1. Do not, under any circumstances, feel like you need to define your selfhood to anyone else.
2. As someone with a facial difference who has been socialized as a girl, I always feel like I need to make a bold statement for my desires or activity in regards to romance, like beat my chest and rip my hair and yell in the camera’s eye, “This is me!,” as every move I make or thought I have or thing that I am the object of that is gendered and sexualized is being watched by an inquisitive person, group of people, or world.
3. I feel like I am somehow so radical for liking someone, for anything on that spectrum, from physical to intellectual. I feel like my affection is something special because, in public, I am treated “like a special person,” as there is also a normal standard for romance, or love, or affection, and because I look different I do not fit that, and could never fit into the stories I watch or read or hear. Even loving myself, as in, truly appreciating who I am, seems to be a radical act at some times.
4. There is no standard for romance, or love, or affection.
5. As individuals, we each have different connections to and narratives of romance, though it is so easy to imagine romance as a simple, cohesive structure that looks a certain way because it does so in so many movies, songs, books. It can be really easy to get down on yourself because you aren’t fitting a standard set by characters of your favorite stories.
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6. I think it is very easy to say things like, “As someone with a facial difference, I experience love differently,” because we are treated differently than those without facial differences. When you, as someone with a facial difference, experience a romance or a mutual love, it is very easy to think, “Am I imagining this?’ because the world we live in makes it so difficult to believe that we can find love.
7. I am at the point where I realize that I do not want things to be completely obvious.
8. RuPaul has this saying, “If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell are you going to love someone else?” I have meditated on that so hard that it is woven into my psyche now, though lots of times it’s more of a gentle hum than a constant surge.
9. My friends sometimes remind me about how I never show up to the party, or say I’ll be right back when I’m hanging out with them and then never come back. I don’t always remember these instances, but I’m very content alone.
10. Yesterday, I happily stepped out of my one-bedroom apartment and walked to a restaurant to pick up some carryout. When I found myself alone at the counter, felt myself being watched, and felt myself tense up. Then I thought, “What am I doing? I have nothing to be scared of.”
11. It is good to recognize negative thoughts and try to track down the source before you try to quash them. I think it’s fine to let things sit for a while, so you can really pick them apart.
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[Feature Image: A photo of a head in silhouette and back lit. Behind them is a dark blue curtain. Source: I .. C .. U]