Writing by Eda Sofía Correa Bernini // photograph by Billie
I know it may seem strange to receive such a letter. After all, everything you’ve known from me is rejection and abuse. And for this I am sorry. I am now aware I’ve spent the best part of my thirty-five years trying to eradicate you from existence.
During our lifetime together, I’ve cut you, shaved you, waxed you, creamed you, plucked you and made a significant effort to conceal you every single day. Where does this annihilating obsession come from? You might ask. A question I have been trying to answer myself, especially recently now that I’ve come to appreciate you but still find myself shackled by something resembling shame when I raise my arms up in excitement or simply to reach for something.
Maybe I was meant to fall pregnant amidst a global pandemic and become locked down at home for almost a whole year to allow myself time to get to know you. Isolated from other people’s opinions and expectations. Probably, I just had to age in order to fully grasp that everything, EVERYTHING, I have been taught about looks, gender and how I should present myself to the world is utter bullshit crafted up by a fearful society in a futile attempt to suppress our creativity and deny that gender is really a spectrum.
And if I really want to be honest, I’ve always had a feeling this was the case. I did back when I rejected skirts and dresses at five years of age because they wouldn’t allow me to climb trees properly, or when I directed my dad to cut my hair just like my brother. And if I narrow down on the specific topic of us, armpit hair, I’ve always kinda liked you, just in others. Because me, femme presenting being that I am, was not allowed to flaunt you myself.
Men, as you know, and masc humans do not need to shy away and abuse every single part of their skin covered by hair. No, they’re good. But women and femme presenting humans, on the other hand, spend a good part of our lives trying to conform to strict standards of beauty. And because of said standards of beauty, I’ve lost parts of myself.
That is why now, I want to tell you how much I love you. Yes, you, but most importantly what you represent to me. I love you in all your unexpected existence. Because you represent freedom, self-assurance, and recognition of who I am. I adore lifting my arms to find you there, after so many years, products and efforts have been made to eradicate you.
I abused you so much that now you are scarce and straight instead of bushy and curly as you were meant to be. But I thank you for your resilience and for never listening to those absurd and unfounded gender stereotypes that say I should be another way than how I am.
I now call you a friend. A friend that I am obsessed with looking at. A friend I explore my love with as my existence with you is still new. It’s obviously not all about you, but the possibility of having you, of choosing, and of not limiting myself to a single way of presenting has made me smile a lot in the past months.
I am so small you might say, so insignificant, but it is our relationship that has made me think of so many other parts of myself I’ve been neglecting, adjusting, and modifying for approval. How many quirks am I hiding away, shaving off, cutting down, taming, dying just to fit in. To conform to expectations of who I am, to blend in? What other parts of me am I covering in fear of society’s reactions?
I’m a bit angry that I paid any attention when they said there was something in me that had to be changed in order to be a woman. Whatever that means. Whomever they are. Whatever that is.
My teenage feminist rage was shaved down. My impetus to grow was plucked off. My strong opinions and hasty decisions, judged. My love for boots, books, and solitude, questioned.
Because in the end, it was never you, it was always them.
You are not my whole world, this I hope is clear, but you have certainly been a door and for this I am grateful.
I’ll try to flaunt you this summer, because part of my magical thinking is convinced that if I manage to fight this public discomfort, work around my own stereotypes, own my beliefs and live up to my writing, I will start freeing myself slowly. As time has been helping me do and I only hope continues to.