My life has constantly been cycles of gender dysphoria, questions about sexuality, and repression. As a small child I only cared to be known as Peter Pan, but after puberty my life got very confusing. I was extremely uncomfortable in my body. I went as far as to turn all of my mirrors around and isolate myself in school. I had three very close friends, one that called me Peter, one that called me Michaela, and one that called me Mickey. I was very closeted in school and at home and hid most of my gender and sexuality confusion from everyone (and definitely from my family). I didn’t even have the words to describe how I felt; my vocabulary didn’t encompass how I felt in-between and disconnected from myself. All I knew was that I was angry and sad.
Through all of this confusion I became increasingly uncomfortable and entered college feeling like a liar. I went to class in dirty, baggy clothes, hiding my body and still turning my mirrors around. After months of isolating, I met Juan Esandi. Juan is a photographer and at the time he was working as a grip on a student film that I was performing in. We struck up a close bond and on one particularly hard night alone I came out to him as basically very, very confused and uncomfortable. We were in the parking lot around the Village (buildings 4, 5, and 6). I showed him pictures I had been taking of myself expressing my masculinity where I felt the happiest with my body. He told me he saw me and that’s all that mattered. He took out his camera even though it was too dark, even though he only had one lens, even though my contour was uneven, and even though our only backdrop was a bike-rack and a dumpster.
I chose to show this photo series because it essentially is my “coming out.” And when Juan started showing me the pictures I was amazed by how confident I looked and felt. I felt like I’d emptied my lungs of a breath I’d been holding for a very long time and it was so important for me to have been validated when I didn’t even know that’s what I was searching for. I love the aggression in the shoot because I felt like I was claiming my body for me and I behind the ferocity is Juan shouting, “YES!” “Hold your chin up, you don’t have to be silly for me; I’ve been closeted before too.” I titled the work Esandi after him.