Watch Exposition here.
The idea to do a nude shoot came about when the agency that I’m with asked me whether I’d do a photoshoot where I’d have to pose while naked. I considered it for a while and I almost did it but upon further thought I finally decided against it.
I realised that doing a nude shoot like that would be quite a big step for me and I thought that deserved a bit more thought than spontaneously putting myself forward for a shoot that would be curated by somebody else. I decided that a video might be a good way of going about it, where I could include a voiceover about my previous struggles with body dysmorphia.
When I’m in the early stages of planning anything like this, the jumping off point is always thinking about what would have helped me when I was suffering. I think when I first began my transition and was researching the steps involved, so much of it was geared towards the future.
It was as though all of this literature was telling you to be patient, or to keep in mind that you’d get to where you want to be, but none of it told me how to be happy where I was. As someone who was in the early stages of transition and someone who was pre-op, I never saw anyone like me being celebrated, only the people who were at the end of their journey. I know for a fact that it would have helped me to see someone who was comfortable in their own skin at the stage that I was at, and that’s what I wanted to do for anyone who was feeling anyway similar to me.
It was at this point that I had to bring other people onto the project, something that I felt quite nervous about. I reached out to a friend of mine who is excellent at videography and who I trusted to carry out my vision in a way that I’d be satisfied with. Thankfully, he was very receptive to the idea and he agreed to do it for me. I was much happier doing it with someone that I felt comfortable with because it’s so important to feel comfortable in these situations.
I wasn’t sure how I’d feel on the day. In the week before, after securing a beautiful room to film in and getting everything organised, I felt both nervous and excited. The night before, I read my book and went to bed early. I always try to stay as chilled out as possible before any shoots.
I woke up the next morning feeling kind of numb about the whole thing. There were no particular extreme sensations that I felt, I just felt like I had a job to do. I got the bus into town where I met the two friends that would be helping me with this. We were let into the beautiful vintage style room that I had booked and I was delighted with the entire setting.
I slipped my clothes off, got into my silk robe and prepared to do it. The preparation was as simple as that. As I’d never really done something like this before, I relied on the direction of my colleagues an awful lot. I was extremely lucky to have two people working with me that weren’t at all shy of either my body or my honesty about my body dysmorphia.
I think we spent about an hour shooting and about an hour and a half, reviewing and editing the footage. When I watched the footage back I felt speechless. It was incredibly moving to see myself in a light that I’d literally never seen myself in before and watching the footage was overwhelmingly liberating. In that moment I felt as though I’d truly released all of my insecurities and that was momentous for a person like me.
There is one thing that I feel the need to speak out about. Since publishing the video, I’ve had so many people reach out to me to tell me that they think I’m so brave etc. which I’ve obviously really appreciated. But these people usually follow it up by telling me how beautiful I look or how pretty I am or with other superficial compliments.
And I’m not trying to moan about this. It’s always really nice to receive compliments and I’m extremely grateful that people would be so kind to me, but I would hate to feel as though the message of my video was being overshadowed by something as meaningless as my attractiveness. And I don’t actually believe that was the case, but nevertheless I felt the need to clarify something.
You’re calling me brave for doing this and in a huge way, I was brave. I overcame a lot to film this video and that was extremely brave. But in another way I wasn’t brave, because I knew that I had a certain safety net to fall back on in the form of my looks.
I do think it’s really important to always check your privilege so I try to speak about how privileged I am whenever it’s necessary. I think now is an important time to acknowledge my “pretty privilege” because it’s very apparent in this video.
I am, for reasons beyond my control, what society considers to be beautiful. I’m white, I’m thin, I’m “convincingly female” and I have a combination of other features that our society glorifies.
And don’t get me wrong, there’s no part of me that’s ungrateful about that but at the same time it irritates me that I’ve been given such an advantage by something that I’ve done nothing to earn.
If I was a person of colour, trolls probably would have called me an array of disgusting names for exposing my body. If I was a fat woman, I no doubt would have been fat-shamed to an enormous extent. If my face and my mannerisms were more masculine, I would have received a ton of transphobic abuse for thinking that my body is beautiful.
This upsets me. As a society, we place way too much emphasis on looking and feeling attractive at all times. And I’ll admit that I’m quite a vain person who likes to look good, but I’d like to think that, in the grand scheme of things, it’s quite low on my list of priorities.
So although you can look at my video and acknowledge that I look attractive, you should also acknowledge that this makes me no better than anyone else. You should acknowledge that everyone is attractive if you look at them in the right way, I just happen to be the level of attractive that matters to society.
I’m not going to lie, I felt fear when I pressed the upload button on that video. It wasn’t a fear of being judged or being trolled. It wasn’t a fear of the possible negative repercussions of doing such a thing. It wasn’t even a fear of being so upfront and honest. I think it was a fear of moving on to a new chapter of my life.
Releasing that shoot was acknowledging that a certain side of me, the side that hated my body was gone, and that felt significant. It’s scary to feel as though you’re putting a chapter of your life to rest and that’s exactly how I felt.
Now, a few months later, I still think about that shoot a lot. I think out of everything I’ve accomplished, it’s actually one of the things that I’m most proud of. I’d like to think that it helped people and I’m sure it did. But if nothing else, it helped me. Even if the video had gotten a ton of backlash, I don’t think I could have felt any regret for releasing it. After battling with body image issues for so long, it would have been hard to feel anything but grateful for the experience.