I have to shave a man's face every morning.

I try to stay in my pajamas as long as possible. Not because I'm particularly lazy, and not because I feel more comfortable in cotton instead of denim, or any other reason like that. I put off my morning routine as much as I can, and since I have classes in the afternoon it's easy. I really do wish I could be like everyone else, immersing myself in a productive daily routine whether I want to or not, because anything is better than what I do now. What stops me from getting ready is shaving. It's so trivial, something that every man does absent-mindedly. However, the issue for me is that in the past couple years, I discovered the fact that I was not a man a little too late. Before college, I finally accepted that I was transgender. At the time, I didn't even really grow facial hair, but instead of taking estrogen, I agonized about not knowing my identity for years. This precious time was wasted, so my late puberty marred my face and body. I started to gain more muscle and a face that has morphed more and more into a man's with every passing day. Having to get dressed and see my body in its purest form, shaving off the hair that never stops growing, and hearing myself speak are just constant reminders of my inherent inadequacy as a feminine being. Even in my freshman year of college, I had a cute, feminine jaw free of little black hairs that started popping up. I even prophesied that my puberty would continue, I'd look worse, and regret not taking estrogen. But, of course, I didn't listen to my gut, and ended up in the exact situation I'm in now. No matter how chipper my day may start out, everything goes south when I need to confront myself in the mirror. I can look away when I put my clothes on, or I can dress in the dark, but shaving is something that must be done in brutal clarity. I step into the bathroom, headband pulling my bangs out of the way and revealing the brow bone I try to conceal every day. I pull my hair back into a low ponytail. When I'm in a good mood, I joke with myself that I'm serving “Paul Revere Realness” but those days are once in a blue moon. Most of the time, I find myself tracing the new fat, square that has recently made its appearance. I don't recognize the person staring back at me, mimicking me doing all the same movements as me with his big, burly body. This man who broke into my house years ago lives with me and in me now, and I don't know where he begins and I end. The worst part is that with every pass of the razor I need to confront the changes that are happening to me. I have a habit of running from whatever changes that come my way. I could stay in my comfort zone, wrapped in a blanket of denial, nice and warm in my pajamas. Every morning, my safe cocoon is breached with every glance I catch of my intruder, with every brief swipe across my face as I groggily rouse myself. I stand in front of the mirror, sullen. I feel like I have to kill myself every morning just to go outside. The woman is dead, the man is taking her place today. I rinse off my face, and begin to scrub it, imagining that my hands are whetstones and I'm carving off all my brutish features. But, every time, I'm left with the same base- a domineering brow bone, a square jaw, and flecks of hair that not even thousands of dollars of laser hair removal could get rid of. And I'm one of the lucky ones- there are people with full beards that must do the same thing I do every morning. Every morning, their chest tightens up the same way as mine, as if it would be easier to carve off our Adam's apples and give ourselves a tracheotomy just to be able to breathe. The longer I hold eye contact with that man in the mirror, the more his face expands and contorts until I'm left with someone even he doesn't recognize. Yet we're one in the same- he hits his face and so do I. He pushes the razor down and and so do I. He clumsily cuts himself and has to wear his battle scars of manhood all day, and I'm left with the same wounds. I've lived with this intruder 21 years, but I've only just started to realize his presence. I've cut out any other time he could be mentioned- I don't have many male friends, I try to distance myself so they don't call me by his name, but every so often, he rears his ugly, bulldog head. No matter how hard I try to walk right, to speak right, and to act right, I see his face in the men around me. I hear his name with every official interaction. He becomes the model for my professional wardrobe. He becomes the surrogate for my life outdoors. But no matter how many layers of blankets I cover myself in, he's always there. He watches me in disgust as I shed him of his mane. He taunts me, and with every passing day, he reminds me that he'll always follow me, wherever I go. I've lived with a man I didn't know for 21 years, and I'm afraid that he'll evict me. That is why I dread having to shave every morning. That is why I stay in my pajamas.

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