What is gender dysphoria?
Here are the words of people describing their own lived experiences with gender dysphoria and gender euphoria.
Hex, a transmasc person, describes how others' perceptions effect their gender dysphoria- and gender euphoria!
"For me, gender dysphoria is not feeling enough. Not feeling like I fit people's expectations. A lot of the dysphoria has to do with my body in general, and what gender other people see. My body isn't gender neutral, and it's bigger than I feel. I forget what I look like, which doesn't help. I look at myself in the mirror and it's sometimes very disconcerting. when I'm not slotted into that particular category. I also get dysphoric when I'm out at a drive through, trying to get coffee. They're providing customer service to me, but I feel like I need to use my customer service voice. Even cis guys use a more feminine customer service voice. It's getting ma'amed over the intercom when they can't see you. It's disappointment that I can't get away from the sound of my voice.
Mostly though, I notice it more that I feel euphoric when I'm perceived as the gender that I wasn't assigned. It's more a matter of recognizing the euphoria when it hits. It took me a long time to recognize that. And it feels really good."
Fiona, a transgender woman, describes how transition helped her move from survival into thriving.
"So, gender dysphoria is never feeling right in your body, and not understanding why, especially if you were never introduced to the transgender terminology, or whatever it was referred to back in the day. Growing up feeling like you were weird, or disgusting, or strange, or not right. Being ostracized from everyday, normal people. Living with that for many years, doing your best to shove it in the back of your mind, and try to ignore it. It guides how you live. I do believe it was the root cause of my depression growing up. Now that I think back on it and fully understand everything what I was feeling, it caused me to hate my reflection, my image, and not really understand why, until coming across definitions and other people who had similar thoughts like me, which would be known as being transgender. I remember looking up stuff online and feeling gross and disgusting because that is what I was led to believe by society at all. For example, in Ace Ventura Pet Detective, the terrible bad person was a transgender person, because why not? Gender dysphoria is feeling uncomfortable, hating the body you’re given, hating the voice you have, and wishing you could do anything to change it. When I was finally able to start changing it was the first time I was able to look in the mirror and not feel utter contempt for myself. After transitioning is the first time I have felt happiness for being in my body. I despised myself before transition. Since transitioning, I have finally been able to dedicate time and energy into accomplishing things that I have always wanted to accomplish instead of reserving that energy just to keep on living."
Madelynne, a transgender woman, describes her experience growing up in a conservative household where being transgender was not accepted.
"For me, gender dysphoria is a strange feeling of not being in the right body. Growing up I would have all of these people reacting to me as this person, and in my head I would think this is who I am supposed to be, but I didn't inherently feel like that was me. I grew up in a very conservative household; I didn't know about LGBT anything. I would go to bed at night praying to be a girl, not knowing that I was a girl. I thought, if I could change to be a girl, than everything would be alright, everything would be ok. Back then I thought I had to be a little boy, I couldn't be comfortable in my own skin. The only exposure I had to trans people growing up was on tv, who were often portrayed in a negative light and called freaks and sinners by my family. My dysphoria got worse and worse until I got to college and found out oh, transgender people exist. There is a word for this feeling I had all my life. It's not just a me experience. There are a lot of people who don't feel correct in their bodies, that feel the same way I feel.
I've had lots of ups and downs with gender dysphoria. Once I got hormone replacement therapy it started really scary. I had a lot of self doubt about whether or not I was making the right decision, as my family family members were discouraging me from transitioning. But, the longer I stayed on the hormones, the more comfortable I got. I remember seeing changes in my body and standing in front of my mirror. At twenty eight years old, for the first time of my life, feeling comfortable, feeling this euphoric feeling of I can be this person who I've always known I was. Starting HRT was life changing. It's done wonders for dysphoria, but I do still struggle sometimes. But now, compared to five years ago. I'm a totally different person who is growing more and more comfortable with my body because I get to present how I want. More and more people gender me correctly. I remember before HRT I was misgendered more often than not, and now it's a very rare occasion to get misgendered by a stranger. It's just an amazing euphoric feeling to look back and see that change."
Alexis, a transgender woman, uses metaphors to describe her experience of dysphoria.
"To me, gender dysphoria feels like the very first time I put on shoes, I put the left and right shoes on the wrong feet. Growing up, every step I took was agonizing and it hurt. I was going through the world bruised and bleeding. But I just thought that it was normal to feel that way. No one talked about how awful gender dysphoria was, so I assumed everyone felt this way all the time. The older I got, it got more agonizing. But then, I found out transitioning was an option. It was like I realized I was wrong about how I wore my shoes, I just had to do one little thing, and for that first moment I understood what it was like to feel ok. I always asked myself am I a girl, am I a woman. And then, when I came out as transgender, it was like putting my shoes on the right feet. Suddenly, I could walk again without constantly being hurt.
There were lots of little ways that gender dysphoria manifested. The future always seemed wrong. I couldn't see it in my head. I remember distinctly that I never saw myself getting married. But then, after coming out, I could see myself, at the altar, in a dress. Little things like that recontextualized a lot of small hurts that I didn't understand why they hurt, why they felt wrong and painful. All my life, looking in the mirror, I could see my own eyes, but I couldn't see the rest of me. It hurt. All I could see was my eyes, and the rest of it was the rest of it was uncomfortable, like staring at buzzy, staticky TV. Shapes and colors that weren't coming clearly. With transition, that stopped. I used to dislike seeing my reflection, and now it makes me happy to wake up and look in the mirror and see the person who is there now."
Zoe, an agender person, experiences gender dysphoria as a feeling of detachment from their body.
"I don't experience gender dysphoria in the traditional sense. For me, it's more of a detachment from gender as a whole. I feel no connection to the sex that I was assigned at birth. I was brought up in a society where there were clear gender roles, and I played that part as it was expected of me, but I never felt like it fit. It's not that I felt more of a connection to the other side of the binary either, it's just that I felt no connection to gender at all. I would rather be perceived as a person than as a woman, a man, or even a non-binary person. Just a person. But then again, if I get ma'amed, it doesn't really cause any significant feelings of dysphoria. It just is.
I guess the way my gender dysphoria presents itself the most is just the absolute disconnect from my body. For example, I get blisters really easily, and every shoe I’ve ever worn is really uncomfortable. But that’s not me that’s happening to, that’s my body. My body is a separate entity from me as a person.
Rachel, a nonbinary person, experiences gender dysphoria in intimate situations.
"As I've explored my gender more, I've grown to dislike being gendered. I see how gendering everything around us hurts people, and I don't want to be part of that. The social construct of binary sex is really just a way to give power to certain men at the expense of everyone else anyways. I talk to a lot of people who have gender dysphoria through my work, so I see how hard it is to just exist day to day when you have a lot of dysphoria. I'm lucky, because my dislike of gender can mostly be ignored outside of being intimate. You see, when the person I'm having sex with also has a vagina, we don't fit together like legos. That means when it's time to shift from making out to penetrative sex, we need to set up toys to function in place of the penis that I don't have. The whole experience of getting out of bed to put toys inside of me and strap on a harness and a plastic penis is an interruption that just draws attention to what my body is not. When I can't ignore it, instead of having sex, or after sex, I cry, which is not nearly as good as happily connecting without that pain. There are other things not related to gender that I dislike about my body besides not having a penis, but I could change those things if I wanted to. Even if I had surgery to get a penis it wouldn't be anything like being born with one.
I just wish that we would stop discriminating against people different than us and allow people to make choices for their own bodies."
-Tallulah Breslin, MS, CCC/SLP
Gender & Identity Affirming Voice Training @HarmonicSpeech