Posted in Blog Series

In Defense of Selfies by Rey Noble

I’m so excited to welcome my friend Rey to the blog today. They are a sweetheart, and so wonderful and kind. They are a writer and podcaster with incredible fur babies. I love Rey’s selfies and it’s one of the things I miss most about Twitter right now, but you can see their perfect face on their Twitter.

The existence of being queer often comes with the cloying sense of loss. Whether it be the loss of our childhood, our safety within our communities, or familial, loss is something is a like a rotating door. The question isn’t necessarily when will we stop feeling it; the question is how long we will go without. There isn’t much to sate the feeling that the loss can bring with it, one of many symptoms of its ever-going plague, but with time I’ve found something that does what it can to heal the wound. It doesn’t get rid of the scar, and it certainly will not dull the pain, but it distracts and strengthens us so that we can pick ourselves up and move forward. So that the next loss, we know how to navigate, how to feel and find ourselves.

Bear with me, because this is the moment that you may disagree: it’s selfies.

I know. It feels callous and ridiculous and why on Earth would a vain, digital incarnation of your face do anything to combat the loss that so many of us feel so often over the course of our lives? How could something so measly in comparison possibly be a response, nay, a reaction to such an overbearing and ever-hanging cloud of dread and despair?

If you’re here, I assume you’ve heard of the notion of pride.

Not Pride as in “it’s not a party it’s a protest”, but the core element of the word: satisfaction and fulfillment with yourself. Whether that be because of something we created or something we found within ourselves. Especially at this time of year, when rainbows are being shoved down our throats by the corporations that fund to keep us down the other eleven months, I think we find it easy to conflate Pride with exactly that. Rainbows, parties, glitter and parades. In the queer community, Pride is a spectacle, Pride is a demonstration, but pride, with a lowercase p? That sort of pride can be what turns the loss you feel inside of yourself into something that you can be proud of.

I used to hate selfies. I hated the notion of taking photos of yourself just because. Why would anyone ever want to look at themselves that much? Why would anyone ever take the time to angle their face just so and find that perfect lighting? It felt strangely audacious and mystifying to me. And as is the way of humans when faced with things we don’t understand, I lashed out at them because they scratched against a deep seated insecurity of mine. I had little to no confidence within myself. When iPhones and instagram were becoming popular enough that selfies were slowly taking over, I made snide remarks to my friends about how conceited people must be to take them so often. I ignored the fact that I, someone who at the time identified as a queer woman and was not out to anyone but her closest friends (my identity and pronouns have changed since then), had no self esteem and thus had nothing to feel worth taking photos of. I ignored the fact that I spent so much of my life hiding from myself that I didn’t realize that that hidden person deserved to be seen. I didn’t understand that the hate I felt for selfies was really directed at the fact that I didn’t think I deserved to feel as good about myself as the people who did feel like they could take and post selfies.

A quick scroll through my personal Instagram will show you how often I took selfies up until the year I came out. I almost never, ever took photos of my face – and when I did, they were at odd angles, trying to get my face to look as different as possible from reality or using my hair to distract. Up until mid-2015, every selfie I took made it incredibly obvious just how unhappy I was with myself and who I was. I came out as a lesbian in February of 2016, and almost immediately afterward the uptick in my selfies is evident – and I can tell you that in real life, the spirit that I had slowly been tamping down was beginning to find its way back to the surface. The more comfortable I felt in my identity, the more comfortable I felt in my body and with myself as a whole. I’ve learned more about myself since then – three years later and I’ve found that I was never a queer woman to begin with, but nonbinary, and my sexuality has broadened. Selfies have taken over my instagram, documenting moments that I felt confident in my transness, documenting the slow shift of my identity and discovering more about who I am with each post. With each photo I was able to see myself appreciating me more. Appreciating my journey from past to present, and feeling hopeful for the future in a way I couldn’t before. Nothing makes me feel quite as good as when someone sees an old photo of me and says, “that doesn’t look anything like you!” because it’s proof that not only have I changed, but I’ve grown. I’ve laid roots in myself when before I had always pulled them up, too afraid to let them find their way into the soil.

Now, I’m not saying that taking selfies has completely and utterly changed my life and led me to my identity or anything of the sort. I’m just saying that I don’t feel the same sort of emptiness that loss brings when I am able to look back at myself – from years ago to yesterday – and know that in the process of it all, I found myself – and at this time of the year, for Pride? I don’t think there is anything better we can do to celebrate the month than celebrate ourselves, in our fullest capabilities.

So take that selfie and feel that swell of pride in your chest as you know you’ve captured another moment of your beautiful, ever changing journey. You deserve it.

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