You know, there’s nothing quite like looking back through the photo album to help you realise how far you’ve come. This photo was taken in January 2008, back when I was still trying to be girly, was considerably heavier than I am now, and had the self-image and self-confidence of a fava bean.

I have tried to recreate the pose, Heat magazine style, to allow comparisons. Please note I am wearing the same hoodie three years on. An old friend did once accuse me of hoarding crappy old clothes. Well, they feel nice.

Without sounding too self-pitying, I have never, ever felt attractive. I have not, for most of my life, caught glimpses of myself in the mirror and given myself a mental thumbs-up. I did not, until very recently, feel sexually attractive. If ever I have been paid any sort of attention, it’s always caught me completely by surprise. To this day I have absolutely no idea how my partner can be attracted to me physically. And that’s not false modesty, or fishing for compliments. When you have an appallingly low body image, it doesn’t matter how many times you’re told you’re sexy or attractive, it doesn’t get past your self-imposed filters. On the funny side, I am completely oblivious to flirting, which has caused some confusion in the past. I don’t spot flirts, however outrageous they’re being, because I can’t imagine that anyone would ever want to flirt with me. I just think they’re being nice. Hmmm.

None of this is helped by the simple fact that out of the *coughety-cough* people with whom I have shared intimate pleasures, only two actually initiated the relationship. I have always been the one to ask people out, and certainly never believed they took me up on the offer because of my body or looks. I’m pretty good at laughing people into bed – isn’t that often the case with people who don’t relate well to their own bodies? I’m also pretty nifty at cooking people into bed – I can cook up a storm, and who can resist after being softened up with a three course meal and a bottle of wine? Alcohol is a great leveller, and one of the reasons I don’t drink very much these days is the memory of self-hatred that often comes along with getting physical when neither of you was as in control as you should have been. Not good for the pride.

Now, don’t get me wrong – even in my most self-loathing moments, I know that I have bits that’re ok. I like my eyes, for instance. My mouth I used to hate, even as a child, with its soft, pouty, fleshy femininity. However, I’ve been told it’s one of my good bits, so I’m learning to like it. Whether it quite goes with my increasingly masculine appearance, only time will tell.

Recently I went to London, and was genuinely shocked at how many women gave me the hard eye. I don’t know about the men – my radar hasn’t re-attuned to them yet. Now I do get stared at a fair bit when out and about, because my transition is at the stage where people are trying to figure out whether I’m a girl or a boy. So all these women in London could have either been thinking “Wow, who is THAT gorgeous creature”, or “What the hell is THAT?”. I prefer to think the former. I was shocked that they were looking at me because I have only recently entertained the thought that I am attractive enough for people to want to look at. It made me feel pretty good, though a little scared.

Things are improving, slowly. Transition is necessarily a business that makes you think very hard about yourself. I’ve had to dig deeper into my own psyche than I’d really like, but overall my transition does mean that I am able to start seeing my body in a much more positive light. I still have a lot of my old issues, but as the testosterone changes my body, as I have changed the way I present myself to the world, and most important of all, since I started liking myself , it is as if I have given myself permission to be a confident, physical, sexual, attractive being.

Alongside my new found attractiveness, I still retain my ability to make others laugh, and my cooking skills are undiminished. So if ever I crack a joke and offer to cook you Chocolate Upside Down Pudding Cake, watch out….!

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