Emma : Life as Mark & life as ME

February 26, 2017

Model :  Emma McAllister
Hair :  Jerica Wentzell
Makeup :  Jessi Smith
Photography :  Flofoto Photography
Guest Writer :  Emma McAllister

I approached Tennille with the thought of shooting some photos to accompany the announcement that I was transgender in 2016. I didn’t really have a clear idea of what
I wanted, but I expressed to her that I’ve always been exclusively perceived as intelligent, & wanted to be perceived as beautiful for once.

Tennille was enthusiastic from the get-go, but things happened to distract us both. I became impatient with my closet, made my announcement with a mediocre selfie,
& let the project slip from my mind. But Tennille’s continued enthusiasm was infectious. She proposed that we create a high concept series that highlighted the struggles
of my past & the peace I’ve found in the present.

I’ve never wanted to compartmentalize my past the way a lot of trans people do, but there is an undeniable distinction to be made between my life as Mark
& my life as Emma.

As Mark, I was never inauthentic, but I was always incomplete. I deliberately carved out
pieces of my identity to live up to the ideal of what was expected & needed from me.

The ‘Mark’ shoot was emotionally taxing. Gender dysphoria can play tricks with the mind, & I was afraid that seeing myself with a shaven head again would pull the
thread on the delicate self-acceptance I’ve achieved over the past few years. But the concept was pure, & I was heartened by the thought that it would take hours of
makeup work to bring my old, damaged self back to life.

The ‘Emma’ shoot was more physically challenging, but it was a joy. Laying on Tennille’s floor was awkward, & seeing Tennille hang over me from a ladder induced
fears of death by falling photographer. But I was in the most capable of hands, not just Tennille but the wonderful Jessi Smith & Jerica Wentzell as well. Jessi especially,
a literal Renaissance lady, was indispensable in making me as comfortable as I could be in a situation where Agave nectar was burning my eyes.

It’s hard to say exactly what came over me in that moment we got the perfect shot, but I think it was a break in my attitude toward myself. In the unmistakable confidence
of the team, I found confidence in my body.

The results defy my every hope. I’m always regarded as intelligent, first, foremost, & often in seclusion. But intellect can’t be understood separate from beauty. There is
no truthful separation between mind & body, so I can’t be honestly appreciated unless I am understood as beautiful in the pureness of my being. I’m just as guilty of
making this mistake as anyone else.


But it’ll be hard to ever make that mistake again. Nietzsche teaches us that our lives are best treated as
works of art, so here is my bare soul presented as art. It can’t be called anything other than beautiful.