When I first met Melissa a couple of years ago, I was so nervous about our photoshoot. I had recently come out as genderfluid, nonbinary, and pansexual. If you don’t know what those words mean, that’s okay! The quick version is that I am neither a man nor a woman, but that my gender tends to change depending on how I’m feeling. This means that I am transgender because I’m not the gender I was assigned at birth. I operate outside of the gender binary of male and female, hence being nonbinary. As far as being pansexual? I’m not lusting after your cast iron – I just think everyone is attractive, regardless of their gender.
When the day of our shoot came, I wasn’t sure if it was something I still wanted to do. After all, it’s so often a marker of femininity and that wasn’t always how I wanted to feel. I hadn’t been close to naked in front of anyone but my husband at that point in… gosh, a decade. Add in the intricacies of being disabled and at that point unable to work and, well, my self-esteem was pretty shot.
Without knowing about all the complex pieces of my journey, Melissa helped me feel comfortable and at home.
I went from experiencing a large amount of gender dysphoria to starting to accept and love the feminine sides of my body while still holding space for uncomfortable feelings. Even on my most masculine days, I saw my body in a new light. I started to appreciate what I, as a sex educator, shared with others – how you can be yourself even within certain bodily constraints. Check out my work on chronicsex.org.
Naturally, when she asked me to be a part of her new project, I jumped at the chance. What I didn’t know when I said yes was just how much I was going to need this time with her to explore and enjoy myself.
Within about two months of our scheduled shoot date, my husband and partner of nearly 13 years told me he wanted a divorce.
There are many pieces to why that happened, but my gender identity and sexuality were major factors. After being out for three years with ample space for conversation and learning, he still couldn’t figure out how he felt about the new me.
By the time Melissa and I got to talking more about what we’d like to do with the shoot, she asked if I wanted to play with gender expression to see myself as I am. Knowing that me living my truth helped end my relationship somehow gave me more power to display who I truly am.
Instead of being timid and shy, I walked into our shoot incredibly confident and ready to reclaim my body and my life as my own. I was armed with my best Tyra Banks smize, some sexy outfits, and a hell of a lot of sass.
I’ve received a lot of compliments on the few sneak peaks I’ve shared with partners and friends. Even more, a ton of people noticed the change in my confidence level. Over the past month, I’ve gone from being timid about discussing gender at work or in more public spaces to speaking my truth more.
For the first time in ages, I’m getting looks at the gym and grocery store. Instead of being annoyed by them, I’m embracing them because I finally get it. Being able to see what others see when they look at me has been life changing.
Regardless of where I fit on the gender spectrum, I know how I look – fucking hot.