Art, Artist, gender, Transgender artist

Gender Identity and the Dreaded Self Portait; At Least I Didn’t Cut My Ear Off

 

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Vincent Van Gogh “Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear” (Photo Credit: Public Domain)

Vincent Van Gogh cut his ear off. They claim he had mental Illness. Maybe he did – maybe he didn’t, I don’t know. Artists have demons. His demons caused him such distress that he physically harmed himself. He was emotional, passionate and intense; yet out of his element in that century. Van Gogh is one of my favorite painters. I related to him as an artist. Perhaps he struggled with his identity? He may have even hated his self-portraits. I dreaded mine. Self-portraits exposed me. I didn’t like being exposed. Deep down I knew something wasn’t right inside me. I never felt comfortable with my image. But at least I didn’t cut my ear off.

This past July I was recruited to do an “Ask Me Anything!” (AMA) event after being “found” on an illustrators group. I’d never heard of it before but after researching it, I was intrigued. I immediately signed up and soon after was hosting my first event.  The experience really touched me personally. It was this event that spawned the idea of  revamping my old blog. If you haven’t heard of AMA events, I urge you to check them out amafeed.com . I want to expound a bit on my answers to some very insightful questions I got from people during my event. One of the questions I was asked was, did I think hating my self-portraits had anything to do with my gender identity crises? To that I said, “I absolutely do!”  In fact as good as others thought my art was, I often felt it was not good enough or worse yet, they are lying (just to make me feel better) weird right? The imposter syndrome was always with me. Sure I liked my art. Sometimes I even loved my art. BUT it definitely brought out my self-hatred too, especially when I had to look in the mirror and do a self-portrait. I guess it was not the usual self-loathing that most people experience. It was a fear to portray myself as female. I thought to myself, is it okay that I looked and felt kinda like a guy anyhow? Gender identity was my Achilles heel . I was always trying to walk an imaginary line of androgyny. After all, androgyny was cool I thought, I’m an artist right? Also, I was struggling with never feeling quite right with being a “lesbian”. In fact, I never really self-identified that way, preferring instead to say that I was gay. This way I could avoid the female connotation, it was an easy and more accepted identity for me. I am very comfortable and relieved now that I’m not a lesbian. I never was. I am a male who is binary and straight. I was born transgender not cis-gender. This has been a huge relief because I harbored feelings that I might be homophobic or hated lesbians and felt extremely guilty about that. I haven’t picked up and explored self-portraits since transitioning. I suspect when I do it will be a better experience. I like how I look and feel now. I am not saying I won’t struggle at all, that would be absurd. However, I don’t have to agonize over my female features anymore. I can look in the mirror with confidence and ease. I finally like they way I look. Self-portaits aside, having transitioned to male and feeling my gender dysphoria slowly dissolve has been a sheer joy. This artistic journey, this human journey leaves me to wonder, what if Van Gogh lived today? Would it be different for him. Maybe he wouldn’t have cut off his ear?

© [Jay Mora-Shihadeh] and [thepainterspalate.wordpress.com], [2018]. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, artwork, or photo’s without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to [Jay Mora-Shihadeh] and [thepainterspalate.wordpress.com] with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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