September 16, 2014

Dysphoria

I used to tell myself a bunch of excuses for why I would not even consider being actually deep down a guy. I mean look, I would think about it. I thought about it hard enough that I got a name I guess! And I thought about (in very little detail) what it would mean to take the next step, which I declined to think about because of what it might mean to my extended family.

My main excuse was like this: it would be totally awesome and interesting to take a pill that would switch my body and also switch my life as if I had always been a guy, but having to go through a transition would be ridiculous because I would be this short effeminate hairy weird looking guy. It would be ridiculous. Completely ridiculous.

I would be ridiculous.

But the other main excuse was this: I did not feel trapped in a woman’s body”. I know some people do feel very strongly like their body is not theirs because it does not match their gender but that is not exactly how I felt. I do not hate my body. I do not hate my genitalia. I do not hate my breasts. I cannot stand my uterus but that is partially because of horrible periods. However I have always felt a vague sense of being uncomfortable in my body and my own skin. I am not sure whether it was lessened somewhat by the fact that I have never had a particularly womanly, curvy body but rather a more boyish one.

Looking in the mirror I do not see my internal self-image and I guess there has been that disconnect for awhile. Also, I am quite clumsy with my gross motor skills1. I used to be constantly teased and have undue concern from others due to how skinny I used to be. I put on weight as an adult (partially due to complex issues regarding gender, feeling safe and other things) and then felt pretty uncomfortable about how my body looked with the excess weight. So there is more than one reason that I would feel uncomfortable in my body that are not just to do with gender.

Women are certainly socialised to believe that feeling uncomfortable about their bodies, their shape and their weight is the natural state of being. When I identified as one, I thought my uncomfortableness and feeling of being not quite right” was just how all women” felt. So it contributed to my denial, indirectly.

The times when I felt good dressed up as a woman” when I was younger were always to do with looking attractive and feeling powerful because of how others’ behaviour changed towards me. I would be playing a role. And there was still a disconnect. I could not really fathom or understand peoples’ attraction to me. It seemed like a lie. Deep down I felt fraudulent. I guess when I looked in the mirror I did see, when I looked hard, what might be an objectively attractive woman, but I struggled to see it.

Now, having come out, and having an understanding of why I might have felt uncomfortable I oddly feel much better in my skin. I do not really like seeing myself naked that much because putting on weight has meant bigger breasts and a belly, and even in clothes part of me cringes seeing that my breasts make me look less male. I do not hate them but they also represent something that is not quite right. I still feel fine about my genitalia. Imagining or fantasising about sex however has become difficult because I get confused about what features of my body are really me” and which might not be.

Strangely though, I feel far sexier and more attractive innately than I ever did before. Even though now I am a (ridiculous!) short man with a gut and boobs and no beard.

I feel, if trapped, then trapped by a social role, the role of woman”. While biological sex is a (complex) set of physical features, gender is really a social construct. For example, some societies have clear categories for third gender” or people who often correlate to what we would consider a transgender woman. The definition of what constitutes a man or a woman and whether there are other categories is being redefined in Western society currently. When people see me they usually process me as a woman” even though I am not one. Oddly enough with time and with some people I get sort of grouped in as one of the boys” anyway, so in some ways I had managed to semi-consciously drive towards being (unconsciously) gendered correctly. Overall it is pretty frustrating because it is one thing to make a decision and another for that decision to be reflected in the outside world.

If I am still feminine and do not take physical steps to be a man and am not biologically male and everyone perceives me as a woman, how could I possibly be a man? This is the main doubt that chips away at me because of the seeming ridiculousness” of the situation. But this is the thing:

Deep down, I feel male.

I cannot explain it much clearer than that. I do not think I need to hate my body and to feel distressed by it, nor do I think I need to be excessively butch and macho to be a man. Biological” men themselves have a wide range of gender expression, behaviours, anatomical quirks (some, for example, were born without, or lost due to surgical removal, their male genitalia or gonads) and fashion styles.

Talking to other trans people, it is a relief to find that while some people do feel a terrible sense of their body-as-enemy, it is not universal. It is not a given. It is not a must.

I am not the only one.


  1. As opposed to my fine motor skills i.e. playing an instrument, writing, drawing, surgery.


Previous post
Family! Genetics! Reproduction! Surgery! (Or Doubting Tomás And Decision-Making) There is definitely the perception among most people, including most trans people that you need to do something now and do it all. All of it. Let me
Next post
Invisibility and Femininity A long time ago, when I was a small child and thought I was a boy who was going to grow up to be like my dad, I tried to play with the other boys.