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Updated: Dec 20, 2023

I do not consider myself an artist by any means; although I do like to dabble in photography, and I did do a self-portrait a few years ago for the Inside Out Trans Art Project, which was actually on the cover of the Anthology. After reflecting on this drawing and participating in the exhibits and poetry readings, I came to the conclusion that this portrait is reflective, not as how I see myself, but how I would like to see myself.

So, I was extremely intimidated and fearful when my therapist requested/challenged me to do another self-portrait. I procrastinated and actually avoided her for a long period of time. To be honest, I’m still not sure what the purpose of this exercise was. Nonetheless, one morning, I got out my drawing paper and brush markers and decided to at least attempt a self-portrait. I had gone too long without a therapy session, and I knew that I'd better have the portrait or else.

When I did the self-portrait for the Inside Out Trans Art Project, I traced a photograph of myself and then filled in the details. I thought that the same technique might work this time. I happened to find a drawing of a woman on eBay that I was drawn to (pun intended) and used that as my model. My first attempt ended up in the trash, but it was later recovered and actually became the final portrait. My second attempt did end up in the trash. The eyebrows just weren’t right. So, I started on the third attempt. I was trying to duplicate the drawing that I used for my outline, before abandoning that idea and just doing my own thing. However, the third attempt was quite startling.

Before I realized what I was doing, I drew the self-portrait hiding behind a gray mask, and it turned out to be very abstract and just a little monster-like. In speaking with my therapist about the portraits (she loved both of them by the way), I realized that I had drawn myself the way that I see myself presented to the world. I am always hiding behind a mask of self-doubt, low self-esteem, and imposter syndrome. I am fearful of showing my true self. I guess that I am fearful of being rejected or of being found out. I am fearful of love and acceptance.

So, I retrieved the first failed attempt from the trash (the eyebrows were perfect) and started again. This drawing was also somewhat abstract, and my therapist described this attempt as fierce. Eventually, I realized that this one reflected how I would like the world to see me, and how I would like to see myself. That in and of itself is a victory and something to strive for every day.

Barbara Marie Minney is a transsexual woman, award-winning poet, writer, speaker, teaching artist, and quiet activist. She is a retired attorney and a seventh generation Appalachian. Now based in Tallmadge, Ohio, her first collection of poetry entitled “If There’s No Heaven” was the winner of the 2020 Poetry Is Life Book Award and the Akron Beacon Journal Best Northeast Ohio Books 2020. It is available through this website at Barbara is also the author of the "Poetic Memoir Chapbook Challenge," and the forthcoming "Dance Naked With God." Follow her at

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