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No, I Am Not Showing You My Transition Before-And-After Pictures, And Here's Why

Whatever a trans person has done to become who they are now deserves to be celebrated, not because of the difference they've created, but because of the strength of their character, their will to survive, and their determination to become who they need to be in a world that makes that really hard.

Hi! My name's Samantha, I'm transgender, and I've been on hormone replacement therapy for four years.

A trans person in a black one-piece bathing suit

You might be wondering what I looked like before I transitioned. But I'm not gonna line up a comparison for you! And here's why.

A trans person shrugs before a background of graffiti

Every trans person is beautiful all the time, no matter where they're at with their bodies and identity. Still, trans people are often commodified by comparing pics of how they looked in the past and now. We should celebrate every victory in trans folks' lives, no question, but the before-and-after narrative overlooks some really important stuff.

Trans joy doesn't necessarily have anything to do with transition or how different you look now compared to what you looked like before. Worse, reducing yourself to a binary comparison so you're easier to understand constitutes yourself by the image other people have of you.

We are more than the way we've changed. And we matter in the here and now, not because of where we came from, but because of who we are. Emphasizing binary change as an essential part of being trans does us all a disservice, because it maintains the idea that as trans folks, we're somehow different in our human bodies than everyone else. And we are, for sure — heck, I think we're all utterly magical and definitely strong as all get-out. But, insofar as being human goes, we're just like everyone else. So I don't think we should define ourselves on the basis of difference.

You might still be curious though, so put on some Against Me!, and let's dive in and talk through this.

1. Representing trans joy as something tied to medical, surgical, and social transition overlooks that, as an impoverished and oppressed class of people who often live precarious lives characterized by limited access to social and financial capital, the means, access, stability, and freedom needed to transition are privileges available only to a few (and state laws right now are making that situation even more dire for trans youth).

A trans person administers a hormone injection

2. Every trans person is legitimate in the body they're in right now, and they aren't defined by their gender assigned at birth, what they may have looked like, and how people might have identified them in the past. People who have transitioned and look really different now and people with access to passing within a society that values binary bodies more aren't anymore valid, self-actualized, or trans than anyone else.

A trans person in the forest

3. As a binary narrative, before-and-afters also emphasize binary results, and of course a lot of us don't adhere to gender binaries at all.

The author wears a T-shirt reading "Pretty Boy"

4. And finally, you can't actually tell anything about a person's gender, identity, or fulfillment within their lives and selves just by looking at them.

Two trans people smile at each other at Riis Beach, NYC

I know what I'm doing. I know who I am, and I'm fine with it. I'm not going to pretend like I need to change what I look like or how I present myself in order for other people to better understand me. In a lot of ways, I'm still the same person I always was, and I'm cool with that. My transition is still totally valid. And yours is too.

Looking for more ways to get involved? Check out all of BuzzFeed's posts celebrating Pride 2021!

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