(Ugh, this post needs more revision and editing and expansion, but I’m sticking this out here for now. Not like anyone’s reading it anyway.)
A few weeks ago, my therapist officially diagnosed me with gender dysphoria. I’m not certain “diagnosed” is really the right word, since I already knew it to be true; it’s not like I went in there and she discovered something I had never considered. But she validated my theory and both she and the DSM agreed with me – yup, gender dysphoric!
So what does dysphoria feel like for me? That’s not an easy question to answer, since for so long much of what I now recognize as gender dysphoria was hard to pin down.
As with a great many people who suffer from gender dysphoria, the saying “I feel like a woman trapped in a man’s body” is completely inaccurate. I can’t say I know what it feels like to be a woman. Of course I don’t – certainly not what it feels like to be a ciswoman, and I never will. I’ll never know what it feels like to grow up as a girl in our society, I’ll never know what it feels like to have a period, I’ll never know what it feels like to be pregnant or give birth.
But I do know what it feels like to be me. I know what it feels like to feel like society has you all wrong. To feel like I have myself all wrong. I know what it feels like to realize that not only are you uncomfortable with society’s expectations of how you’re supposed to act, to be, as your assigned gender – but to realize you don’t want to act or to be that way. I know how it feels to have never, not once since hitting puberty (that’s not hyperbole) liked the way your body looks or liked what you see in the mirror.
I know what it feels like to feel uncomfortable in your own skin, to feel out-of-step with the world and to feel unable to grab your place in it. I know what it feels like to “make your way through the world with mincing steps,” as my wife ever-so-accurately put it. I know what it feels like to experience crippling shame just for the way you’re thinking or feeling, for being the way you are.
I know what it feels like to realize that the way you see yourself doesn’t line up with the way literally everyone else sees you, and to recognize that there’s no way to reconcile the two without serious upheaval to somebody.
That’s what I know. That’s all I can know. That’s dysphoria for me.