“In a world of hook-up apps, the sharing of naked selfies has become a norm. Once a picture is online, it’s there forever. So, how do we stay in control?” asks Andy Kane.
Learning to be open and honest about who we are is a cornerstone experience of being LGB or T, and a recurring theme in many of our lives. To come out of the closet, firstly we have to be in it, so we know what it’s like to keep secrets. We also know how to adapt to better fit in, to protect ourselves by remaining hidden in plain sight.
My life has been a process of peeling away layers to reveal myself. It hasn’t always been easy, but I continue to try and reveal deeper aspects of my being as I attempt to communicate my truth. I do this by being open with loved ones, even when it is painful to be vulnerable. I have done this with my sexuality by being honest with people about my queer experience, especially when that revelation threatens to colour someone’s judgement. And I do it with my body every time I unlock my private album on Scruff.
I feel proud of people who are unafraid to reveal themselves and who use their physical body as a tool to do so.
Through the evolution of technology, the naked selfie has become a part of our world, almost second nature; a part of the conversation. Individually we can be shamed but the more of us that are open with our bodies the less power others will have over us. Nudity allows us all to see what we have in common. Our skin is truthful. We are all similar underneath or clothes, even more so under the skin. We store our emotions in our bodies and revealing ourselves physically, for me at least, helps me to feel that I am being recognised for who I am.
When I come across a friend’s nudes on Tumblr (put there by choice might I add, for there are many of us who share images of ourselves willingly), I don’t see it as a negative. I feel proud of people who are unafraid to reveal themselves and who use their physical body as a tool to do so. Though I prefer webcam over still photography, I have regularly shown my body to the world.
While some consider it perverse to show off, for me it’s an act of political transgression in the face of an orthodox society. All this being said, I still hold back. Though I’m comfortable with my body and even show off in the digital world, the fear that it could come back to haunt me is real. Revealing too much is always scary, but the Internet is potentially forever and once an image is out there, it is almost impossible to control. For me, however, the answer isn’t hiding ourselves, but rather deconstructing the shame associated with showing ourselves.
In the last few years I’ve struggled with revealing myself. Thinking back on my childhood I was always willing to be the clown, the first to put my hand up when no one else was willing to risk a wrong answer. From the age of ten I made a conscious decision not to be embarrassed, to force myself beyond such feelings so that I could make the most of my life. Then couple of years ago someone who I care deeply for called me an embarrassment to my face. It broke me down. It scuppered all the work I had done to build up my confidence over the years. I felt like I had sent them a picture of my naked body and they had lorded it over me, used it to take my power.
For the first time it occurred to me that while resolutely refusing to be embarrassed I may have actually been making a damn fool out of myself and simply refusing to see it. Suddenly it was as though a dam broke and 20 years of shame came cascading down over me. I began to feel exposed, afraid that I had been absolutely misunderstood – maybe I should have been embarrassed for myself the whole time? I may have been happy to show off my body, but suddenly I was afraid to show people who I was as a person.
So how do I make sure that I am as comfortable being emotionally vulnerable as I am being uninhibited elsewhere in my life? As much as it matters to be to be radically slutty, it is just as important to be emotionally honest and real about who I am, as well as being supportive and inclusive of others who are bravely vulnerable.
Self-acceptance plays out in all areas of the self. My goal is to be completely open about who I am, emotionally, physically, spiritually and sexually. Honesty allows me to be truly in control of myself.
Piece originally published in GCN Issue 320.
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