I spent most of the day in a padded bikini lying on a towel over sand at a river beach, collecting overcast sun and reading a collection of transgender-themed fiction.
I got a few stares as I walked to and from the bathroom and a few other times. I looked down at myself and kept spotting the hairs in my erstwhile cleavage that I missed on my last 20-minute tweezing session, and frowning at myself.
But then I looked down at my long, hairless legs finally getting some sun, such as it was on this cloudy day; and the fuchsia-and-teal of my finger- and toenail polish; and the accent of my navel ring; and the increasingly adept gaffing behind my bikini bottom; and the gentle curvature of my testosterone-addled breasts behind this triangle top. And I felt the breeze over my bare skin and the warmth radiating up from the sand and down from the sky, and watched a mom introduce two little girls to dip-netting for minnows nearby after a duck with ducklings came to visit us and wandered off when we didn’t feed them.
I did not see the vulnerable, unwanted exposure of being expected to go topless whether I wanted to or not. I did not see the crass shapelessness of men’s swimming shorts. I did not see the pending embarrassment of years past, when I constantly wondered if the shorts I’d been using were too short or not actually for swimming or had some other to-be-ridiculed defect. I did not see the crushingly overt “I’m doing this for attention” display that comes with wearing a men’s Speedo like I used to for tanning.
I did not see the wretchedness of the body hair I used to pick and stare at because I couldn’t comprehend its presence and intensity on my body. I did not hear the omnipresent background noise of “WRONG WRONG WRONG” that I’d just assumed would be standard forever with me never knowing what was actually wrong and thinking that the problem was mere confidence.
There was just me, the Latina with a too-strong chin and too-wide shoulders and too-narrow hips lying in the sun in a bikini reading a book, next to half a dozen other ladies doing the same, feeling painted and beautiful and soft and barely knowing what to do with herself without that constant droning of horror hiding behind all of her thoughts.
I will disown my family, murder my supervisors, and burn the solar system to dark matter and neutrinos before I let anyone even try to get between me and feeling like this ALL THE TIME.