Written by Lou Ramsey.
Art by Lauren Crow.
Whenever I reflect on my various phases of my queer life, I always think back to the different types of nudes I took during those periods. I always make a habit of taking pictures of my body, either as selfies or nudes, just so I can really see what it looks like from the outside. There’s something incredibly powerful about looking at one’s body objectively and just taking in the self as it is on film. No comments, no jeers, no critiques, not even praise; just looking at a picture of you and seeing yourself as you are.
Looking at one of the most recent nudes I took, I have to pat myself on the back for the pure artistry in the preparation of the picture. Window curtains are creating thick shadowy lines across the broad expanse of my stomach, my hand grabbing it with thick ripples where my fingers landed. My pubic hairs are wispy and light, and my chest is melding in with the rest of my stomach. I am covered in freckles, scab scars, and stretchmarks, and the sun looks warm on my flesh. I am beautiful.
It took a long time to reach the point where I can look at my body and see myself glowing like that. Having grown up in an environment where my being trans and fat made me more of an anomaly, I had grown to analyze my body in a way where instead of seeing a human, I saw a ball of lard and clay that needed to be shaved down and molded into something new, something better.
This was especially apparent when I first transitioned.
It wasn’t until I started identifying as a butch lesbian at age 20 that I realized bodies were simply bodies, and beautiful at that.
At 18, when I was finally fully out of the closet as nonbinary, I still believed that I had to take “sexy” nudes. Nudes, of course, were for other people in order to impress and entice them; there was no good reason to look at a naked body otherwise, especially one as fat as mine. A lot of the pictures I took were very sexualized; there are a lot of naked pictures of me touching my chest, spreading my legs, sucking in my stomach, and bending over. These pictures weren’t for me, but rather for some random consumers that liked the idea of my body, but not even the idea of my existence. Taking nudes became a form of self-harm at that point, so I stopped.
It wasn’t until I started identifying as a butch lesbian at age 20 that I realized bodies were simply bodies, and beautiful at that. I was in a plethora of lesbian group chats, and one of the most important things that I learned from them was that anyone can be anything they want to be. The nudes channel in one group was full of a variety of bodies, all with their beautiful intersections of identity. There were femmes and butches of all sizes, each of them holding onto their identity even when there were no clothes to exemplify it. Poses, props, lighting, and facial expressions all enhanced the experience of seeing someone naked—something I had never considered before.
However, what really struck me the most was that they were posting their nudes for themselves. Sure, people gave compliments, but the whole purpose behind each picture was to solidify the self-affirmations of the person who posted it. There was no need for validation, but people did it anyways, and I can’t find any better words to describe the feeling besides “beautiful.”
As my identity evolved into something more simple than a gender or sexuality label, I spent less time analyzing my nude pictures for flaws or imperfections and just accepted what people told me when I posted them. Honest to God, I actually began taking notes and keeping track of what people told me. The results were varied, but nonetheless helpful in figuring out things to love about myself.
As I analyzed all of my pictures, both nudes and selfies, I noticed that I was glowing. I was happy. I was beautiful, and I didn’t even have to try.
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Some liked my stomach and its stretch marks the most. Others appreciated the smoothness of my skin and the soft, squishy appearances of my thighs and chest. I looked snuggly like a pillow, or a teddy bear worn with love. A few people went straight to complimenting my chubby pink cheeks, and at least one person mentioned the freckles on my arms.
One person didn’t even look at my body and instead went to my eyes and smile. That took me by surprise the most; I had been focusing on my body so much that I forgot to pay attention to my emotional state when I looked at it. As I analyzed all of my pictures, both nudes and selfies, I noticed that I was glowing. I was happy. I was beautiful, and I didn’t even have to try.
Now, as a self-described genderless being, I’ve lessened my dysphoria and discomfort by looking at my body as simply a body. Sure, I love being complimented and told nice things, but I don’t need it as much anymore because I can see it when I look at myself in the mirror. What matters more than any sort of poetic romanticization of fat or muscle is the fact that it’s there in the first place. I no longer view my fatness as something to be shaved away but rather something to be savored, decorated, and shown off. It is beautiful because it is mine.
Looking back at old nudes makes me proud of myself for seeing a glimmer of sunlight through the curtains of insecurity. My body has changed, and so have I, but I’ve always been and always will be beautiful.
About the Author
Lou Baker Ramsey is a genderless being who lives in central Iowa. It enjoys studying philosophy, performing theatre and music, writing poetry, and taking nudes.
Follow on IG: @hotanomaly