Dysphoria & Memories

“old photos in brown wooden chest” by Roman Kraft on Unsplash

In recent conversations with my counselor we have started to delve into some root causes of anxiety and depression particular to myself. One thing that we have uncovered in that gender dysphoria doesn’t just have to show up in present cases, it can also manifest in anxiety when we are confronted with our past. This is a new realm for me, since coming out, and living authentically I have noted that my dysphoria in the present is much less prevalent. I am thankful for that because it allows me to live a fuller experience, and to be more present for my friends, and family. In general those who know me now can remark on me being much more silly, and happy than I was, I am loving and living my best life.

But for me when I think about how great it is to live fully now I get pain when I think of what I’ve been through. When I think of living a full childhood, high school, and college life in constant turmoil, and trauma I find myself reprimanding myself. Why didn’t I have the courage to push to be authentic when I was younger? I find it hard to think back on those memories because I feel like most of them were a crafted lie. I spent years living up to everyone else’s expectations while killing my own. I know the past is out of my control but the distress is prevalent. I know who I was, why couldn’t it have changed? So when memories are passed around I find myself avoiding my own. I’m now the person that rather not talk about it. Nostalgia is the fullness of pain. Friends now who have went silent, family that has become abusive, and ignores my existence. Some because they can’t understand, others because I won’t fit their wants. All for me because I hate reflecting on the years lost and the fight I have now to become “passable” in a world where 1 in 12 trans women are murdered for simply being visible. I also just wish I could apologize to my younger self. To let her know, I saw her, I loved her, and she was and is valid. Even when she fought so hard for acceptance to be bullied at school for trying to fit in. Even when she was hiding for safety in a faith culture that didn’t understand. I’m sorry I had to wait to break you free.

So as I deal with nostalgic dysphoria I have come to accept the following in a means of self-care. Shana is the reason I made to today. She has always resisted being silent, resisted being pushed away, and she has always persisted. Shana was breaking barriers, and she was crafting a beautiful life. Shana knocked heads with testosterone driven high school boys, and made it on a college football team. Shana fought for love and inclusion in a world that had no conception of who she was. Shana is here today still fighting the same battle. I am here. She was a source of a better tomorrow, on my worst days of despair. When I confront wishing the past was different it is a struggle we all face. We all wish we had better days on our permanent record. But for me, I can find strength that I never gave up. I fought for a day when I could breathe and be seen. And that day has come.

I ask you to bear with me. I ask you to bear with all my brothers and sisters who are trans. Our journey is better classified as a war. We have fought bias, discrimination, self-hate, fear, and alienation to live. Many of us are healing from and still fighting depression, anxiety, PTSD, and suicide. For many of us we carry with us that trauma, and those scars. We may wish to hide some of our past, and refuse to share all of it. That doesn’t make us closed-off, it makes us healthy. We are finding the best way to dress our wounds, and prepare for another battle. We are all finding our strength, and we are speaking that truth to a world that is still clouded in lies about our existence. So when we have to think about our past for many of us it is a walk with trauma. Help us heal. Help me heal.

Some last tangible ways I have found a way to heal, and ask you to help me heal, and others are, use the proper pronouns for the present and the past. Though I looked different 5, 10, and 15 years ago nothing about my gender identity has changed. So when I speak of my past, I say she did this. Consider helping your trans friend and relatives by making this change. Also, celebrate the battles you have won. So for me that is celebrating that I defeated suicide at 19. I celebrate that even in secret I cultivated who I was as a child. I knew Shana and she cared for me even when the world didn’t. Also, don’t push us to share about the past. Allow us to set the tone on the walks down memory lane, especially, and most importantly with family and in public conversations.

I hope this reflection has brought to life the fact that we all have struggles. As trans people we have a history that sometimes can feel conflicted, and we wish we could have done it sooner. We wish we could have lived authentically sooner. I would encourage you to not think in those terms, you are here now. That means you have fought for that authenticity, it is a won authentic identity. Embrace that victory, and find the small ways to bring healing to yourself.

I’m here, and I’m still fighting! -Shana