I realized something this morning, about my self-image and triggers (especially body-related ones).
When I sat up in bed this morning, the light from our open blinds caught my upper quarter in a perfect side profile: shoulders, bust, head and neck only, silhuoetted from a very flattering angle. I didn't have much call to notice my lower torso because the lighting cut that off precisely, and the result was...surprisingly nice. I sat and looked for a minute because I'd just been comparing my body to Tess's and was feeling pretty horrible on the balance. It was odd to suddenly have a counterpoint.
Body image issues seem to be just part of the standard package for women (for so many reasons), and that only gets more complicated when you're trans as well. I'm very tall, but there's enough extra adipose tissue that I'm kind of big and don't wear it all that gracefully. Surgery is a nightmare; just noticing how kind it's been to Tess reminds me of how bleak my own prospects seem (for financial AND health reasons), and just remembering that is often enough to send me into a downward spiral. It's tough that being with my significant other sets that off; it isn't her fault, naturally, but I can't help constantly comparing my own shortcomings to her, and unfortunately my brain is sufficiently good at depression that there's always a strong impact.
Anyway, I saw my shadow in that very particular profile, and the first thing that came to mind was how nice it'd be to have some guy in there doing...well, use your imagination, or don't. I'm not currently dating any men; my relationship network has mostly been getting more closed rather than more open, and less-central relationships seem to get less and less attention as time goes on. On my end, some of that is limited emotional resources, but it's also the case that our family-core is pretty strongly bound, and breaking up with the one male on the graph seems to have eliminated the main source I had of something I don't get very well in relationships with women. Namely: I can *relax* about this stuff when I'm in the presence of men with whom I have affectionate contact. Not just in terms of bodies, but socially as well. There's a lot of behavioral and social aspects to gender that I spend a lot of time aware of, but seldom get to really feel confident about. Things like voice and posture and how presentation will be read; something about interacting with men that way eases those inputs as well, because I benefit from the perceived contrast -- both internally, and in the way others will tend to read us as a hetero couple in behavioral terms (and hence subconsciously gender me female before they've had a chance to change their mind about it).
It's tough, not having that anymore -- I didn't realize how much it helped (in part because
since I moved away from Derrick, my only relationships with men have been from a distance and haven't contained much sex), but apparently it's a veritable battery of coping for me. That ease is something I don't experience as much with women (be they trans or cis) because it's so easy to compare myself and come up feeling ugly, or like a hopeless poseur, or just doomed to never get anything done about this problem.
And when I'm in an even vaguely rational headspace, that doesn't bother me so much (I know that a majority of transfolk don't have the luxury of surgery) but it's about depression as much as anything (and being reminded of how many poor trans women are nevertheless able to scrape and pinch and save even over very long periods reminds me more than anything of just how fucked I feel when it comes to employment, which I can't seem to hang onto when it involves the kinds of work you can get without a degree or any major qualifications). I've been virtually consumed by depression over the last year, and this is just a trigger, not a direct cause.
It's tough to know what to do with this realization (I'm not sure if I'm in a great place to try dating, I'm not sure if my partners would be comfortable with me doing that, I'm not sure if recognizing this implies having a solution to it), but at least it's out there.
It was nice, though, to imagine for just a moment what it'd be like to be thinner, fitter, and more reliably passable.