The mirror is not my friend. Neither is the camera.
I have never liked the way I look, as male, as female or as anything in between. People say it's what's inside that makes a person beautiful. That's nonsense, of course.
There's no doubt that I'm too self-critical. More often than not, people don't run away screaming, so I guess they see nothing so grotesque as to give them bad dreams. Dogs will often bark, but that's what dogs do -- so it's hard to tell.
A large number of transgender people -- especially male-to-female types, it appears -- like taking pictures of themselves. And they are happy to post them in as many places online as possible for others to see and hopefully admire. There are some very impressive fashion layouts, sorted by style, color, season and even "sexiness." Even disregarding for the moment my advanced age, I simply could not do that under any circumstances. I wasn't raised female, so I don't instinctively know the right way to stand, sit, lie down or... well, anything. What I might think looks "sexy" would likely be a position that no natal woman in recorded history ever assumed.
Many of us older transgender individuals had to hide for much of our lives. So when we take our first steps out of the closet we tend to reinforce each other. Our hearts are in the right place, because we know what the other person is going through. We don't use the compliment "beautiful" in the strict sense of the word. It refers more to the degree to which the recipient has made an effort to reach the goal. In our little world, everyone gets a ribbon.
A year or so ago, I was asked to do an interview. As part of the promotion process, they wanted me to send a biography and six photos.
The bio was no problem. I'm the resident expert on myself, and I can certainly pad a resume when called upon to do so.
But pictures? I had a few odd snapshots (and I use the word "odd" advisedly). They were a few years old, but I'm certainly not improving with age. It was going to be radio, so what would they know anyway? I could easily have sent publicity stills of Catherine Zeta-Jones (and briefly considered doing so).
I set about trying to take some new shots of myself, with almost no success. One out of 25 would appear to be okay until I looked more closely and saw something I didn't like -- typically my face. But I somehow got a couple that weren't too bad.
As I was running out of time, I made a concerted effort to suppress my gag reflex and pulled two more from the archives. But that was as far as I was willing to go. Being an author, I seized the right to include my book cover as part of the package. And that gave me five, which was more than enough in my estimation.
The spackle and duct tape I must employ to make my face street-worthy helps a little ("helps" in this case meaning "hides"). But I'd hate to meet myself in a dark alley.
"It can't be that bad," you must be thinking. "Sure it can," I respond.
Mirrors and cameras never lie, even when perhaps they should.
This post is part of HuffPost's Journey Beyond the Binary blog series, an editorial effort to bring diverse trans and gender non-conforming voices to the HuffPost Blog during and after Pride month. As the LGBTQIA community celebrates great strides forward this June, it's important to acknowledge the struggles still pertinent to trans and gender variant members of the community. Please email any pitches to firstname.lastname@example.org