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Headshot of me with long hair, pink lip stick, light makeup Kara Babcock

Feeling sexy

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Yesterday I wore a sleeveless mock neck bodysuit with a toucan print to work. I paired it with a black, pleated midi skirt, navy tights, a royal blue cardigan, and a mustard headband. I rocked a little bit of gold and pink eyeshadow. I felt good for most of the school day. Then I went home, and as I was washing my hands, I looked in the mirror. The woman staring back at me—and she looked like a woman—was stunning. The headband helped to emphasize how long her hair had become and frame her face; her makeup was exemplary, and her whole outfit just seemed to work for her. That woman was me.

This isn’t the first time this has happened. I have these days, when I’m just obsessed with myself. I’m sure most of you, including my cis readers, can identify with that, with the way that the right outfit can make you feel powerful and confident—make you feel sexy. What I need you to understand is that prior to this year, I had never felt that before. No outfit—not my T-shirt and shorts, socks and sandals standby; not any of the suits I ever wore; certainly never my awkard, beltless black jeans—ever, even for a single moment, made me feel sexy and put together. I always felt awkward and out of place.

This realization—that I can and indeed I want to feel sexy in what I wear—is perhaps the most surprising revelation I’ve experienced in my first year in transition.

Composite photo. Left: a portrait shot of me in a sleeveless toucan print bodysuit and black pleated midi skirt. Right: a selfie closeup of my head.

Back in October, I wrote about the intersections of my trans and asexual identities. I talked about how coming out to myself has helped me understand parts of my ace identity I had been a little confused about. TL;DR: turns out I wasn’t attracted to Rachel Weisz in The Mummy because I think she’s pretty; I was attracted to her all these years because, deep down, I want to be her character.

Before I came out to myself, when I only conceived of myself as asexual, my relationship with my own appearance and external self was very subdued. I cared about looking put together and professional, but I didn’t revel in my appearance. I kept my hair short because it was easy; I wore the same type of outfit to work every day, etc. To me, the idea that looking good might make me feel good felt like a very alien concept. Yet that isn’t true for all asexual people—Yasmin Benoit is an asexual model who has spoken at length about how she models lingerie to feel empowered and confident in her body, not to be attractive for others. This was a very interesting viewpoint for me to read—but it wasn’t until I started to transition that I began to internalize and truly comprehend what Benoit meant.

This is not something I expected—I kind of thought wearing dresses and tights would make me feel happier, but I had no frame of reference to conceive of what that actually would feel like. Now, a year in, I am starting to understand. Certain styles make me feel powerful. The high neckline with bare arms? Yes. Please. Block heels, sleek tights, and a short dress that shows off my legs? Hell. Yeah. My hair is getting longer and my dresses are getting shorter and I am feeling sexier with each passing day.

That’s not hyperbole. I’ve gone from never feeling this way in 30 years of my life to feeling it multiple times a week, if I’m lucky. It’s a euphoria that comes from finally allowing myself to take joy in my appearance. To experiment and indulge in my style, rather than constrain myself to what is easy to manage or shop for or whatnot. Having changed the channel, as I like to put it, I have discovered I love fashion and clothes because they help me show all of you the happiness I’m feeling inside.

It has been about one year since I realized I am trans. When I lay in bed on a Sunday night wrestling with this big question, utterly terrified of what it meant, until I finally had to accept that I had arrived at an epic epiphany that was, whether I liked it or not, going to rock my world. The week that followed, as I started to unpack what this meant for me and explored telling the people close to me, was this whirlwind. Every single day since then I have thought, almost nonstop, about my gender. About how I look, how I’m perceived, and how I see myself.

It’s exhausting.

But it has also been rewarding. My journey so far has been full of surprises as well as joy. I will discuss more in a blog post to celebrate the anniversary of my official coming out. For now, I wanted to mark the anniversary of coming out to myself. I wasn’t sure, that sleepless Sunday night, what I was doing or what would happen. But I took a leap of faith, and I embraced a big change. Now almost every day, I feel sexy.