|Look Like Yourself: Rien
posted by Look Like Yourself Project on Dec 12, 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? How did you deal with that mentally/physically?
I've always been a tomboy. From elementary school on, any time I picked my own clothes they were always oversized and typically from the boys department. At some point during college I realized my attraction to women and identified as a lesbian until recently. The label never quite felt right, but I couldn't put my finger on why that was. Denial was easier than working through it. I did not have many resources and wasn't comfortable discussing my dysphoria. As I entered adulthood, I began to present myself in a very androgynous way. This helped ease the dysphoria a bit, but only temporarily.
Give me a glimpse of the inside you verse your outward appearance.
They are one in the same. Life is nothing without personal growth and change. I strive to be the best version of myself. Although society teaches us that personality traits have genders, or maybe more accurately that gender and behavior are linked, I do not believe this to be the case. I am me. Although I now identify and present myself outwardly as male, that did not require the creation of a new inner self. It was more like a costume change, mid scene. I am still the same character, just with a makeover.
How would you prefer people address you?
Male pronouns. As far as the name is concerned, I'm indifferent. Luckily in my case, my birth name could go either way, as there is both a male and female spelling.
What does your gender identity mean to you?
My gender identity is a small piece of who I am. Society really pushes labels. I think it took me so long to come out as trans because I liked living in the grey...until I didn't. Eventually I felt like I had to choose, male or female. I knew that female was wrong. That was something I could say with 100% certainty. I lived in the "genderless" world for a bit, but again, western society (in my opinion) tends toward ignorance for that which it does not understand. Identifying as male is much more authentic for me, and it seems to have really helped others to accept/understand me, but it would certainly not make the list of top 10 descriptors that I would choose for myself if someone asked me to tell them using single words, who I am as a human being.
Was there someone in your life that helped you start to see your authentic/true self?
I've had a few personal friends that have transitioned. I was always intrigued by their stories and had a real respect for the community. To love yourself enough to take the steps necessary to truly be happy is admirable. To be honest, the trans community was my biggest resource. Following other trans individuals on instagram was probably THE single most helpful thing for me. It opened my eyes to the existence of others like myself. I no longer felt alone.
About 16 months ago, I met my girlfriend, Jordan. I was in the process of a divorce. I'd say I was at rock bottom- but it was actually quite the opposite. My ex hated everything masculine about me. I was often insulted for my appearance. It felt terrible and was not something I could continue to endure for my own mental health. Removing myself from that situation was empowering. I had a clean slate. I was ready to truly focus on myself. They say you tend to find things when you stop looking. That was definitely true in this case. When Jordan and I first started talking, she asked me what pronouns I preferred. At the time, I was still denying that I was trans. From day one, she accepted me for all of the things about myself that even I didn't accept. She helped me to see that I needed to put myself first- that my happiness mattered. I've grown so much, thanks in large part to her helping me to see that I am worth it.
Talk to me about your struggles with identity and how you've grown to overcome them.
I began to really struggle with my physical appearance as I entered my 30's. My biggest insecurity was my chest. I made the decision to have top surgery about a year ago. I had my surgery in March of 2017. At the time, I had no plan to start hormones, but I also was not opposed to it. I just didn't think it was necessarily for me. About a month after surgery, the dysphoria returned with a vengeance. At this point, I realized that HRT was necessary for me to truly feel whole. I started hormones in May. So far, things are going well. There are still small struggles but they are shrinking day by day. Just like anything else, I'm taking it one day at a time.