Created by Christopher Ikonomou (Xe/He)
This project was originally published in our Winter 2022 Volume 1 zine “Queer Rage, Resistance, & Renaissance.“
I will never be pretty.
Most people’s view on “growing up ugly” consists of a nerdy brunette taking off her glasses to reveal she was a stunner the whole time. The irony of an indicator of disability being the barrier between ugliness and attractiveness is not lost on me, in fact it’s the point. As a disabled, transgender person, I really did “grow up ugly.” My blind eyes shrunk behind thick, small-framed glasses, my spider-like fingers and toes, my hips and shoulders uneven from scoliosis, my knees wonky from flat feet, my skeletal frame, my broad shoulders and flat chest unfit for a young girl. Despite the rarity of my condition, I am still recognized as someone not quite right, something in need of fixing. Add in my ambiguous gender presentation as a child and my current visible transness, and the questions never end:
“What’s wrong with you?” “Is that a boy or a girl?”
“I couldn’t bear to live like you, I’d kill myself!”
“Have you tried this diet? I heard it can cure anything!”
“How do you… ya know…?”
And the constant staring. The incessant curiosity. The uncertainty of what they’re witnessing as I pass by. I can’t help but be reminded of “Gaping Gawking Staring” by trans disabled butch poet Eli Clare: “Their hatred snarls into me, and often I can’t separate the homophobia from the ableism from the transphobia.”
In a cisnormative, ableist world, people like me are disposable. Our lack of conformity to expectations of gender, productivity, and literal physical being alienates us from value and attractiveness.
To resist these systems is to embrace ugliness. To defeat the gawkers is to give them something to stare at. To truly affirm myself is to flaunt my crookedness in all its forms; to love the surgery scars scattered like constellations across my torso, the chest that redefines manhood, the shoulders in their uneven and masculine glory, the knees that knock with every step, the weak arms that give a good hug, the wrists that hang waiting for use, the low vision eyes that conceptualize art that speaks volumes, the hip that serves as a shelf for my tired limbs, the towering height despite feet that fall flat and a spine that refuses straightness as much as I do, the bloodstream that can’t handle HRT, the heart full of love for my community that threatens to beat out of my chest, the body that has never been quite right and never will be.
To be transgender and disabled is to be ugly, and I no longer have a problem with that.
“These days I practice gawking at the gawkers and flirting as hard as I know how. The first is an act of resistance; the second, an act of pride.” – Eli Clare