In my head I’m as gorgeous as Emma Stone, the excellent and very beautiful actor. Unfortunately my mirror begs to differ. No matter how excellent the eyeliner, how luscious the lipstick or flawless the foundation, whenever I look in the mirror I just see myself.

And that means I don’t see a pretty woman, or a pretty anything. I’m just a fortysomething bloke in makeup. Less Emma Stone, more Fred Flintstone.

My particular label is non-binary, although I suspect “realistic” might be just as appropriate: at 44, six feet one, fifteen stone and with male pattern baldness no amount of hormones and surgery will make me look the way I’d love to look. That’s not to say I’d refuse a magic pill that transformed me overnight. But that kind of magic only happens in stories.

I don’t like the way I look or the shape of my body, but that isn’t because of gender dysphoria. I’m fortunate that I don’t have major dysphoria. It’s that having embraced being trans, accepting that I’m NB, I realise I’ve taken on board a whole bunch of the societal bullshit that equates normality with a very restrictive idea of beauty.





I’m none of those things, and that means I’m disappointed any time I see the man in the mirror.

I look at the proud selfies and the HRT before and afters of young trans women and I’m torn between admiration and envy: had I come out when I was slim and cute then maybe I could have looked that fierce or that fabulous too.

But I didn’t, and I have to play the cards I have. Coming out as NB was essential for my mental health, but it’s left me in a weird place for somebody my age: I’m too feminine to present as an ordinary man, too obviously male to pass as a woman, and I’m too old and too shy to be doing this for kicks or attention. I want to blend in and know I can’t.

And I think that means choosing between two options. I can climb back into the closet and renounce my feminine ways, or I can wobble on heels and say it loud: I’m trans and I’m proud.

I think I prefer the second option.

I don’t just prefer it because the clothes are more fun, although of course they are, or because I feel much more comfortable in a more feminine presentation, although I do. I prefer it because I don’t feel so much that I’m born in the wrong body as born in the wrong century.

So much about gender roles and presentation is entirely arbitrary. We’re living in a time when to be male or female means wearing X and doing Y; go back or forwards in time and X and Y will be completely different things.

It even changes if you travel a short distance: as a Scot, I can wear a skirt any time I like provided it’s a kilt. That’s manly. But if I take off the sporran and socks and swap the brogues for ballet flats, suddenly I’m a menace to society.

That’s madness, and it’ll change. You can see it on younger people’s social media, where NB is NBD and trans kids can be their authentic selves. You can see it in the way gay and lesbian people live today compared to the way they were treated just a few years ago. And I can see it in the way friends and colleagues have reacted to my coming out as trans, not with fear and derision but with love, kindness and a whole ton of questions.

I might not be pretty, but I’m proud.


Image by Ferran Esteve; CC BY-NC-ND 2.0