I’ve been working on a personal photography project that explores body positivity, with a specific focus on our relationship with our skin – warts (and eczema, scarring, discoloration, etc) and all. Our skin is what we face the world with, and the world responds accordingly. Our stories and life experiences are imprinted on our skin, for all to see, and some of those stories can be joyous while others are painful reminders of difficult times. We can embrace and celebrate them, or we can learn to live quietly alongside them. I want to express my deep appreciation for everyone who graciously agreed to participate in this project.
I first noticed my discoloration in elementary when I got a tan in the summer and noticed what looked like reverse freckles across my torso and legs. The pale splotches didn’t bother me until they were pointed out while I was in a dressing room backstage for a show and someone asked me about them.
While I was aware of my pigmentation issues that had continued to slowly spread to more areas as I got older mainly on my hips and ribs, I hadn’t really paid attention to it until other people started to. I saw a dermatologist and was officially diagnosed with vitiligo and told my options were to let it be or do light therapy multiple times a week for a few years. I decided that it wasn’t worth it to dedicate that much time to something that didn’t bother me that much.
I wouldn’t say that my vitiligo is necessarily an insecurity, but more so a frustration since the comments and questions I’ve gotten from it always seem to come from someone else’s discomfort in looking at someone who has splotchy skin. I think a lot of people’s insecurities are onset by other people pointing out what they see as imperfections, but we are all flawed in our own way.
In my early teen years, I was in a car accident that left me with 3 deep wounds to my face which required a total of 11 stitches. Growing up, stretch marks had appeared on my knee/legs and from pregnancy. Also let’s add four scars from surgeries to my lower abdomen.
Having prominent scars and stretch marks at a young age made me very insecure about showing off my skin. I would avoid going out into the world, at least until the bulky stitches on my face were removed. The gruesome stares from passersby made me feel like I wanted to hide. Not sure if they were scared of me or just felt bad for me, since I looked and felt related to Frankenstein. I would avoid showing skin because of my stretch marks and it looked weird to me. I didn’t want to strip down when it came to intimate moments. I stared at my nude self and thought my skin was awful, since it didn’t appear “normal.”
Obtaining these life long scars, I felt like I was in a two wheeled cart rattling up and down on an emotional roller coaster. It felt never ending. I learned at a very young age, things happen in life that are beyond our control. Although it took a long time, I decided to accept my scars. I got tired of feeling like I was holding myself back from truly enjoying my life. Regardless, scars or no scar people will always stare and talk. I had told myself…FUCK IT!…love life and live. I have never looked back since. The longer you let other people’s opinion make choices for you, the longer you will be miserable and trapped in your own insecurities.
I think most people go through life thinking that they are immune to the hardships that life can arbitrarily divvy out. I know I certainly felt that way. “Bad things like that don’t happen to me”. Sadly, no amount of wishful thinking is going to protect you from a lightning strike. That’s what my doctor called my very rare cancer, a lightning strike.
I was a 27 year old trans woman, I had been through all manner of hardships already. Abusive relationships, homelessness, ostracization. It wasn’t even the cancer that I was really hurt by, it was the loss of peace of mind that really shook me to my foundation.
Bad things can happen to you, but the mark of your character isn’t made by the things that happen to you, it’s made by how you respond and rise to the occasion.
So my scars were from a time in my life that I thought I was never going to get through. I come from a rough background from abuse and gangs. At that time I kept losing friends and my life felt pretty hopeless. I just wanted to feel something or nothing honestly. So I hurt myself in more ways than one.
For the longest I was ashamed of my past and my scars. I thought it made me look weak. Once I embraced it I realized that I am strong and telling my story can help others because everybody goes through something. Everybody deserves a second chance at life. I’m glad that I got through that time because what was on the other side was truly amazing. I have five beautiful kids now, a beautiful partner to share my life with, and a career in acting that has taken me to places I never thought possible.
If I could tell you one thing it would be to never give up on yourself, on life, on living. Life is hard sometimes but it’s also truly beautiful.
My mom has always told me that my blood was “sweet”. When we went on vacation, I would be the only one in our family to get covered in bug bites. I don’t know what it is, but there is just something about my blood chemistry that draws bugs to me!
I didn’t think much of it over the years, until one day last summer I looked down and noticed a swarm of bugs on my legs – apparently my college apartment had a flea infestation, but I was the only one getting bitten! My roommates and I tried everything to get rid of them, but I ended up with scars all over my legs and it killed my self esteem. It was summer and incredibly hot outside, so I didn’t want to wear any clothing that exposed my legs. I started wearing long skirts, but as I got more comfortable with the people around me I became a lot more accepting and started saying “who cares?”. I’m going to wear whatever I feel like, and people can stare at my legs if they want.
I don’t know how long these scars will last, but even if they do end up being permanent, I’ve accepted that it’s a part of me, a part of my experience.