Understanding Gender Dysphoria
While there are many social implications related to gender dysphoria that I’ve written about and will write about in the future this post focuses on the inner experience of gender dysphoria.
Gender Dysphoria is a fundamental unease and dissatisfaction with the biological sex one is born with (one’s body) which results in anxiety, depression, restlessness, and other symptoms. The dysphoria often acts as a catalyst to change one’s body and gender expression (how one presents to the world) to be more in keeping with what is felt to be one’s gender identity (the gender that one feels oneself to be).
In simpler terms this means that natal (biological) males, who are gender dysphoric have unease, dissatisfaction and even disgust with their male genitals, body hair, angularity, facial hair, musculature and any other attributes that one typically identifies with “maleness”. Natal females who are gender dysphoric can have similar feelings with developing breasts, fuller hips, long hair, menstruation and other attributes that are associates with femaleness.
The time of adolescence when sex changes become more pronounced is understandably a very difficult time for many transgender individuals. Puberty blocking interventions are now becoming more common in dealing with this.
It can be difficult for people to express how one feels about one’s body, in part because people with gender dysphoria often wish to avoid of the whole subject. I’ve heard many variations of “it just feels wrong” or “I don’t like it”. The following is an excerpt from Dear Sir or Madam: The Autobiography of a Female-to-Male Transsexual (1996) by Mark Rees:
One of the great battles was of The Bra. I angrily spurned the bra which my mother bought me when I was fourteen. To have worn it would be not only accepting my femininity, but accentuating it. I could do neither.
I’ve seen that transgender individuals vary in the degree to which they are disturbed by their male or female organs. Some will be extremely avoidant of them; not looking in a mirror, not going to the doctor, not going to the beach or pool so as to avoid putting on a bathing suit and not have sexual partners, etc. Others can engage in these activities to some extent but may still feel uncomfortable.
For many transgender individuals being transgender is not just about wanting to live in the social role of the other gender (to some degree), but it’s also about a fundamental dissatisfaction with one’s body.