I want to write about dysphoria but boy howdy maybe I don’t.
Because I’ve been turning over the topic in my head for days, and other stuff seems more appealing to talk about: how much I despise getting made fun of and yet ended up pursuing standup (that seems like a self-destructive choice), how suspicious I am when men ask me how I am feeling, emotional labor in the workplace, white privilege and why sometimes young white well-off women get to opt out of makeup in a way other women really cannot, depending on the job interviews involved.
What do all these topics have in common? They aren’t dysphoria and if I write/think about them I don’t have to think about dysphoria.
Three parts to mine:
- A chronic, disruptive forgetting of the boundary of my body, especially around my boobs and thighs and back end.
- A chronic, disruptive sense that people were interacting with a girl who didn’t exist, and then would be surprised/upset when I would reveal my true personality.
- A persistent, and disruptive, but also cultivated fantasy of who I’d get to be and how I’d get to walk through my daily life if the non-girl I really was could be seen by other people.
It’s like standing behind a billboard. The billboard says all this stuff. It says BOOBS and BUTT and SILLY and KIND and CARING and SACRIFICING and NOT AMBITIOUS and HAPPY TO BE OF SERVICE and DUMB and VAIN.
I just went to the kitchen and ate a bunch of weird shit even though I wasn’t hungry, so I know I really don’t want to write about this.
Lots of people, when I said “trans guy” would hear “doesn’t want to get fucked, wants to fuck.” Which…..in some ways that’s just a get down to basics approach to gender, which I can respect. But actually my issues with being female aren’t around being the partner who gets fucked. I don’t want to be the partner that doesn’t get to be angry, or has to remember everyone’s birthdays, or isn’t as physically strong, or gets her body commented on by strangers a bunch, or has to be less ambitious so she can support her partner’s ambitions. But the getting fucked thing is more than fine- I think the clit/vulva/vagina setup is pretty stellar. If you’re with a partner who’s willing to put in work being the catcher can be the better deal.
Look at how I’m joking about sex rather than talking about dysphoria.
This spring I was in a group pole dancing class (I still do those) and there was a really beautiful young man in the class. He was tall, and really muscular in a slim way, and blonde, and tan, and gay. He could do all these amazing pole tricks, because the male body just has a lot more upper body strength, and he had these slim hips, so flipping his lower body up and around is just markedly easier for him than us females. And he was gay, which, I’ve always envied gay men. They get to sleep around and it’s not a mark against their character, they get to be into weird freaky sex and that’s not a mark against them, both of them get to be men and earn male money and take up male space and not have to take care of people like women have to. Two gay guys can just be really into their work, really into making money, really into having nasty sex with each other, really into having a fancy home, and that’s good enough for people. For many many many years that just seemed like the most amazing life to me. And if your reaction is “Damn, you’re selfish,” YES YES I AM, SEE this is why the womanhood stuff is HARD for me.
Anyways, yes, in this pole dancing class, this tall beautiful blonde gay boy was whipping himself around a pole doing tricks, and I just was so overwhelmed with disgust at my body and sadness at my body. This like, really heavy sense of not being strong, of having my fat ass and thighs and what that holds me back from, having to be one of the girls ooh-ing and aah-ing over what he can do when really I WANT TO DO THAT. I want to do that and I want the oohs and the aahs and I want to be a gay boy and be equal with the gay men I fuck and strong and nasty and beautiful and selfish.
I left the class. Well, my palms were pouring sweat, and I was like, shaking with emotion, and then the instructor gave me some “helpful feedback” but I just felt like such an ugly worthless sack of shit I faked a sudden migraine. Then I went home and cried. And felt really sad for myself that I was born in this specific fat-assed body, and even if I had taken all the testosterone and had all the money for surgery in the world and everyone in California had been super nice to me and handed oodles of money and affection over there was never any possibility I would have a body like that guy’s body.
So, as you can tell, I still get pretty intense episodes of dysphoria.
I treat it like a chronic condition. My episodes are linked to the level of stress in my life, whether I’m sleeping enough, and my cycle. Before my period I’m more likely to get an episode. So I sleep enough, and try to eat a diet that doesn’t cause big mood swings (lots of protein, little sugar) and try to exercise a lot and tune into how my body is feeling.
After that episode I did all that, but that guy was still around the studio I dance at a lot, and everytime I’d see him I’d freak out. So then I had to start countering my own thoughts, just like- you don’t know this guy, you don’t know what his life is like, you’ve constructed this fantasy of what his life was like but that’s all that is. Maybe he has fantasies of another body he’d rather have. I tried to make myself curious about his life. Honestly I didn’t get as far with that as I’d like. He’d always end up doing some crazy trick and I’d shut down.
So yes, besides being selfish, I’m also envious and immature. THIS IS WHY THE WOMANHOOD THING IS TOUGH FOR ME.
If I’m about to get my period, and I’m stressed out, and a man acts in a particularly paternalistic, sexist way with me, it’s over, I’m going to have an episode. So I get away from that man as soon as I can. Usually I immediately smoke pot, which I don’t recommend, it absolutely does not get me out of the episode. It just helps me leave this nasty hierarchical reality for awhile. Then I’ll look at what I can get out of on my calendar for the next couple days. Then I do a lot of yoga and pole classes. (That beautiful guy went back to college so it’s all ladies at my studio again, and being around other female bodies is helpful to me.) And I color. And I write about how hard this life is. And I tell my detransitioned lady friends, and they make sounds that indicate they feel bad for me. And I try to be curious about the struggles in other people’s lives that they have living in their bodies, so I don’t feel so special and alone.
Eventually it passes. I live in the specter of it, but I experience way less of it than when I was pursuing transition. Because my life is really centered around accepting my body and taking care of it, making an effort to find ways for it to feel comfortable and good. My dysphoria got truly crazy while I was trying to transition. It was just constant picking at myself and feeling so sad and uncomfortable.
I can’t really do anything about the billboard. Well, I could have a surgeon cut up the billboard, but as I’ve said before, that would take all my money and my thirties and it would be an unnerving billboard for a long time. And really, I just don’t want my main relationship to my body to be as if it’s a billboard and it’s advertising me. This body is also my home and my foundation and when it’s doing well and feeling good I’m more likely to respond to the world in the ways I want to. I want to take care of it and treat it like the enormous blessing a healthy young body is. If other people look at this body and assume a bunch of inaccurate stuff about my personality and soul, that sucks, and it’s also the human condition. We probably just shouldn’t be around so many strangers and definitely shouldn’t be watching all this tv.
You see how I made all these jokes in this post? That’s what I do when I’m scared. I make jokes and I eat a lot and I procrastinate and I think about anything else. I think I might have just gotten the insight I also talk about sex in a sort of assertive, casual way when I’m scared.
I don’t like to think about dysphoria because having an episode of it is a big enough deal I don’t want to call it into my life. It truly does suck. It’s this spiral of disgust and hate and self-pity and sadness and it can take a long time to get out of it once you’re in it. I’m going to go dance and color.