The impact of wearing a mask

I was 5 years old when I first had plastic for a face. My mother bought it with my birthday money – and if you were to put this in reverse, it would still be my parents’ money. She explained that I could easily be mistaken for an adult, and her own face was becoming more unkempt and you could not take your eyes off me. It was clear to me then that I had joined the cult. It felt important to remain anonymous.

Growing up, I knew I was different from the start. I hated sitting next to my friends at school, wearing makeup, and I came out as queer years later. I’ve come to understand that this is something most young people go through. Even if we don’t want to look like each other – we know that we should be comfortable in our own skin. We’re all just kids who were born with a bit more than most. We need to embrace our uniqueness and be who we truly are.

I love wearing masks to protect myself from judgement, which I do every day. In India, where I come from, people consider the transgender community to be vulgar, trashy and dirty. One of the characteristics that make the transgender community “sexual”, is “gender expression”, which means they use their genitals as a form of expression, often as a form of expression against what society sees as asexuality. While I don’t use my genitals as a way of expression in India, it did once make me feel uncomfortable to wear makeup, since I fear it will make people think that I’m actually a man, since I have the same set of genitalia. So masking myself was my way of asserting my gender. It’s also a way of creating different experiences, so I can stay true to who I really am, and hopefully not be pigeonholed.

Masks have had a profound effect on how I see and have received compliments from the ones I love the most. I understand why they create an emotional connection, because I have been teased for something inside myself that I now like more than I do outside of my gender expression. There’s nothing wrong with expressing yourself within your own time and space, but when people try to do that in the public eye, it can backfire. They can face shaming and bullying for how they dress, and they can suffer negative consequences, including losing their livelihood. Some people say I’m a man. Some say I’m a woman. I want to love how I look, because whether I’m my own person or someone else’s – who I am in my private life should be no one’s business.

Can you remember a time when you felt at home wearing a mask? Share in the comments below.

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