What It’s Like Going Through A Second Puberty
Three trans and nonbinary people reflect on coming into their authentic selves.
For some trans and nonbinary people, coming into their true selves is like schoolkid adolescence all over again. From figuring out one’s style to navigating sometimes uncomfortable body developments, the identity formation process is another form of puberty through which they come to define their own unique beauty.
In partnership with Dove, we spoke to Anna Daliza, Angelica Grospe and Myles Bryan-Murray, three trans and nonbinary people who say they’ve experienced puberty-like revelations a second time as they’ve relished in their authenticity and self-esteem. The Dove Self-Esteem Project aims to empower young people by strengthening their body image and self-esteem. Here we discuss these three individuals’ relationship to beauty, and how they use their hair, makeup, etc to maintain their self-esteem and show the world their true selves. Our edited conversations are below.
What does confidence look like to you?
The most important thing about confidence to me is being able to laugh at yourself. For example, when I audition for a part in a movie, and the casting director isn't specifically looking for a trans person for that part, I can't let myself go to a negative headspace—even though it would be easy to do that. What's the point of being discouraged? If you can look at these confidence-shaping experiences with a little bit of humour, you'll make it through the tough parts with ease. In those moments, I just tell myself I'm going to surprise the hell out of the casting director, because they've likely never seen anyone as fabulous as I. And if I don't get the part, it's surely because they were overwhelmed by how show-stopping I might be.
Talk to me about your relationship to beauty, in the past and now.
While it's true that some trans women, femme and non binary people do not explore makeup until they're older and actualized in their truest form, I have been drawn to beauty products from a young age. The women in my life—my mother, sister, and especially my grandmother, who I called Tita—were always glamorous no matter the occasion. When I was very young, I would accompany my Tita to her weekly hair appointments and sit in the reception area reading fashion and beauty magazines, mostly looking at pictures.
In what ways did witnessing their routines impact your lived experience?
As I first started developing a beauty routine, I found that I was modelling myself after those women I looked up to as a young child and teen, and not only my mom, Tita, and sister, but also celebrities that struck me as glamorous. In more recent years, I've figured out what works and doesn't work for me with regards to my appearance, hair, makeup and beauty in general, and the women whose beauty I idolize have also undergone a change. I'm much more drawn to unique beauties. And the more that women [who are uniquely beautiful] enter the mainstream, walk major runways, get cast in important editorials, the more confident I feel in my own uniqueness.
How has your beauty routine changed as you learn more about how you want to be seen?
My beauty routine starts with embracing my own natural beauty, and its uniqueness. How I feel now is very different than I did years ago. For instance, I would straighten my hair day after day because I thought that long, straight tresses were more feminine than my natural, tight ringlets. And I can't even begin to describe the past assaults I've committed on my eyebrows! I believed that being beautiful required a process of transformation, like my Tita going to the salon.
Now, I love my curly hair, my thick, bushy brows, and my little hips and booty. I can't believe there was ever a time I suppressed those things for fear of standing out and being "imperfect." Since I've started embracing those parts of me that make me the most unique, I find that they are precisely what people compliment me on the most. Beauty standards are changing. The biggest lesson I've learned along the way: embrace, don't erase.
What small things help you keep your self-esteem intact in a world that can be so interested in how we look as people?
Take compliments seriously. Take them to heart. And don't take bad days too seriously.
In what ways have hair and makeup aided you in projecting your authentic self to the world?
At first, it was the act of wearing makeup that made me feel the most confident. At first, it was a defining act of defiance, then it became a sense of comfort and security. Now, the act of not wearing makeup is more meaningful to me. It means that I can project who I am without hiding, and still feel confident.
As a nonbinary person, what was your “second puberty” like?
I feel like going through this second puberty went hand-in-hand with discovering my authentic self. Seeing my body change made me realize that I, too, was changing and evolving in terms of my identity. Taking care of your mental and physical wellbeing goes hand-in-hand with how you create your identity, your appearance, with how you present yourself to the world. I did a lot of exploring of different hair styles looking to figure out what works best for me. And I also tried different methods of physical activity that made me feel confident and good about myself like lifting, dancing, boxing, and HIIT classes. The more I fueled my body and my mind with good energy and what made me feel happy, the more I was able to create the best version of myself.
Tell me about your relationship to your hair.
My hair is a reflection of who I am. I’m rebellious, spontaneous, care-free, adventurous, and vibrant. I like to take risks and I’m open to exploring and learning more about myself. I know people have an emotional attachment to their hair and that’s why people with long hair, for example, have a hard time cutting their hair off. But me changing my hair as often as I can and want to is my version of being emotionally attached to my hair. I’ve switched to having a shaved head to a bob cut to long locks like a horse. I’ve had orange hair, green hair, yellow hair, half pink/half purple. It all essentially depends on my mood which is most of the time spontaneous or bored.
How do you keep your self-esteem intact?
I remind myself that beauty and confidence comes from within and that you shouldn’t be comparing yourself to others. You should create your own version of beauty. I remind myself that everything that you do, you should do for yourself. Being authentic means that you don’t waste time trying to be something that you think others would like and approve. And to accept that people, especially on the internet, are always going to find a way to judge you and put you down. Accept that, dismiss it, and move on.
Outside of your hair, through what other forms are you learning about yourself?
I’m definitely learning a lot about myself through my style. Before I changed my gender to nonbinary, I think my style was confusing and all over the place because I was going through an identity crisis and I wasn’t sure how I wanted to present myself. The benefit of being nonbinary is that there isn’t a specific way to present yourself and that you have full range to explore who you are without the binary telling you otherwise. Now, I love to wear feminine and masculine clothing. I have a lot of men’s suits that I feel sexy and confident in, but I also have a lot of dresses that make me feel the same way too. What I decide to wear is dependent on my mood or what I’m doing.
Any advice for other nonbinary folks who may be just coming into their identities?
The process of discovering who you are is never linear. It’s never easy, but just because you have moments where you feel discouraged or confused, don’t give up. You are closer to self discovery than you were yesterday. Embrace the journey and acknowledge that pushing yourself through those difficult moments gives you a strength that you didn’t know you had.
Never feel like you are restricted or are limited when it comes to beauty. Like myself, you should try to dress or do your makeup based on how you’re feeling so that you can create a look that is authentic and true to you. Society telling you to shave your legs, put on makeup to feel pretty, or wear tight clothing is such bullshit. Being creative with yourself should be a fun and personal experience not stressful and guided by what society has told us
In what ways do you think you experienced a second puberty?
Understanding who I had been and the most authentic parts of me that my mind hid and loving that truth felt like conquering a great fear. How I was going to present myself felt like that second puberty. Having to reimagine myself, every aspect of my identity—who I am, how I look, what I wear—was overwhelming and beautiful. I had loved ones along the way who donated and still donate their stuff. I made sure I took it each day at a time.
What have you learned about yourself in this process? You’ve described it as a “rebirth.”
I have learned how loved I am, and how resilient I am, my strength in spirit and mind and my truth. I know that I am an intelligent and talented woman. I think of my “rebirth” as a shedding of old skin. The moment I became ready to come out, everything in my mind, body and life aligned. Things I ignored or that puzzled me made sense. I was left at ease and reassured. It felt right.
Talk to me about how makeup, professionally and personally, has been a tool for you.
Makeup was a creative escape I found in the 10th grade. I wasn’t always confident in my traditional skills outside of the arts. I learned makeup through years of tutorials and my own trial and error. In 2019, I became confident enough in my craft to take on clients. I’m, to this day, refining my techniques and investing in myself as a businesswoman.
Makeup has been my armor since I first started. It became a joy, an escape, a source of confidence and feels like one of the best extensions of myself. As a woman, I feel safe with my makeup on. As an artist, I feel inspired and energized with my makeup on. However I decide to use my makeup, it uplifts me.
In what ways has your beauty routine changed as you learn more about how you want to be seen?
Hair is a big change in my routine. Growing up, my hair was treated as a nuisance. I never had the opportunity to see its full potential because everyone in my environment preferred it cut very low. I was not taught haircare because “it wasn’t my place.” When I decided to live independently from family and have this journey, hair care is what I asked a lot about. Wigs were my original go-to. However, for the first time this summer while I had braids, I learned the ins and outs about my hair and saw my hair at its full potential.
You’re an obviously confident person now. How do you maintain that?
At the beginning of my journey, I struggled immensely with self-esteem and anxiety. I started to explore spirituality and mantras. In my exploration, I learned about gratitude. I find self-love when I give thanks to what is already in my life. Now when I’m down, I tell myself who I am, and I believe those words. I remind myself of my gifts.