In vain...

↑ self-portrait, 20 June 2009, from the set Rebellious Jukebox

I've been reading Jessica Who's new, well-written and often amusing weblog (which I found when she followed Deathline on Twitter, link fans) and was struck by her thoughtful piece on why trannies take and post photos.

I've kind of been thinking about this of late because, as those who follow my flickr stream will no doubt have noticed, I've been going through something of a massive spasm of dressing and selfportraiture. This is after almost completely stopping crossdressing in any form and (or so I thought) lapsing into a comfortably numb androgynous middle age.

I guess my gender anxiety just got the better of me. I've also lost a bit of weight. Maybe that has something to do with it. Who knows how the old brain is wired these days?

Self-imaging = self-stalking?

I have (in common, I think, with a lot of transgender people) a complex relationship with my self image. The way I've insistently and obsessively photographed myself since the mid-nineties is, let's face it a bit weird.

Course, there's more than a cursory element of creative exploration about the process, but I sometimes wonder if beyond that is a kernel of something a bit stranger and, dare I say, sicker?

Sometimes, looking back over the galleries of photos of myself that I appear to have accumulated, there is an part of me that is reminded of those classic movie and TV scenes of the revelation of the stalker's room, plastered with voyeuristic shots of their intended target.

Friends ask me amusedly why I do what I do - not the dressing up, I think most enlightened people realise that there's no point in trying to explain the transvestic impulse (there certainly isn't enough time in the day) - but why the photos? And why so many?

And why shouldn't they ask - most would consider such humongous levels of vanity humorous, with more than a nod in the direction of the deranged box. And it is vanity of a monstrous kind. But why is it that I (and many other trannies) am so bloody vain?

Maybe I am deranged?


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↑ self-portraits, 20 June 2009, from the set Rebellious Jukebox

It's probably too late to change really. And of course, flickr is paradise for the deranged obsessive, obviously. We encounter them daily and the tools pander to the obsessive's need to classify and categorise, with the sets, collections, geotagging, archival tools like the EXIF/dating system.

Our collecting of our images helps us validate our desired self images. It helps up define the conceptual space in which our self image can operate. Comments we receive help build on those wobbly foundations of validation.

Perhaps it's a sort of hothouse, accelerated replacement for the one thing we don't have, can't have, never will have: the privilege of growing up female, the years and years that girls have with a genuinely female self image.

So the photography takes the place of that. Forms a construct that allows us to believe in some sort of feminine self. Maybe all these self-portraits are a picture of that Lost Girl, the other me of whom I wrote about in the past.

Trannies are insecure individuals, prone to self doubt and long, dark nights of soul searching, purging and worse.

The doubt comes from the fundamental mismatch we feel between our self and our image. The images help us heal those mismatches in our heads.

I'm not a hand-wringing, tortured, insecure, guilt-ridden tranny - I'm pretty happy in my skin, pretty happy to stand on stage and belt out noise in from of hostile audiences - but even I can see that the avalanche of photos is a barrier against self-doubt. A wall built of yearning to keep the midnight fear at bay.

No wonder the wall around my wallow gets bigger all the time. That Lost Girl picture collection - it's almost like that picture that Dorian Gray used to keep in his attic. But in reverse. As I decay, the pictures remain pristine, colourful, shiny and mysterious, the way I want to perceive myself.

Now what was The Picture of Dorian Grey a parable about?

Oh yeah. Vanity :)

Next steps

Actually, though I do think up to half of my self-images on flickr are repetitive and, well, just plain bad quality photos, so I'm going to start a process of weeding those out. So you will see some disappearing, especially some of the older blonde ones. So save em now if you want to keep tham!

Parts of this piece were originally written in September 2007 on draGnet 4.0.

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