“Thin Skin” is a story that is my own, however many may also relate. Growing up I don’t recall a time when I wasn’t consumed with personal confusion about my own identity. Perhaps learning about my intersexuality at a young age influenced my frayed adolescence. More importantly though, I have learned that the enduring angst caused by my physical inquietude has been far outweighed by the anxiety caused by social definitions and expectations surrounding gender expression: what our society defines as beautiful and ugly, what are the socially acceptable characteristics of the male and female experience, and what body types inform the definition of attractive or unattractive. These socially constructed pressures are the origins of my experienced social anxieties and have heavily overshadowed the confusion pertaining to physical health. Moreover, the constant body dysphoria has been fueled by fear of negative evaluation of my peers; it is not from self-hatred or self-rejection.
The social pressure of conformity is best understood by those who have felt judgement or non-acceptance, those of us who have felt excluded or have only been able to experience life on the periphery. Conforming to a socially accepted identity has been the goal for me since childhood. Being born genetically female, but also born with the reproductive parts of both sexes ushered in tremendous amounts of self-doubt and paralyzing anxiety throughout my life. Growing up, I maintained a positive outlook, a baseline level of conformity and developed “thick skin” so that I could integrate into my social circles without being exposed and/or rejected in times of being ridiculed or judged. As I grow older and further solidify my identify, I have come to realize that developing “thick skin” should not have ever been considered a positive quality to strive for. Forming “thick skin” was simply a tool for my own survival. Now, as I grow confident and shed these layers of self-preservation, my skin has grown thin. “Thin Skin” is a visual depiction of perpetual fear of social exclusion and the ever-lasting feeling of judgement caused by the pressures of simply wanting to fit in.