Explaining Gender Dysphoria to Cis People
Gender dysphoria is the discomfort transgender people experience before they transition to their desired gender. It stems from a mismatch between their brain and body and it’s often confusing and crippling. There is a section of transgender people that realize from a very early age very clearly that they were born as the wrong gender. The rest of us spend a large part of our lives struggling and blaming everything and sometimes figuring out that we are transgender. I don’t think there is a commonly accepted definition of gender dysphoria and many bloggers like Zinnia Jones have done a great job of explaining how they experienced dysphoria. I am going to try and describe how I experienced it and how I like to describe it to someone that isn’t transgender.
Bear with me as I run you through an imaginary scenario. Imagine your friends invited you to a party. It’s going to be fun, and you are really excited about it. You get dressed and get to the party and start mingling. You notice though that somehow you are not having as much of a great time. You feel conscious and can’t seem to hit the social groove. “How strange!”, You think to yourself. It takes you a while to realize you came dressed in dirty clothes, and probably you stink. You are still the same fun person but this makes you very self-conscious, and you just can’t feel comfortable. You are far from your home so you cannot change your clothes and you stay the night with this feeling. It’s something you can’t shake off.
Gender dysphoria felt very similar to me my whole life. I felt this sense of unease and restlessness. I associated it with many things — being ambitious but not successful, or being lonely. I always felt uncomfortable with my body and tried to bulk up or lean up thinking that would fix it. I got obsessively into sports or programming thinking that would erase the pain. Finally, when I discovered that I am trans and more so when I started Hormone Replacement Therapy, I suddenly saw a lot of that noise go away. I could finally relax and enjoy myself. I didn’t have to keep myself busy all the time just to avoid feeling the void. I now know that no matter how much I had bulked up or leaned up, I wouldn’t have felt comfortable with my male body. My brain needed to see a female back in the mirror.
Gender dysphoria doesn’t have a clear language or vocabulary to speak with you. It’s like a distress signal that your brain sends out and leaves it up to you to interpret it. It’s very easy to misinterpret it. For example, in my case, it was often a nagging feeling of nothing being worth it. I would enthusiastically pick up things to do, but they always felt underwhelming as I got closer to finishing them. It makes sense now. If you feel you are not even living your true self, everything else is pretty much worthless, no matter how shiny it looks from far. No wonder I always felt like my life hasn’t started and the clock is ticking away. This feeling went away only after I started transitioning.
I consider myself fortunate to have discovered my truth in my early thirties. Many people don’t discover it until much later, and many live with this crippling discomfort all their lives. It affects their happiness, productivity and the happiness of people around them. Hopefully some day we’ll have enough awareness and acceptance as a society and people won’t have to suffer this much.