When Beauty Isn’t Worth the Price

pretty young blond girl with eyes blacked out for anonymity

Laurie and Debbie say:

When Devon Price decided to transition from female to male, addresses how he gave up something that tens of millions of people yearn to have. His post, “I Gave Up Beauty to Be Me,” in Human Parts on Medium, tells that story:

… despite constantly being told that I was the perfect specimen of womanhood, I knew I wasn’t a woman, and I loathed being seen as one.

Having something that others desperately wanted, yet knowing it wasn’t really for me produced a kind of twisted guilt. I hadn’t asked to be the perfect woman. I never wanted this body. It came with a lot of social power, but it felt like a cage.

Before transition, Price struggled with eating disorders, and also struggled with some of the consequences of being traditionally beautiful — and got about the sympathy for it that you might expect.

Complaining about this rarely went well. People thought I was being a spoiled brat. My friend Jane, for example, had little sympathy when I ranted about a man who’d approached me on the street and asked me on a date. “I hate it,” I told her. “He knew nothing about me and yet he thought he wanted to hang out with me. I don’t want people to decide they like me based on what my body looks like.” …

“If you don’t want that kind of attention, stop dressing the way you do. You could make yourself uglier if you wanted to.”

At that time, I was putting almost no effort into my appearance. . I cut my own hair, badly. I had never plucked my eyebrows. All my clothing was from the bargain bin at Forever 21. I never moisturized.

None of that mattered. I looked conventionally hot anyway. I was young, thin, and white, with skin that birth control pills had rendered clear and supple. I was blonde. I had almost no body hair. I had a large chest and a small waist. I was a shy fertility goddess that didn’t have too much courage and didn’t take up too much space. I was exactly what people believed a woman should be.

The problems of women who are conventionally hot are real problems. The tyranny of the beauty hierarchy is that everyone on it is objectified and stereotyped. At the same time, it’s clear that if Price hadn’t been gender dysphoric (and hadn’t had eating disorder issues), those problems would have had a lot more societal compensation attached.



But for Price, needing to be himself was — literally — a matter of life and death.

Some people think trans-masculine people chose to transition because we were “failures” at being women. Others think we transition in order to get attention — we want to be special, to become eye-catching by being strange. Both claims are totally laughable to me. I just wanted to survive.

For many gender dysphoric people, for the ones who know who they are and are forced to live in the world as someone else, nothing compensates for the lived lie. In the face of Price’s story, the descriptions he raises–looking for attention, failing at being women–fall completely apart. They fall so completely apart that they no longer apply even to transmasculine people who were, in some sense, “failures at being women,” or who crave the different kind of attention that men get in this world.

Of course, it wasn’t a magical journey, where you flip a switch and all your doubts, concerns, and fears go away:

I still feel doubts. I still worry that one day I will regret squandering the loveliness I once had. Men aren’t lovely, I sometimes think when I’m afraid. Men don’t deserve tenderness. Men are not beautiful. Nobody will baby a man when he’s sick. Nobody will hold him while he sobs. No one will look on him with wonder or adoration. Do I really want to head in that direction? Won’t it be lonesome, to stop being a precious object?

I keep testing those fears against reality, and I keep finding the fears wanting.  Masculine people are lovely. Men and nonbinary people are precious jewels just as much as women are. We all deserve love.

We celebrate Devon Price for at least three things: for being a truth-teller; for doing what he had to do to survive and thrive in his body; and for finding a way to reconcile giving up the power of beauty in favor of being himself