When I was nine years old, I dressed exclusively in Spider-Man clothing from the boys’ department. By 13, I had carefully constructed a convincing argument that Lindsay Lohan wasn’t “hot,” she was “cool.” At 15, while all my friends were drooling over boys and tweaking at the thought of sex—I was busy filling sketchbooks with pencil drawings of the Spice Girls. The signs were all there; I knew I was different, but I had no idea why.
When I was 22, I realized my attraction to women wasn’t just emotional but was also sexual. It ruined me; I questioned every female friendship I’ve ever had, every glance we exchanged, and what it all meant. Worst of all, I felt like a dirty cop. For a decade, I was a mole, the inside man, watching my friends change, exchanging secret sexcapades, and comparing progress in boob size. But I wasn’t on their side. No, I was a double agent. I felt creepy and dishonest, a deeply sad thing to feel in response to natural impulses. Unfortunately, that deep-seated angst doesn’t just evaporate, and today, I still struggle with it. Whether it’s a sexual partner, stranger, or celebrity—whenever I want to stare, touch, or admire a woman from a distance, I feel dirty. After years of suppressing my queerness, my Pavlovian response to the bare female body (even my own) is to look away.
I shamed myself into a hole so deep that I not only struggled to admire other women, but I struggled to embrace my own shape.
The female form is inexplicably brilliant and beautiful. It comes in so many shapes, sizes, and colors with different marks, scars, stretches, imperfections, and unwanted hairs—and it’s lovely.
Original Illustration by Stephanie DeAngelis
Here at Byrdie, we know that beauty is way more than braid tutorials and mascara reviews. Beauty is identity. Our hair, our facial features, our bodies: They can reflect culture, sexuality, race, even politics. We needed somewhere on Byrdie to talk about this stuff, so… welcome to The Flipside (as in the flip side of beauty, of course!), a dedicated place for unique, personal, and unexpected stories that challenge our society’s definition of “beauty.” Here, you’ll find cool interviews with LGBTQ+ celebrities, vulnerable essays about beauty standards and cultural identity, feminist meditations on everything from thigh brows to eyebrows, and more. The ideas our writers are exploring here are new, so we’d love for you, our savvy readers, to participate in the conversation too. Be sure to comment your thoughts (and share them on social media with the hashtag #TheFlipsideOfBeauty). Because here on The Flipside, everybody gets to be heard.
Want to read more stories like this? Next, check out "Why Having a Beauty Icon Was So Important for My Femme Lesbian Identity."