My Looks Don’t Define Me

Categories: Blog,Body Image,YOUth@AWARE

By: Justin Soh 

Growing up, I was always deemed a more “feminine” boy with a natural curiosity for things. Even in preschool, I indulged in what some would consider “girly” cartoons such as the Winx Club and Strawberry Shortcake series. However, as my family was relatively more conservative, my parents would refrain me from engaging in “feminine” activities, and even forbade small actions of affection such as hugging, as these were deemed “not befitting” of a boy.

In an all-boys primary school, I was oblivious to the boundaries that separate what society calls masculinity and femininity. This led to many instances of bullying by my schoolmates, which were further exacerbated due to my small physique. It was unknown to me at that age that my appearance was the source of my bullying which caused me to lack self-confidence and even prompted me to believing that I simply lacked social skills. The result was me being constantly isolated and discriminated – I wasn’t allowed to play sports as no one would want me on their team, and I was physically and verbally bullied as I was frequently an “easy target”. Getting through primary school was tough, and I resorted to rarely interacting with people unless necessary and always sat in a corner. I started to draw as a form of release to let my creativity and imagination go wherever it pleased.

As I advanced into secondary school, I found out about something called “gender dysphoria” through the Internet. Gender dysphoria occurs when the individual’s sex does not correspond with his/her gender, thereby causing him/her to feel uncomfortable in his or her own skin. This resonated with me, and led me to try new activities such as cosplay to explore what felt right for me. Slowly, after deeper understanding and studying, I came to accept my body for what it was and got more comfortable in my own skin. Although I expressed myself for who I was, I still received rejection from my peers and teachers. People continued to treat me like I was a disease, or a plague that was to be condemned. I was constantly repressed by verbal and discriminatory abuse from my peers and teachers.

But, that did not stop me from doing what I enjoyed and being the unrestricted person I was. I was unafraid of judgement and did whatever I felt was right. I decided it was time to pave my own path without anyone deciding what was ‘right’ for me.

Dealing with gender dysphoria can be challenging, to say the least. Sometimes, you may not even understand yourself or the people around you. However, being different from others does not make you abnormal in any sense, because you are simply unique! If the people around you cannot accept you for who you are, then they are not worth your time. Currently, as a student in Polytechnic, my peers are very understanding, and we encourage one another to be who we really are. The journey of self-discovery and self-appreciation is a long and tough one; to date, I still suffer from instances of confusion. But, through self-reflection and self-love, I am able to get through these times to lead a more fulfilling life.

There’s a quote from the TV show Doctor Who which goes, “We all change, when you think about it. We’re all different people all through our lives. And that’s OK, that’s good, you gotta keep moving, so long as you remember all the people that you used to be.” I will never forget the tough times I’ve been through, especially after learning from all the times of despair and confusion. I am who I am no matter how I appear to others, and this is all that matters.

About the author: Justin is a student in Singapore Polytechnic studying for a diploma in biotechnology. He was very curious as a kid, constantly wondering about the world and the way things worked. From a young age, he developed passions in both the arts and science. He currently writes about socio-economical and scientific topics on his blog at and does cosplay as a hobby. Justin is currently pursuing a career in synthetic biology and aspires to pursue a degree in Massachusetts Institute of Technology.