I wish I was lying about gender dysphoria. I wish my life hadn’t been made hellish because of it. I wish I hadn’t felt so trapped. I wish that much of it wasn’t my own fault. My own fault because a good amount of the pressure, though not all of it, was self-induced. The expectations of others were the bars I used to build my own cage- a form of self-induced mental slavery.
It is really hard for me to disentangle gender from my body. I once said to someone that in order for me to detransition, you’d have to “degender the body” and even then I’m unsure- doesn’t that sound like madness? BECAUSE IT IS. It is madness! If you ask me, the second we found ourselves unable to admit the nature of gender dysphoria was when things went very wrong. We started making stupid arguments about whether or not “trans-atlantic” literally meant “born in America” and failed to recognise the times when dysphoria was feeding our activism. As I like to point out frequently to people- my sex was not assigned at birth, it was observed.
But I also can not lie that gender dysphoria has acutely interferred with my life, left me with untold mental illness and distress. So what does GD look like?
Gender dysphoria looks like this- when I was a child I engaged in magical thinking. I thought I would grow a penis when I turned into one of those teenagery things. I thought “the mistake” would correct itself. It also looks like breasts growing out of my chest and me wondering “Why the HELL is THIS happening?” and it also looks like surfing the internet at 12 years old to see if it is possible for a woman to become a man (yes and no). It involves keeping a deep dark secret, with the only relief being my dreams- in which I always took male form.
It involves gender non-conformity feeding my dysphoria- because I should have been a guy and I’m not one so that non-conformism only fed that idea, and it involves gender conformity feeding my gender dysphoria too- because that was psychologically damaging in ways that I can not even begin to describe.
It involves my mind mostly, but my body too. It involves PUSHING my breasts to the absolute back of my chest until it looked like they’d disappeared. It involves watching teenage boys develop muscle, and their voices dropping and their facial hair growing and thinking “WHY isn’t that ME?”
It involves looking at women of all shapes and sizes and wondering if I could be one of them- could I smash myself down to fit a feminine box? Could I develop the mental strength to be a hyper-masculine woman and tell everyone else to politely sod off? It involves looking at men of all shapes and sizes and wondering why I wasn’t born as one of them. What had I done to deserve this? Why me?
It involves a lot of things. It involves hormonal changes feeling like freedom. Most disturbingly, it involved my suicide attempt at 19- because I could no longer imagine my life as a woman. If you are gender critical then that incident must look disturbingly tragic- if as opposed to “I was a man trapped in a woman’s body” you believe “I was non-conformist and our conformist world crushed me”. Tragic.
The physical side is this: at times your body doesn’t feel like your body, it feels like some weird flesh carcass that you inhabit. At other times you are acutely aware of your body and just how WRONG it is.
And several things feed into this process, that I will describe as homophobia, but could also be said to be gendered standards- but if the entirety of GD is caused by gendered standards and homophobia then we live in a very depressingly not good world.
The social aspect is this:
Many many women await for you to perform the standard of woman correctly- and they don’t particularly care how much pretence that involves, that it is intensely damaging to your self-image, your self-esteem, and your well-being. They have a standard of WOMAN that you must meet. (See also how women police and grade each other’s female gender performance in Germaine Greer’s The Female Eununch).
From a biological perspective, my life has also been messed around by intersexual competition from women who didn’t seem to understand that as a homosexual woman pretransition I was not in competition with them. Or as I put it to one woman once “You and I are not playing the same game, I’m not in this competition, suck all the dick you want- have at it. It doesn’t interest me.” That was probably too overtly grotesque but I was at the end of my rope during that particular conversation.
The social side of this is very mentally draining, and if the bodily side of it is intertwined with the social aspect, then that is even more draining. Because it looks to me like GD feeding mechanisms are nothing more than being made to feel different for being non-conformist, and that we develop a set of psychological maladaptive coping mechanisms, of wishing we were the opposite sex due to arbitrary constraints and restrictions put on the sexes until we reach the point of “I AM NOT A WOMAN, I AM AN HONEST TO HECKING MAN. NOW PLEASE LEAVE ME THE HELL ALONE.”
Gender is very crazy-making and intensely more so if we are to assume that the bodily side of this was also equally socially induced. I can see why gender-crits would think “this can not possibly be true” but I wish I was lying. I ponder this about the “TERF” wars.
Regardless of whether there exist biological causes, trans people seem to me to be the set of people most poorly served by our system of gender- and gender-crits would like to see a world without gender. Couldn’t we potentially put aside our differences to work alongside each other to reach a common aim? I hope so.