Do I Really Look Beautiful?

We sit by the fireside
in your warm room.
You steal glances at me,
and I pretend to be blind.

You tell me that I look beautiful.
I smile sheepishly and look down.
Winter, my favourite season,
seems to make me look beautiful
or perhaps simply hides my insecurities
well enough under the warm pullover.

Anxiously, I think about the hair
growing all over my body,
trying to prick the femininity
that I am forced to wear
to be called a woman.
They say being a woman is tough
but perhaps, proving yourself as one is tougher.

I think about the time when I was nine.
Maa asked me to not raise my arm in class.
I could not let everyone know
that my matured underarm had already become a refuge for small hair,
while my classmates still wore baby skin.
I had failed to inherit Maa’s femininity, so I inherited her silence.
I repressed all my questions in classes because they would only answer my fears.

At 18, boys told me that I had a better moustache than them.
They laughed and moved ahead, thinking that thick hair probably grows on thick skin.
The supposed moustache has veiled my voice along with my face.
It keeps the key to my mouth,
and holds me from saying anything when you tell me that I look beautiful.

The sideburn that borders my face
makes my gender a debate.
Like a waterfall, it flows from my ears to my heart,
taking with itself slurs that tear me apart.
Little lads prick it and ask me if I am a man in disguise
“No, I am a woman,” I try to tell them but it gets lost in sobs and cries.

Summers bring with itself bright sun for you
and immense pain for me.
My skin has to cry tears of blood
to look as fresh as my favourite floral dress.
Behind the closed doors of “beauty salons”,
I routinely see disgrace when I am coerced into
waxing parts of my body I didn’t even know breathed.
I keep shedding my unwomanly skin until what is left are burnt wax marks.
When you tell me again that I am beautiful,
I hear nothing but the scornful laugh these marks share amongst themselves.
Yet, I keep locking myself behind these doors because they still hurt less than being misgendered.

You tell me I am beautiful and I shall ask you to wait.
Wait until I become brave enough to unlock myself.

Tripti Moolchandani is a third-year English Literature student from Gargi College, University of Delhi. 

Featured image: Lisa Marie Trunkenbolz/Flickr