Now that I’ve made my ebook “Who Cares? Life for an Irish Transgender Teen” free to the public (you can download the full thing here), I’ve decided to publish the chapters here on my website. Below is a chapter from this book which was published in April 2016.
I am happy with my appearance. I know Irish people aren’t supposed to say that but I don’t care. For a long time I was very unhappy with how I looked but I am finally in a place where I can recognise my own beauty. I am currently 6”2 which means that I tower over most people. Growing up I was always a tall child. This was a fact that I despised.
Being taller than everyone feels like a massive arrow with flashing lights is sitting on top of your head. Your head is cut out of mirrors and pictures, you have to crouch in order for your friends to whisper in your ear and it’s very difficult to be in an outdoor group of people all talking to each other. Because of this I have developed quite a rude habit of switching off when I am walking with my friends on the street. My friend Sophie noticed this quite recently. As we were walking out of college and to our bus stop with two other people, she realised that I had no clue what they were talking about. She confronted me about it and I rather bluntly told her that I genuinely couldn’t hear what they were saying because my ears were so far away from their mouths. I was only half joking.
When you are tall, people feel the need to point it out to you all the time. As if you have gone through your whole life without ever noticing that the top of your friend’s heads are on the same level as your nipples. I can’t tell you how many times a complete stranger has told me how tall I was. This used to annoy me. It made me feel like a zoo animal being scrutinised. I used to want to turn around and point out something about their body. “You’re covered in wrinkles” or “I can see your roots from up here.” However, as I’ve grown up a bit, I’ve actually begun to see the humour in these situations. Most recently I was waiting on a bus in Dublin and a man was walking around collecting change from people. He turned to me and asked “is it any warmer up there than down here?” I forced a laugh and informed him that I doubted it. He asked me did I hear those kind of jokes all of the time and I told him that he had no idea. I then took out my purse and gave him two euro because I appreciated his audacity.
As a child, my hair was snow blonde. This is a horrible affliction to suffer from. You get to grow up looking so cute. You’re the little blonde child that everyone compliments but as you age, you have to watch your hair gradually turn browner every Winter. And then suddenly your friends are laughing at your naivety when you try to tell them that you are blonde. When I was 15 I finally convinced my Mam to let me get highlights. A few months later I had managed to get my entire hair dyed blonde. I really am very persuasive. I loved my blonde hair. Then, after a year of blonde hair I stupidly thought that I would go back to my natural hair colour. This proved impossible as I went through different shades of browns never quite finding one that I was happy with. God bless Barbara, my hairdresser who has had an endless amount of time and patience for me and has always indulged my spontaneous decisions regarding my hair. Finally, I went back to blonde which was next to impossible. However, (and I’m afraid to say this) after endless amounts of bleaching and lightening. After applying millions of homemade hair masks to my hair to stop it from breaking off. After, it seemed I’d become familiar with every single brand of blonde hair dye and could probably review them all. I am now finally happy with my hair colour. It is platinum blonde which is a bitch to keep that way but it makes me happy.
At the same time that I got my highlights I also started my thorough skincare routine. The reason behind this sounds so pathetic now but back then it was very important to me. At that time I had no idea that I was trans but on some level I was always aware of it. We were getting to that age where we were attending parties and hanging out with boys. My friends all started to get dolled up and wear make-up. I was extremely jealous of the fact that I couldn’t cover up what I considered to be my flaws with stuff from a bottle. So, instead I made a decision. I went to the shops and I bought face-creams. My skin began to improve almost immediately. As time went on I began to use cleanser, toner, moisturiser and eye cream every morning. Most of the time these are anti-ageing products because I think that there’s no harm in starting young. I use face masks occasionally although I don’t really like to because I usually break out in spots afterwards. I don’t get spots often and when I do they’re usually pretty manageable. I pop them, keep the area clean and rub bio-oil on them. I am quite anal about my skincare routine and there is rarely a day when I don’t implement it.
I am extremely thin which I am not proud of but it is not intentional. I really don’t seem to be able to put on weight. I don’t worry about it too much though. It’s important to remember that I have a teenage metabolism and I am extremely tall. I’ve struggled with a slight eating disorder in the past but I’ll talk more about that later. I try not to but I tend to be quite sensitive about my weight. I hate when people tell me how thin I am. I know they mean well but I think it’s extremely rude to comment on someone’s weight, no matter what size they are. You can tell me you admire my body shape all you want but when you use words like skinny or thin it feels to me like an insult. If you are reading this and remembering a time when you said this to me don’t worry. I’m not one to hold a grudge over such silly things but just try to refrain from saying it in the future. It’s just not something that I enjoy being told.
Fashion is something that I’ve struggled with in the past. When I was younger I didn’t really have an interest in it, as most kids don’t. But as I began to grow up I dedicated more time to deciding what I should wear. It was obviously quite difficult for me to find clothes that I liked considering that I was in the wrong body. Somehow I managed though. I don’t consider my fashion sense to be overly unique although I like to use bold colours and accessories in my day-to-day outfits. I don’t think that it’s important to wear designer pieces, however I do like to own good quality clothes. This is purely for the reason that I love my clothes and get so upset when they rip, fade or just get old. I think fashion is something that you have to practice before you get the hang of it. We all make mistakes when it comes to choosing outfits from time to time but as long as you’re happy in the clothes that you’re wearing who cares? I don’t think that anyone should ever comment on people’s outfits unless it’s complimentary. Just because you don’t like it doesn’t mean it isn’t nice. I like to make an effort with what I wear. This means that you could find me wearing the exact same outfit to college that I have worn when I was clubbing. This may be strange but I like to feel that I look nice in both of those situations.
I am a big believer in natural beauty regimes. Cold green tea bags on your eyes, coconut oil in your hair. I like to add green tea bags and coconut oil to hot baths to keep my skin moisturised too. I wear red lip balm and nail polish. I don’t wear make-up but I suspect I will start soon. This year I got over the fact that I was so tall and skinny and that I had such a big nose. Instead I learned to listen to people when they told me that I was pretty. I still make self-deprecating jokes about my appearance but I’m not serious. I know that it’s hard but you must learn to get over the things you can’t change about yourself and not to take yourself so seriously.
I don’t think a person’s appearance is everything. I actually don’t think it’s anything. If it’s not important to you then that’s great. But it’s okay to be a bit vain. I don’t consider myself to be overly vain but it is important to me to feel that I look nice. If you feel that you want to look nice too then it’s okay to make an effort. Who cares? You need to tell yourself that 50 times a day.
Stop being rude about people’s clothes or their appearances. Don’t ridicule someone for making an effort or for not making an effort. People reading this might be remembering a time when I may have done just that. There were many times when I was a bitch about someone’s appearance in order to get a cheap laugh from others. I recognise how horrific and wrong that was. Let me tell you that I am not a hypocrite. This is only something that I’ve learned quite recently and I feel incredibly guilty for my cruelty in the past. But I am trying to make up for that now by complimenting people when they deserve it. A big step on the journey to happiness has been learning to recognise the beauty in others.
Read more Who Cares? here.
Buy Who Cares? here.
Listen to my interview with Aoife Kearns about body image below: