In Defense of the Awkward Phase
Being a clueless, dorky baby queer was the only way for me to come out at all.
Every photo that I’ve taken of myself in the past two years makes me cringe. I cannot stop taking them. I’m nearly two years into my transition, just reaching the end (middle? Late middle? Don’t say beginning) of my awkward baby queer years, and it’s become a ritual: Monitoring my face in the phone screen, waiting for myself to arrive.
I have anniversaries now. When my phone (rudely) decides to show me a “memory” from a year ago, it no longer shows me a photo of a woman with my bone structure; it shows my face. Being assaulted with my own bad selfies — the accidental Hitler hair, the patterned button-ups that look like I’ve been Queer-Eyed by a clown college, the stilted “casual” poses like, wow, I’m surprised to see you there, camera that I am holding directly in front of my own face — has come to represent the entire coming-out process. Which is to say: I have only been able to transition to the extent that I have been able to embrace looking like a total dork.
For most of my life, social success meant hiding. No matter how confident I seemed in my public persona, I buried huge parts of my personality because I was afraid people might not like them. I got good at it; so good, in fact, that I was able to forget what I was burying. I was also in terrible pain.
To save my own life, I have had to look like a dumb asshole. I have had to look like I don’t know what I’m doing, because I don’t, because I never got the chance to learn. Dunking on baby queers can be something of a sport on social media; their narcissism, their grandiosity, their sheer cluelessness. I get it, and I hope I never take part in it. Being an awkward baby queer was the only way for me to be queer at all.
I want you to understand the cost of needing to look good; the decisions I made when I was making people like me. By the time I was in college, I had met several trans men, and was close with a few. When I was twenty-two, I told my then-boyfriend that the way they talked about their lives sounded like how I felt, and that I might want to try some of what they were doing, just to see how close the resemblance was. He made fun of me. He didn’t scream at me, he didn’t murder…