|Look Like Yourself: Ollie
posted by Look Like Yourself Project on Dec 5, 2017 10:30am | comments
Look Like Yourself Project
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A visual exploration into the diverse lives of transgender and gender-nonconforming people.
Shayne Malcom is a self-taught transgender photographer who strives to bring awareness to the transgender and gender non-conforming community of Philadelphia through his project 'Look Like Yourself.'
When did you realize you didn’t relate to your birth gender?
I think it's something I always knew, but I didn't necessarily have words for it. I remember being very young, I think it was 5 or so, and knowing I wasn't a "girl" in the way that the other girls in kindergarten were. I didn't know what the alternative was though, so I just went along with it. I think it probably wasn't until middle school that I was even introduced to the possibility of trans and non-binary identities, but I didn't openly identify as nb until sophomore year of college.
How did you deal with that mentally & physically?
I spent a lot of time trying very hard to ignore myself and my body. I mean, no one told me that dysphoria isn't normal. I just thought it was something that everyone dealt with in some way or another. And then there was the fact that our family has this mentality of "suck it up, don't bother other people with your problems". So... yeah there was a lot of repressing my feelings. I remember I'd used to practice "walking like a guy" or "sitting like a guy" or any number of small things that I thought would make people read me as more masculine, but it kinda messed me up for a while that people weren't going to just automatically Know that I wasn't a woman.
Give me glimpse of the inside you verse your outward appearance.
I think of myself as fairly masculine. Which probably sounds kinda strange when I'm wearing a full face of makeup and my hobbies tend to be considered feminine. But, yeah... in my head I see myself as more masculine/androgynous.
How would you prefer people to address you? pronouns, preferred name etc
I don't have a lot of preference for what name people use for me, some people call me Olivia or Liv, some people call me Oliver or Ollie. Its pretty much all the same to me. My pronouns are they/them.
What does gender identity mean to you?
I make a lot of jokes about gender being fake, because I think it partially is. I mean, the notion that certain colors or activities or styles of clothing belong to one part of the population or another is entirely a cultural construct, and there have always been cultures that included multiple genders beyond the western male/female dichotomy. But then I also think there's this sort of gut instinct that we all have that relates to our self perception and how we fit ourselves best into those social structures.
Was there someone in your life that helped you start to see your authentic/true self? Tell me about how they helped you/who they are/
One of my first openly trans friends when I came to Philly helped me realize that I didn't have to meet a certain quota of "trans enough". I used to think that I had to have, like, a certain level of masculinity to be nonbinary. Or I had to look androgynous enough. Or I wasn't trans until I started HRT. In hindsight it was kinda silly but I just couldn't see it until she pointed it out.
Talk to me about your struggles with identity and how you've grown to overcome them.
I used to have a lot of self loathing. I grew up in a somewhat Christian/conservative area so coming to terms with being not straight was hard enough because there was this weird atmosphere of moral guilt and shame regarding, you know, being gay and other "sinful acts". So when I had this realization that I also wasn't cis, I kinda thought that somehow that was where I would draw the line. I would tell myself, "Okay, you can like girls, but the chest binding and the fantasizing about having a beard and all this other weird stuff has to stop". It definitely contributed to a lot of depression and self-image issues that I developed through middle school and high school. Eventually, I started seeing someone for help with the depression in college and my therapist suggested this one trans & nonbinary support group to me. The group was really instrumental in helping me reach a point where I was okay with myself. I think... its one thing to have role models and people who are, you know, #TransitionGoals, and then another thing to have people who are kind of going through the struggle with you? Most of us had a lot of insecurity and self doubt or self-image issues, and being able to work through that together and support one another was really reaffirming for me. They kind of helped me get to this place where I'm cool with myself. There's still an element of "I don't love my body exactly as it is" but I've gotten to the point where I don't hate myself for just existing and for now that's enough for me.