For the uninformed: Dysphoria
This post was originally published May 09, 2009 here.
As a note: Dysphoria when it pertains to my body structure is something I now refer to as dissonance, as per the suggestions of several other trans activists who feel the word better describes the feeling of disconnect. This post has been edited slightly to remove some ableist and cissexist language. Each edit is marked with brackets. My sincere apologies for the bad wording and ableism and internalized cissexism.
As a mild disclaimer: I can not reasonably state that my dysphoria is exactly the same as anyone else’s. So expect results to vary when you ask other trans folk to explain their feelings to you. But this is how it feels to me:
Have you ever seen a broken leg? I don’t mean a normal broken leg. I mean the nasty freaky broken leg. No exposed bone or blood, but the knee is bent the wrong way. The leg doesn’t go in the direction it’s supposed to. It’s something that’s sort of terrifying to behold because you know it’s absolutely horrifyingly wrong deep down in your most instinctual parts of your brain. Now imagine that you look down at your own leg and it’s broken like that. You’re not feeling the pain but you are feeling the utterly freaked out feeling of “OMFG MY LEG IS NOT SUPPOSED TO BE BENDING THAT WAY.” (Yes. The caps lock is required)
Not a pleasant feeling, right?
Okay, let’s go further. Let’s pretend that this freaky bent broken leg is seen as utterly normal by everyone else. They look at your body and go, ‘what’s the problem?’ There’s nothing freaky about them, you’re the only one with the freakishness driving you [up a wall] but no one else sees it. Forget the leg and just remember the feeling. The feeling of intimate, screwed up, almost grotesque wrongness. Like the very laws of how your body ought to be are violated, just like if you had that bending the wrong way leg. Imagine that feeling applied to everything about you that is male [associated] or female [associated. Or at least most of them]. Imagine seeing the male/female [associated] parts you have and getting that “OMFG MY BODY IS NOT SUPPOSED TO BE LIKE THAT.” (Caps lock still required.) That deep down instinctual feeling of “what the fuck”-ness that you get when you see a shattered knee bending a leg the wrong way or even worse see that bent leg on yourself. It’s not rational. It doesn’t make logical sense. It’s utter instinctual response.
That’s bodily dysphoria.
Now. Imagine living with that every day for the rest of your life.
Suddenly me going a little [twitchy] from it makes a bit more sense, doesn’t it? The drastic measures taken to make my body feel like it ought to be makes a bit more sense, now doesn’t it? Because there’s no other way to make that feeling go away.
Therapy doesn’t get rid of it. There’s no meds that do. This feeling is omnipresent. Sometimes I can cope with it better than other times. When my emotional resources aren’t drained from other stresses, like relationships, work, school, etc. But no life is without stressful times and when that happens and I’m drained, it hits me really full force.
To a certain extent the identity has followed up with it. I mean think about it, if my body
being [having certain parts that also happen to be] male [associated] hurts me in the way I described above and changing it to [other parts that also happen to be] female [associated] helps fix that, I’m naturally going to start thinking of myself as less of a guy and more of a girl. Knowing that you’ll eventually have the body [associated with being a] woman sort of changes the equation for self identity (it doesn’t work like this for everyone, some people get the woman or man identity first and the bodily dysphoria after).
But for me, I really feel myself settling into the self identity of a girl. The self descriptive words I use have changed (tomboy, bitch, cute, pretty, lady, woman as opposed to tough, asshole, handsome, rugged, dude, man) and with that comes a change in my abstract psychological view of myself. So that adds a bit more pressure onto me on top of the bodily dysphoria.
I’m lucky in some ways. I’m not too upset about social things. The whole tomboy part is very much me not giving a shit about gender expectations and gender roles. I’m quite content having my own awesome self expression and not seeing it as girly or guyish. But others get hit with that in harsh ways.
I hope this helped get the idea across. It can be really hard to express these feelings to people who have never experienced similar things.
Go here to read the comments on the original post.
The original post has not been adjusted to remove ableist language or cissexist language, please be aware of the bad wording.
Filed under: activism | 4 Comments
Tags: body image, dysphoria, for the uninformed, identity, transgender