Today I want to talk about a very tough topic. Dysphoria
Some of you may have heard me use the word Dysphoria. You may have heard me say, “I am having a bad dysphoria day” or that variety of statement, or perhaps I just seemed down. In this blog I want to dive in to what exactly that means. Fair warning: this will be emotionally intense. Just so you are prepared.
Gender Dysphoria is most simply defined for me as the feeling caused by the disconnect between my gender identity being female, and my body being male. In my experiences I have seen it manifest itself in two ways: Body Dysphoria and Social Dysphoria.
Body Dysphoria is when you specifically find yourself triggered by something about your body. A lot of trans people have really bad genital dysphoria, but that has never been a major problem for me. My current biggest dysphoria related to my body would probably be concerning my facial hair. I despise it and it makes me feel so male. And even when I get a really good shave, I still feel like everyone can see it, and I also know it will grow back. I can say that my body dysphoria improved when I lost some weight also.
But Social Dysphoria has always been my bigger problem. I would note that bodies are how we interact with society so it isn’t like they are completely exclusive. In fact I think it is impossible to completely separate the two, much like I think that nature versus nurture debate is pointless. We are all complex creatures with millions of factors interacting at a given time. But it seems to me that my dysphoria is more about how people see me instead of how I interact with my own body.
When I say Social Dysphoria I mean that my dysphoria is usually triggered by my social interactions with the broader world. Mentally, I hate knowing that I am being seen as male, because that is not who I am. I pick up on every little subtle thing that people mention about gender.
Even when people are not actively meaning to say something, it may still get to me. One example I think of is that as I was losing weight. During this time many other friends were also getting in shape. While I will admit I did aim for too skinny and too restrictive on my diet, I always noticed that once I started getting thinner, that there was suddenly a chorus of “oh stop losing weight”. Yet any time I heard someone talking to female friends who were having similar amounts of weight loss, there was no such negative feedback. Society encourages women to be weight conscious but because I was perceived as male, it was bad for me to get any skinnier. I know that dysphoria is often illogical, but that is just the plain and simple of it.
Anything can trigger it. I have developed a fairly thick, or perhaps even Teflon skin, but sometimes things just get through. Sometimes I cannot handle it that I am constantly called sir or dude or man by customers at work even while I am obviously wearing makeup and very feminine clothes. Sometimes it gets to me that I know people are talking about me in a negative way. Sometimes I can’t handle being misgendered. I just wish the world could actually see me as the real me without me having to put so much work into it.
Some other common feelings/actions/stupid ideas that pop into my head that I get when feeling really dysphoric: (As previously stated, dysphoria is illogical, so I know that these statements are not always factual,merely things I have felt or experienced as part of my dysphoria)
-I am always going to look male.
-I am gaining weight because I eat to deal with my dysphoria and stress.
-People are only accepting of me because they feel bad for me, not because they actually see me as female.
-I get in slumps during the day where I just do not want to do anything, and if my son was not around I probably would not be doing anything.
-I cant afford the things I need to feel more confident: hair removal, clothes, etc…
-My transition will cost me a job
-No one is ever going to want me as a Pastor.
-I hate that I missed out on growing up as female, and instead have the mindset and internalized hate of spending 20+ years in the closet.
-I hate that being closeted for 20+ years means that sometimes I keep secrets when there is no reason too.
-I despise my voice.
-I have lost friends and become disconnected with family, and I worry about it getting worse.
-I’m a freak that doesn’t deserve anyone who actually cares about me (In other words a whole lot of internalized self hate).
-I hate that I have to get up in the morning and put a ton of work into how I look just to even stand a chance of someone seeing that I am female.
That is just a small hint of what I mean if you hear me say that my dysphoria is bad. My dysphoria used to come in waves in my younger years. Now even when I am in a good mood it is usually in the back of my head bothering me just a little bit. And it sucks. As I have transitioned this year there has even been a sense that the higher highs make the lows of dysphoria even worse.
Overall there are many parts of being trans that I consider a blessing, but dysphoria just sucks. It is horrible. I would not wish it on anyone. It is a very rough place to be mentally.
That being said, one of the major reasons I am taking the steps that I have been and am taking is so that I can better handle my dysphoria. So far it seems to be helping.
Thanks for reading, thanks for your friendship,thanks for your support.
Against Me has a wonderful album that really relates well to my experiences of dysphoria, but this song definitely connects the best.
Some other reading on dysphoria: