I used to passionately detest the way I looked.

I grew a beard and kept it from about age 21 until right before I began transitioning, and GOD I hated it. On myself, anyway. On others I had no issue with beards, but I kept that thing for just one reason: my dysphoria made me damn paranoid that people would "figure out" that I didn't belong in male spaces.

It also meant that every time I saw myself in a mirror or a photo I got uncomfortable. I couldn't see what I looked like - I only saw a body which felt wrong for ~me~. Like I was wearing a clown suit and everybody was just being polite by not mentioning it. For this reason, I think there are more pictures of me these days in a given week than were previously taken in an entire year.

Early in my transition, I hated seeing any remaining pictures of past-me. It made me uncomfortable because all I saw were similarities, and I'd get worried that I looked too much like the guy that I saw in those photos.

As time passed, it stoped bothering me. It instead became fascinating. I'd look at old pictures (as rare as they are) and think, "Holy shit. Was that ME?"

I don't miss that body one bit. I don't miss the discomfort, the paranoia, the self-consciousness, or the feeling that I was absolutely ugly in every way. That anyone who gave me compliments on my looks must be objectively wrong. I learnt not to say as much over time, but the fact remained that I felt there was something fundamentally wrong with my body in a way that nobody's else's was.

Now I can stare at pictures of past-me fairly objectively, and see... just a guy. Not an ugly one. A perfectly reasonable-looking one. I recognise I could well have spent more time on my appearance - could have tried some interesting personal styles.

I don't feel bad that I didn't, of course - I was too uncomfortable in my own skin to do that - but I no longer feel it would have been a futile endeavour.

I didn't look as bad in a suit or tie as I thought I did. My face didn't look "wrong". My beard kinda suited me. As much as a really-gay girl like me can, I can see some aesthetic appeal and understand why some of my partners or flirty acquaintances were attracted to me.

For me, this realisation is a pleasant form of catharsis.

I'll always have had those awful dysphoria-related issues - nothing will change that - but I am past them affecting my day-to-day life, and I can look back on who I was (physically, at least) and no longer find myself feeling quite so deeply uncomfortable.

That was me. A past body. Pre-regeneration. I look mind-bendingly different now, and I'm slowly becoming okay with both past-me and present-me. (Though I'm 90% sure we wouldn't have made great friends.)