Why I don’t throw out my childhood photos of deadname

A photo says a thousand words. As a former photojournalist that phrase rings very true to me. I never pursued a career as a photographer full time. I did it on the side or as a part of another job. I was a wedding photog one summer but I’d never do that again. I’m too old to deal with that nightmare. 

I am like trans people in that I didn’t like getting my picture taken much before transitioning. One of the reasons I don’t often participate in Throwback Thursday is I literally don’t have a lot of pictures of me to show. I do have a photo album and couple of frames that hold multiple photos but overall there’s just not a ton of images of me that exist. Not good ones anyways. So why do I cherish the ones that I have despite hating how I looked as a kid?

This is complicated and might be triggering for some but the truth is, I was always there even in those images. That kid, that scared little girl pretending to be a boy, she might have had boy cloths on the outside but she was wearing panties underneath. She was listening to Spice Girls in her headphones at those family outings. Even though the world saw a young boy, in her mind she was always a girl. And so even though pre-transition phots of me are triggering I keep them around as a reminder of how far I’ve come. It shows me what I went through. What I endured to get here. 

I don’t plan on sharing a ton of pictures of my pre-transition self but I intend to put a few out there that are meaningful to me. Those are just as much my memories as they are deadnames. I can reconcile the fact had to live a double life to survive into adulthood. In a way I can write them off as Halloween costumes I wore year round. No matter how I look at it I can’t completely bury my past entirely. I would rather spend my time and energy making new memories than dwelling on things I can’t change. That being said I can at least look back fondly on the good times I had. I can cherish the memories that were helpful and bury the ones that were harmful. In the end it’s a reminder of how much change is a part of our lives.

I don’t keep them on the display where people can see them. But I am not going to throw away all the old photos of my past. Life is too short to hold onto hate and regret. I’d rather move towards my goal of finding true happiness, whatever that looks like. I carry my battle scars with me everywhere I go. They define me. I have no shame in who I am, or who I was or what it took to shape me into the woman I am today.

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Stephanie Bri

A transgender writer who also does podcasts and videos.