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Gender Diaries: Sean Santiago

Sean Santiago
Photography: Lia Clay

"I wish I could be obsessed with myself."

They say sexuality is who you go to bed with and gender is who you go to bed as. TBH, who the fuck do I go to bed as? Who knows that? How often does the answer to that question change?

I made a resolution on social media this year, half-jokingly, that the level of hotness I want to achieve is "burdensome." A few months ago a man whistled at me from his car while I was wearing a baby tee, so... #goals?

Of course the idea that hotness is a thing achieved on someone else's terms--a feeling shaped by so many approving glances or likes on every new Facebook profile photo--is problematic AF.

I still remember the fear I had as a child about my sexual identity, the bodies I found myself attracted to, fixated on. I don't think I took into account how little these other bodies taught me about my own. How little I thought about my own body on its own terms, outside of its desire for an other. What did it want for itself? I guess it might be weird to articulate these questions as if they could be separate from what I want. But I guess that's why I'm writing a gender diary.

I look up "femininity" on my Macbook's dictionary. After the definition it gives the example sentence, "She celebrates her femininity by wearing makeup and high heels,"like some perversion of Walt Whitman's Song of Myself; "I celebrate myself, and sing myself." A woman celebrates her appeal to men, and sings about shoes.


Photography: Lia Clay

What is Truth(tm) and how does one "live it"?

I cut my face into a million parts and pieces on Instagram because I think those are the only parts worth seeing. Because I caught my reflection in a mirror the other day and I felt like giving up; my receding hairline, my hairy arms, my big hands, bony and freckled. Does gender matter if a person is mostly forehead?

Sometimes it feels like every good feeling I have about myself is in spite of my Truth(tm); like there's always some angle in some mirror that will expose me as just some dumb ugly faggot who looks like shit and why would you ever dress like that?

And so I look at myself a lot.

I think we associate femininity with vanity because we spend so much time telling women and femmes that they're not good enough and also that self-obsession is bad. I wish I could be obsessed with myself. So obsessed with myself that I think I can do anything, like run the entire free world.

But visibility makes me nervous. Being seen and heard makes me nervous because I think I'm not worth it, although I like to form a lot of strong opinions and yell them at parties. But that's just something I got from my mom. Thanks, mom.

Originally published on

Advocate Channel - The Pride StoreOut / Advocate Magazine - Fellow Travelers & Jamie Lee Curtis

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Sean Santiago