Do you ever pass a mirror accidentally and not recognize yourself? As a transgender man, I imagine this is more prevalent in my community than at large. It’s an interesting experience, and one that I don’t think I’ve ever heard trans people talk about. Sometimes when I look in the mirror, I still expect to see myself as I used to look. Before the hormones. Instead I see a bearded man staring back at me and I do a double-take.

I don’t mean to imply that this is a bad thing. Quite the opposite. The way my face looks now reflects the most accurate depiction of me that is possible. I think I can say, as much as someone with weight and anxiety issues can, that I like the way my face looks now. It took a long time to get here. And I’ve only been “here” for maybe, what…. 6ish years? That’s means I’ve only had this face for about a fifth of my life.

I spent much of my youth avoiding my reflection. Willing it to look differently. Actually, being pre-op and overweight, I just realized I still do that everyday. It just isn’t directed at my face anymore. I think we all can relate to the experience of looking at yourself in the mirror and pointing out to everything that’s wrong with you. Squishing things in, holding up your hands in juuussst the right position to cover those parts you don’t like. Imagining how great your life would be if you could just erase those parts, or add different ones on. The reality is that, of course, that won’t magically make everything better. I know this. That’s definitely a lesson transition taught me. But it doesn’t stop me from doing it anyway.

This usually happens to me when I’m already in a place of feeling dysphoric. When I think top surgery is this far off dream that will never actually be a reality for me so I don’t know why I even bother entertaining the idea. I’ll always be fat with a giant ass so how could I even think for a second that I will ever be able to achieve a masculine physique. That’s when I expect to see my old face in the mirror. And I’m surprised to find a me looking back that has already overcome a lot of obstacles just to exist. Maybe that’s the real issue here. Some of us have to climb so high and work so hard to just to get to a baseline level of being okay. Thriving isn’t really on the radar, or seems like an impossible goal that is arrogant to even wish for. What is this mystical floating island up there of feeling “good” about yourself? How do people get there?