#DrewsViews: Transgender Dysphoria

by Drew Adams

I want to talk a little bit about the controversy around dysphoria. Some people say you need to have “dysphoria” to be trans, and others say that isn’t true.

This argument has led to entire factions of trans folks on social media fighting with each other. This issue is mostly impacting the younger trans-masculine individuals, and I see this issue on a daily basis as a member of that demographic, but it has an impact on the entire transgender community. After all, is it really a community when there are groups fighting each other within it?

The two main groups that I see the most of are the “Transmed” group, otherwise known as “transcum” group, and the “tucute” group. The “transmed” people say that anyone who doesn’t have dysphoria, however the group defines it, is not really trans. This group is often hypercritical of nonbinary identities and of people who chose to invent or use more uncommon labels for their gender and sexuality, or use neopronouns. The other group, the “tucute” group, is made up of people who argue that you do not need dysphoria to be trans. This group is generally much more accepting and less regulatory about who calls themselves trans. There are plenty of people who don’t agree with either side wholeheartedly, and people who are in the middle, but those are the two main groups that I have noticed. These two groups have led to a big divide in the transgender community, especially amongst younger trans-masc individuals.

A big part of this discussion is breaking down what exactly dysphoria means so that we are all talking about the same thing.

Specifically, I think there are multiple different types of dysphoria, such as gender dysphoria, body dysphoria, and social dysphoria, and I think that every person who experiences any dysphoria in any type has a slightly different and unique definition of the word. Since people use different definitions of the words, the whole argument falls apart because the language is not used in the same way or to mean the same thing.

My personal definitions of the types of dysphoria may differ from someone else’s because my experience with dysphoria is mine and mine alone.

Definitions that I use:

Gender dysphoria: being a gender that is different than the one you were assigned at birth. That’s all.
Body dysphoria: being uncomfortable with parts of your body because they remind you of the gender you do not identify as.
Social dysphoria: discomfort surrounding how others perceive and treat you based on their perception of your gender.

Using my definition of gender dysphoria, and my definition only, you do need gender dysphoria to be transgender. You do not, however, need body or social dysphoria to be trans. Basically, trans people need to identify with a gender other than the one assigned at birth, but we do not need to be uncomfortable with our bodies.

Both the transcum group and the tucute group tend to include body dysphoria in their explanations of dysphoria, but some transcum people say it only means gender dysphoria. Therefore, I agree with the tucutes when they say that you don’t need body dysphoria to be trans, but I also agree with the transcums when they say that you do need gender dysphoria. Like I mentioned before, many of us fall somewhere in the middle of this debate, and what’s right for each of us individually is what works for us. Every trans person is on their own journey.

I think a large part of the disagreement on this is a matter of changing terminology and language in any development of society. As culture evolves, words and meanings evolve, which can cause conflict. The important thing to remember is that we’re all in this together, and fighting each other over things like the definition of dysphoria only divides our community. We are stronger together, and we are strongest in respecting and accepting each other for who we are.

These are just my opinions on the matter; I know that every trans person will have a different experience than I will, and every trans person will have different opinions on this topic, but this is my own perspective. Above all, let’s work together to make the world a better place for ALL trans people. However you identify or however you define these terms, you’re valid. 💜

About the Author:

Drew Adams is a transgender high school senior from Ponte Vedra, FL, who is committed to LGBTQ advocacy at the local and national levels. He serves as his high school GSA’s president and raises money for Northeast Florida’s LGBTQ youth outreach, JASMYN, to which he also donates food, toiletries and school supplies. Nationally, Drew serves as a youth ambassador and advocacy volunteer for The Trevor Project, a youth social media ambassador for the Matthew Shepard Foundation, and a Volunteer and Intern Coordinator for Point of Pride. On the legislative side, Drew lobbies for the Equality Act by visiting with his Congressional representatives and their staff.

Additionally, Drew has spent years fighting to change his school district’s bathroom policy to be trans-inclusive, and the fight is still ongoing. Drew is an International Baccalaureate student and a volunteer at the Mayo Clinic, and he hopes to go to medical school and become an adolescent psychiatrist specializing in transgender health. For fun, he practices Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, creates sculpture art and plays the piano.