"Every man is the builder of a temple, called his body, to the god he worships, after a style purely his own, nor can he get off by hammering marble instead. We are all sculptors and painters, and our material is our own flesh and blood and bones. "
Henry David Thoreau
Transness as a lived experience is one of metamorphosis. It comes in many chapters, each slowly unfurling into the next. One day you wake up and realize there is something not quite right about the skin you are living in, a sense of discomfort and incorrectness that seeps from your bones. Dysphoria, for me, has always felt like a strange wrongness. It's a liminal space inside my mind, an uncanny valley effect when I look in the mirror, it’s music that’s just a little off-key. It’s a feeling that’s followed me my entire life, something I wrote off as just depression, just body insecurity, just my broken mind. But realizing it was gender dysphoria, realizing I was trans, was simultaneously one of the hardest realizations I have ever made and the most freeing. Because it opened the door to transitioning. There was an answer to the discomfort that had lingered my entire life, a solution to my skin that never seemed to fit quite right.
And it came in a little glass vial.
“Look inside of me and see that I am not afraid
To walk inside the void like a kid inside a cave
Discovering the patterns of my soul and where it’s placed
I’ve been mapping many caverns but it still feels like a maze
I know I’m made of clay that’s worn
Blinded by imperfect form
But I will trust the artist molding me
I am creation, both haunted and holy
Made in glory”
Transitioning has been one of the most empowering, healing, and freeing things I have ever done. To take my body into my own hands, and sculpt it into what I wanted it it to be. To have a hand in my own creation. I had tasted some of this euphoria in getting piercings and tattoos, cutting and coloring my hair. But none of that held a candle to taking hormones, to watching my body literally grow into what it was always meant to be. The act of transitioning is a difficult one, it requires medications, needles, injections, and surgeries for many of us. It’s more than just sculpting clay, we must tear apart our own skin and stitch it back together in our own image. This process is often demonized or at a minimum viewed as an undesirable side effect of being trans. But as someone deeply entrenched in the world of body modification, someone who has always looked at the act of bleeding as sacred, as celebration, as ritual, this element of transitioning spoke to me. I welcomed the kiss of the needle filled with little hormones, I celebrated the scalpel and the suture as tools of the sacred. Little pills were my eucharist, holy as they passed over my tongue. I love this part of transitioning, I am honored to be trans so I can partake in this beautiful act of creation.
“God made trans people for the same reason they made wheat but not bread, and grapes but not wine. So that humanity might share in the act of creation.” - J. Jarboe
I wanted to do these play piercings as a way to honor the divine alchemy of transness. To look at the process of being trans, the act of injecting ourselves every week as a sacred ritual, and to celebrate and uplift that. There is magic in what we do, in choosing our own body as our medium. Becoming an artist of skin and blood and scars. I wanted to reflect that process. 28 needles encircling the navel, the area where many of us take our injections. All surrounding that little glass vial, the container that holds an elixir that gives us life, brings our soul and our body into alignment and is the most magical of every body modification I have ever done.
Thank you to Alex, for volunteering your body as a canvas for this image, and Tyler for capturing the process. Thank you to Rob for inspiring me to walk this path and speak my truth. And a special thank you to every trans client who has graced my piercing room, for sharing your energy, your experience, and your journey with me. Forever humbled and grateful to work within this community.