Overview of medical definition
The medical definition of Gender Dysphoria as stated on the NHS website is as follows:
“Gender dysphoria is a condition where a person experiences discomfort or distress because there’s a mismatch between their biological sex and gender identity. It’s sometimes known as gender identity disorder (GID), gender incongruence or transgenderism.”
They go on in more detail, expressing how it is a medical condition, not a mental illness (an important thing to remember). They do a good job of defining what the condition is and briefly explain the actions that many take to overcome Gender Dysphoria, with many ultimately living and identifying to a gender different to that which they were assigned at birth.
What they don’t tell you is how it feels. I guess that’s difficult, you would need to have experienced it in order to accurately describe it. But for those who are suffering from Gender Dysphoria and are first coming to terms with it, nothing helps more than hearing someone express the same feelings and emotions that you are going through. If only to know that you’re not alone.
How it feels
There are good days and bad days. Sometimes I wake up and something is just not right. I feel wrong in my body, knowing I have take on another day in the same gender that I did the day before, and the day before that, and the day before that.
‘It’s never going to change is it!?’, ‘what’s the point in today if I already feel like this?’.
This can make getting up and out of bed particularly difficult sometimes. I often take to browsing meaningless news stories and internet crap on my phone to distract my mind and then eventually get out of bed.
I do not see what I want to see in the mirror. Possibly some of you reading this do not have Gender Dysphoria but are trying to understand it. Try this. We have all had times where we look in the mirror and don’t like a certain aspect of ourselves, it’s our nature (well, society and the advertising industry are really to blame, but that’s a whole other tangent!). Perhaps it’s your stomach, you want a six pack, or your arms aren’t as toned as you want them to be. It makes you feel crap about yourself and in some way a little ashamed of yourself. You might do some sit-ups, perhaps go to the gym in order to feel better and feel like you’re making a difference.
Well take that crap feeling and shame and multiply it by 1000 because what’s wrong is your gender. That biologically given, binary designation which has been with you since birth. There’s no ‘get-fit’ DVD for that, no quick fix and nothing you can do to satisfy a feeling of self-improvement. You’re stuck, and it hurts.
It comes in waves
Throughout the day it’s not a constant feeling of dysphoria. I have found that it does go away when concentrating on a task, perhaps when working or even watching a film or tv show. However it comes and goes in waves, often without warning.
When a feeling of ‘Dysphoria’ come it feels heavy on your whole body. Debilitating. For me I find it can stop me from being able to do whatever I am doing sometimes, mainly because I can no longer concentrate on it. It can make me feel very irritated with those around me when they have probably done nothing wrong. I’ll have a short fuse and not be very responsive to conversation. This is because I feel as if my inner self and the outer presentation of me do not match, which in turn makes me feel as if I do not belong, do not fit and am not welcome in whatever situation it is I find myself. No matter who I am with or where I am.
If I am on my own when I experience ‘Dysphoria’ it often runs a repeat thought through my head which takes this kind of course: I lose connection with being male, so cannot identify with myself as I currently and biologically am; I know transitioning is possible however it is a very long process, so I have difficulty identifying with being female as it feels so unobtainable; I am left feeling completely void of any identity at all, very confused and very lost.
It is to this and upon this feeling that I understand why the suicide rates for those in the transgender community are very high.
I have had, and still have ideation of suicide and at bad times the thoughts fleet through my mind. However I am very thankful and consider myself very lucky that I have never felt compelled to make any attempt my own life. I do no think that I ever will and that is a blessing because I know many who do not feel the same and have been through some very difficult times. My heart goes out to you. Be strong.
Attributed to physical features
Other forms of dysphoria come in regards to bodily features. Masculine aspects such as facial hair for MTF people like myself, or perhaps the curves of a female body for a FTM person. Of course genitalia is the obvious one here. I personally did not get feelings of dysphoria in relation to my genitalia until more recently when it has become somewhat of a trigger now and can sometimes make simple things like going to the toilet an annoying and troublesome experience.
I personally find facial hair one of my biggest causes of discomfort. I shave in the morning and because I have such dense, dark hair it does not even disappear, no matter how close a shave I have. Then later that day it is back, little hairs laughing at me as they creep out the pores on my face and neck, strongly presenting that face that I see in the mirror as distinctly male. (Dear facial hair, meet my new friend… the laser, muahahaha, who’s laughing now bitches!)
Overcoming it/fighting it
Perhaps with the life-hacks that I wrote a blog about before, by talking with a friend who knows about my dysphoria, or watching a film or tv show to distract my mind and pass the time. These are the things I do to help. The life-hacks can be quite useful, sometimes I have used Siri on my iPhone to tell me my name, which triggers me back to a more stable, less dysphoric mindset. Sometimes simply logging onto my female Facebook account does the trick.
There are many triggers that bring it on, and many things that can help alleviate it, but no hard and fast rules.
Seeing it coming and preventing it
So here is a list of things which I have found can trigger my Gender Dysphoria becoming worse. Now that I know what some of them are I can predict them coming and I tend to not get affected by them as much because I am prepared.
- Being called ‘Sir’
- Being referred to with male pronouns (he/him)
- Writing my male name at the end of a message or email
- Signing for parcels being delivered
- Being asked for ID
- Having to shave my face
- People acknowledging masculine features (i.e. ‘you look good, have you been working out?’ or ‘you have very broad shoulders’)
- Using public toilets
- Introducing myself to new people
There may be more that I’ve forgotten and it is worth noting that not all of these trigger me every time. As I said before, there are no hard and fast rules.
I hope this has helped people understand what having Gender Dysphoria feels like, everyone’s experience will be different of course, this is simply my take on it.
If you suffer Gender Dysphoria yourself then I hope this has helped in some way to let you know that you are not alone in feeling the way you do. Stay strong, stay safe and keep fighting. It is only from going through the darkest times that we truly appreciate and enjoy the light.