Analysis (Services and Self)

Koan Bremner's view on life as a database and data warehouse professional / addict and non-genetic woman

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

What's wrong with this picture?

One obvious outward aspect of transitioning is that my physical appearance is changing; some of that is medical (primarily, the impact of hormones on my body contours and facial features), some of it cosmetic (for example, I wear make-up to accentuate the feminine aspects of my features and minimise the masculine giveaways, and I have been growing my hair for the last year and am now engaged in the slow process of growing it into a more feminine style). Gratifying though it is to monitor my progress by looking at photographs, I don't like looking at images of myself from before my transition. I know what I looked like then; I don't need reminding of it. Even those images I have of myself since transition are less than satisfying; not because I'm vain (although I don't deny that I am!) but because I feel that none of them capture how I look now. The most recent ones I have were taken in June, before I'd started taking hormones, and the difference between then and now is quite striking. This leads to the question; what do I do with those images of the past?

Personally, I'm quite happy to erase them. They serve no beneficial purpose for me; I don't need to see myself in a picture to be able to remember the events and experiences captured in the picture. One example of the many ways in which Kim empathises with me is that she was going through her own extensive collection of digital photographs a few months ago, and said that, unless I wanted them for any reason, she was going to delete the ones she had of me, because they weren't representative of me as I am now. I think that was a profoundly understanding gesture; that she made the offer really touched me. For the record, I said that I didn't want them, so she should feel free to delete them.

Now, this is in somewhat of a contrast to my Mum. Mum has been so understanding and supportive of me, it almost seems churlish to say what I'm going to say. But, she is surrounded by photographs of her family... including many of me, as I was. Entering University; graduating from University. Serving in the Territorial Army. Giving away my sister on her wedding day; as a groom on my own wedding day. I have no earthly right to ask her to remove those pictures from display, and I would never do so; but I can't help it, I feel distinctly uncomfortable to be surrounded by them when I visit her.

So when I read a post by Julie Leung in her wonderful blog on the subject of sorting through photographic memories (particularly of her deceased brother) her words resonated particularly poignantly with me:

Then again, I rarely look at the photographs of my brother. I have a couple framed ones on display around the house, from the times we were kids together: the four of us standing in our driveway, holding gifts at Christmas, stark in black and white. But the pictures in my mind are more powerful than any a camera could capture. I don't even have colors or shapes for some of the memories; they are more emotion than precision.

And these images are the ones I will never delete.

[Via Julie Leung: Seedlings & Sprouts]

I guess part of me hopes that my loved ones, like me, will come to view "who I was" as a person distinct from "who I am"; and not feel the need to display images of "who I was". I can remember the emotions associated with those events from pictures of those events in which my own image is not present. Sadly, those pictures where I *am* present do nothing but remind me of the pain I felt for so many years; pain which no longer exists in my day-to-day life, but which rears its head when I'm confronted with those visual reminders of the past.

This blog has been migrated to new software on a different server ( and comments on this post on *this* blog are now closed. All existing comments have been copied to the equivalent post on the new blog. If you still wish to comment on this post, please use the equivalent post at:


<< Home