Owning Beauty

“You will never be beautiful, you know.”

As a transwoman, I am very familiar with that message.  There are a whole list of reasons given for it — going through puberty as male, too big, too old, too everything — but it hurts every time anyway.

Most women have a time, a moment when someone thought they were beautiful and treated them that way.  It may have been when they were a cute child, or when they were a lithe young woman, may have been family, friends or suitors that affirmed their beauty.

As they mature and develop, understanding that they weren’t the most beautiful woman in the room, or when the bloom sagged a bit from the rose, they still have those moments to cling to, still have a time when they owned their own beauty.

For transwomen, though, especially those of us who were never lithe and slight, the message was very different.

“You will never be beautiful, you know.”

It is hard to explain to allies how much transwomen need affirmation of their beauty.   We look like mature people, even well put together women, after doing the hard work to conceal our flaws,  so why would we need cheap affirmations that other women don’t need?

“You will never be beautiful, you know.”

That message bounces in most of our heads, taking away any faith we have that people can see not only whatever outer beauty we can muster, but also any inner beauty we have worked hard to reveal and polish. It is hard to be confident and radiant, trusting that we can attract what we need and want in the world if we believe that we will never be beautiful.

It’s easy to tell transwomen that we need to reject the notion of beauty.   After all, women who mature need to find meaning and power in their lives based in something other than their physical beauty, which we know will fade.   Young women who chase some ideal of beauty, through fashion or even surgery, are seen to need context, to find satisfaction in something deeper and more eternal.

Telling people to disconnect from something they were never connected to isn’t really a useful request.  Finding context for something you never owned isn’t really possible.   Patching over the void does not change the emptiness.

“You will never be beautiful, you know.”

Believe that, internalize that, and it becomes very hard to push past inertia, very hard to get the energy to claim your own beauty in the world.   You tend to deflate and give up.

Owning your own beauty and power is hard, even if you once were celebrated for it.

If you were told “You will never be beautiful, you know,” owning goes from hard to almost insurmountable.

You are beautiful, you know.  Beautiful, brilliant and gorgeous.   People can see that light from inside you when you open yourself to the world.

Believe it.

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