The Most Authentic Version

Sophia L., Class of 2023

I had been hiding most of my life. As a child, I wore eccentric, weird clothing that set me apart. Even though there I was, in clothes that blared my existence for all to see, the clothes also served as a shield that prevented people from getting close–both in all the ways you could imagine. I never let social norms prevent me from being my weird self. When I was in first grade, I refused to brush my hair because my scalp was so sensitive, and doing so always left me in tears. So, I was given an ultimatum: start brushing my hair or get it all cut off. I chose the ladder. The next day we went to the hairdresser and I experienced a magical, indescribable feeling when I saw my new, stereotypically boyish hairstyle. It felt like I had just seen myself for the first time.

At the beginning of 2021, I found myself falling for someone that did not fit into my idea of who I should love. I began questioning my sexuality, but I was still clinging onto hope that I could end up with a man because I believed that was what I was supposed to do. I came out as pansexual and later realized that when I picture my future, it is never with a man. Even after coming out as a lesbian, I continued suppressing aspects of my identity that I believed to be socially unacceptable. After beginning my junior year, I started experimenting with and expressing myself through clothing as I had done before gender norms were shoved down my throat. During this time, I was struggling with a restrictive eating disorder and looser fitting clothing allowed me to simply exist without the pressure of displaying my body to the world in claustrophobic form-fitting clothing. I was repressing the parts of myself I believed wouldn’t allow me to fit nicely into society’s beauty standards. I was writing off these feelings of discontent with my body with something I perceived to be more socially acceptable: body dysmorphia. I believed that being thin would make these feelings go away, but they only became increasingly cruel. What prompted my recovery was this experimentation with clothing and masculinity, which for me, meant concealing my chest, which I believed was what “made me look fat.” The reason for this was that I didn’t feel like they belonged on my body. I wasn’t fat because I had breasts, I was uncomfortable with having them.

After cutting my hair short again and spending time on and with myself, I just wanted to be myself without living under the constraints of heteronormativity. So, I came out as myself, just a human being. I don’t identify with any of the established genders. Though some of them are close, there just is no box that I fit in. I am just Sophie and that is enough. This is the happiest I have been since I got that first short haircut as a child.

This is the whole reason I’m pursuing a career in reconstructive plastic surgery, so I can specialize in gender-affirming procedures and help people like me. I have always known I wanted to help people and, after taking the time to learn about myself, I finally know how I will. I aim to live as my most authentic self, and this career will allow me to help others to feel at home in their bodies and live as the most authentic versions of themselves. I am going to offer a necessary service that affirms their identity and reaffirms the validity of their existence. A life lived to the fullest extent can only be one that is lived authentically. Only a life lived authentically is a life lived to the fullest extent.