Self-Confidence in the Face of Beauty

The unfamiliar space holds the promiseamanda swafford2

Of immortality in black and white

A photographic print

To match the mirror’s reflection

As a transwoman of confident stature

I still seek affirmation.

Will this frozen image capture

and portray the woman I see myself to be?

All around gathered as if in answer to a call

Stand the beautiful people

Perfect in their presentation

As blooms in a queen’s rose garden

Smooth skin and perfect smiles,

Shining with the brightness of summer sunshine.

Their portraits lining the walls reflecting, radiating

The coveted feminine ideal.

My practiced smile, a disguise,

The fragility of self-confidence revealed

In growing discomfort

And faltering self-assuredness.

My armor has proven to be an illusion.

Does theirs afford more protection?

Does their beauty immunize

Against self-doubt?


Waves of Darkness

I walk the sands at the water’s edge in search of a balm

To an ocean of dark thoughts and pain suddenly gripping my heart.

Is the answer out there somewhere in the rolling waves

Their constancy soothing to my fear for the future


Standing here at the shore, the sea stretching to the horizon

Planting my feet, I imagine them immovable against the advancing tide

Staring in fascination as the dark waters swirl and rush toward me

Unimpeded by obstacles in a relentless advance up the beach,


Suddenly doubting my resolve, I take a step back and then another

While the fear of being overwhelmed roils to the surface

The waters cease their advance, and pause momentarily suspended

Yielding at last to the resistance of incline and coarseness of sand


I recognize in the motion and mystery of this dark ocean,

A kinship with the thoughts and movements of my mind,

Never still, moving to its own rhythm, at times steady and thoughtful

At times lashing out in anger and confusion, its direction erratic


The next waves builds, its power indiscernible at this distance

Will this be the one that overcomes all of my resistance?

Its true strength unapparent until its potential is unleashed

My pride in my ability to stand against the tide seems foolish.


I breathe a momentary sigh of relief at the realization that I am out of its reach.

Yet today’s victory over my dark thoughts provides only temporary refuge

Each successive wave another opportunity to be overwhelmed.

Victory today only affords an opportunity to fight this battle again tomorrow.


An ocean of waves stretches as far as my eyes can see and beyond

The next wave draws closer and grows more formidable with each moment

I brace for the power of the onrushing water with acceptance that it’s too late to run,

If I have underestimated its strength, survival becomes the only hope.


Swirling depression wraps about me, rising higher and higher.

When it seems that all is lost, it recedes from whence it came

Yet in its rush to return it carries with it bits of sand, bits of me

One grain at a time my strength begins to vanish,


In its place a hollow where my foundation once stood

Each fleeing wave, shouts that permanence is illusionary

Luckily so far, I have danced beyond the reach of the darkest waters

It is time to turn my back to the ocean and walk inland

Flying Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

Everyone has a deepest fear, I’ve heard a number of them, some of them make sense to me others don’t, but it isn’t necessary for me to understand, I accept that this is the way you feel. If you are afraid of it, I believe you are afraid of it. I have my own, developed and finely honed over a lifetime. I have lived my life being fearful, rational or not they were mine, from waking to sleeping they intruded on my thoughts and effected the way I lived my life. Now at this late stage, I have finally given some thought about what I have been afraid of and why, a thread that seems to run through a majority of them is a fear of losing control.
My existence as a transgender individual, is I believe, at the heart of the problem. I grew up in the fifties and sixties, this fact plays an important role in my life as it was a time of absolute conformity. It was reinforced on a regular basis by the likes of “Leave it to Beaver” and Donna Reed. Being different wasn’t acceptable, try and imagine the fear and shame if they ever found out I actually saw myself as a girl.
In my mind, my control over a situation was of paramount importance. I could only hope to remain a part of “normal” society as long as they didn’t learn the truth about me. The lies I told and the secrets I kept convinced me without a doubt that I was mentally ill. In a time before the internet there was no information about what I was feeling, and as far as I knew I was the only person like me in the world. That there weren’t any words in my vocabulary to describe what I felt simply reinforced the fear. I did know one thing for certain, situations that I did not control had the potential to out me as mentally unbalanced.
My life took its first serious detour at the end of my senior year of high school; absolutely certain that I would have an unavoidable breakdown if I went to college, I performed the ultimate self-sabotage. I quit high school with about 8 weeks left. I had enough credits to graduate, my class ranking was about 220 in a class of almost 1100, with a solid B+ average and I had been accepted to college, I just couldn’t go, no wonder I thought I was crazy.
I certainly could have benefited from some kind of therapy at that point, but again, my fear of the questions they would ask, paralyzed me. The questions would be designed to get to the truth, a truth I could not believe that I would survive if it was ever to see the light of day
I did the only thing I thought I could do, I withdrew. And I stayed there, I kept my secrets
A few years later Jack Nicholson and “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” gave substance to my fears. In that movie I saw what my mind had only vaguely postulated, now I knew what it was I was afraid of. Being locked up, control over my life removed from me. Deemed to be crazy or in need of being fixed they, whoever they were, would do whatever they needed to do to bring me back in line with normal. If that included destroying me or my mind in the process they would deem that an acceptable risk. I could not be allowed to continue to live as this damaged pathetic individual.
That was certainly a lot to be afraid of.
The terror lingers to this day, this fear of losing control over my own life.