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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.

Find out about Psychotherapy when dealing with Gender variance in yourself or someone close to you. email:

4 Comments Post a comment
  1. Today was an off-day for me, even though I spent the entire day at home with almost no one around. I tried spending the morning without my binder. I’ve done this before for an entire day with mixed results.

    The first time I tried it was out of necessity because I had spent too much time binding and was forced to give my body a break. I had a lot of anxiety that day, not to mention gym class, which is probably the enemy of all young adult trans* folk everywhere. The second time I tried it was at my dad’s house, an environment I do not feel at home in. I spent the entirety of my time on the computer anyway so I was alright.

    Today, I spent probably less than 20 minutes not wearing my binder, I was so uncomfortable.

    I tried describing to myself what it felt like: bugs crawling under my skin, a million invisible eyes on my chest, a loss of limb… none seem to fit. I liked what you said though: unease. Like being on a ship in a storm without a life-jacket.

    April 25, 2011
  2. I have suffered with cancer & I am transgendered. Trust me, cancer is a walk in the park compared to gender dysphoria. It isn’t about sex, it’s about the very core of your being. I have lost loved ones & suffered in many ways in life but nothing is as bad as the issues I had with my gender. Best of luck Laura, life will get better!

    February 2, 2013
  3. I have a question that you may or may not be able to answer. I have a friend who’s transgender but not dissatisfied with their body. They believe they are attractive as a woman but say that they still feel like a man on the inside. Are they really transgender or something else? The reason they wanted an operation was so that ‘everyone else would understand how they felt inside’. Not because they were dissatisfied with the way they looked. What’s that about?

    February 25, 2013
  4. janice logue #

    hi there my name is janice a male to female transexual are all woman inside 24/7 .i think your friend is a transvestite and be very carefull , many transvestites get confused about feeling good dressed as a woman and want to be a woman only because when there dressed as a woman they feel sexy and atractive.i have a few transvestite friends and espesually one who wouldnt listen to reason ,getting refused for surgery because he wasnt a genuine transexuall , but finding the funds to pay for surgery privatly. he is so sad now now knowing he is a man who just like the feeling of feeling gentle and sxy at the weekend.he is now suicidal. but i did worn him what could happen being a genuine mto ftransexual myself the road to ones gaol is certanly not an easy one espesially with a daughter and a patrner . then finding out were he got the money for surgery , he told the tabloid about me , and sold his story to them ,all because im a genuine transexual who was the first to get her op done in scotland , so anyway deserves him write , so tell your pall to be very carefull in his choice ,because it cant be reversed and having the wrong thing between your legs is the worst thing ever, but tell your friend to enjoy himself he is hurting no one.

    September 8, 2013

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