have these memories regardless of how confusing they were at the time or even now. They are mine, and part of my story.
Now, the woman I used to see myself as in my dreams is the woman in my pictures, the reflection staring back at me as I get a glimpse of myself in the reflection of a store window. And though there are still moments of dysphoria and times when it all goes to pieces, it is getting better as my journey moves forward. I think about the memories of that girl who was afraid to be herself, the one who was afraid of what society might do to her if she came out with the truth about who she really was. If I look hard enough at those old pictures, I can see her behind those sad eyes. I wonder what would have been if I had just been able to see myself in those early reflections of my life, if I just had the ability to articulate what was happening. I just may have realized back then that the girl in my head, the one in my dreams- she was me, and it wouldn’t have taken me a lifetime to finally meet her.