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“That was dysphoria?” 8 signs and symptoms of indirect gender dysphoria

I am not a doctor, and none of this should be taken as medical advice or as diagnostic of any medical condition. These are anecdotes sourced from my experiences and those of others.

Gender dysphoria is widely described and experienced as distress due to discomfort with one’s assigned sex, and the desire to live as another sex. The condition of gender dysphoria is common among transgender people, although being transgender is not itself a condition or disorder, nor is the presence of gender dysphoria required in order for someone to be transgender. Not all trans people have significant gender dysphoria or experience their dysphoria in the same way: different trans people may be uncomfortable with different aspects of their assigned sex, their body, their presentation, the gender role expected of them, and so on.

Nevertheless, the common thread of gender dysphoria is that it is linked with our gender and the various components of this. The distress of dysphoria, and hopefully its resolution, are contingent on how closely the overall situation of our gender aligns with what we need it to be. For this reason, people typically understand the experience of gender dysphoria as being very clearly and self-evidently centered on gender. The most widespread notion is that we become aware of our dysphoria in very direct, gender-related ways, such as knowing from a young age that we’re actually women or men despite the sex we were assigned, feeling “trapped” in our bodies due to their inappropriate sex characteristics, needing to make our “outside” match our “inside”, and strongly wishing to present and live as another gender.

Diverse experiences of dysphoria

This understanding of gender dysphoria is an incomplete one. A largely unrecognized facet of dysphoria is that not all trans people initially recognize or experience this as being unmistakably connected to our genders. Some of us suffer the distress that stems from dysphoria, but without many clues that this is about gender, and its relation to our genders may be obvious only in retrospect. Much attention is focused on the “gender” part of this, the well-defined cross-gender identities and needs and feelings. Less is given to the experience of more general dysphoria.

What is dysphoria? Outside of gender dysphoria, it’s hard to find much useful information on what dysphoria itself is supposed to mean. It’s certainly not limited to gender dysphoria – it can be a symptom of various other conditions as wide-ranging as anxiety disorders, personality disorders, major depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, insomnia, PMS, and stress, and it can also be a side effect of antipsychotic drugs.

But what does dysphoria actually feel like – how does it present itself? You won’t find much more detail than a simple list of other symptoms. Wikipedia describes it as “a state of feeling unwell or unhappy; a feeling of emotional and mental discomfort”. Another page lists anxiety as a symptom of dysphoria, and dysphoria as a symptom of anxiety. As a 2007 paper in Australasian Psychiatry concluded:

The current semantic status of dysphoria is most unsatisfactory. Its definitions are usually too broad or too simplistic and, therefore, not clinically useful. There is no agreement on what the term means.

People in distress want to understand exactly what it is they’re experiencing and why they’re experiencing it, and vague references to “feeling unwell” are not helpful. We already know we’re not feeling well. Why? And what can we do about it?

That’s the question faced by trans people whose gender dysphoria doesn’t present in ways that are directly and plainly connected to gender. My gender dysphoria primarily took the form of this indirect dysphoria, and I’ve spoken with many other trans people whose dysphoria also did not initially have a clear and unavoidable association with gender. Due to the lack of strong indicators that these “unwell feelings” are actually a matter of gender, it can take us quite a long time just to realize that we’re trans or that what we’re feeling is dysphoria. This can be so non-obvious that even as some of us do begin to explore the possibility of transitioning, we still might not make the connection that our unwell feelings are a symptom of dysphoria, or that transitioning is something that could help with this.

The importance of recognizing dysphoria

When you don’t know what this is, or that it’s even an actual condition, it’s easy to mistake it for who you naturally are. You might think it’s part of your innate personality and disposition, and something you just have to learn to cope with. This can delay recognizing that you’re trans or that transitioning is an appropriate choice for you. Because I viewed my lifelong unease in this way, I initially believed that I didn’t even experience dysphoria, and that I was already okay. I didn’t know there was anything wrong with me.

The real extent of my dysphoria only became clear after I began to transition (motivated largely by the desire to induce physical feminization and prevent further masculinization, rather than the need to treat a clear dysphoria), and these feelings dissipated for the first time ever. Once I had this basis for comparison, I could see that I was indeed experiencing gender dysphoria all along – it was just so indirect that I had failed to recognize it as specifically gender-related.

Trans and questioning people sometimes doubt that they’re trans simply because they don’t have distinct feelings of gender-related unease. They might otherwise face a great deal of confusion about what it is they’re feeling, but they can be aided in their self-understanding by the insight that gender dysphoria doesn’t always manifest as a neon sign flashing “FIX YOUR GENDER”. For them, it can help to realize that their less specific feelings of discomfort might also be due to gender dysphoria. It can give them a possible answer to explore. It can give them hope.

But they won’t get that from uselessly opaque lists of symptoms like “discomfort” and “unhappiness”. Words like “anhedonia” and “malaise” don’t capture the detailed, visceral, day-to-day reality of this indirect dysphoria. Here, I aim to define it ostensively, with real-life examples of this dysphoria that seem broadly common to the experiences of myself and others.

Again, not all trans people will necessarily have all or any of these signs, as everyone’s gender dysphoria is different. Some people have more obviously gender-related symptoms than others. Similarly, not everyone with these signs is necessarily trans. They aren’t inherently limited to sufferers of gender dysphoria and can potentially be due to any of the other conditions previously listed, like garden-variety depression or anxiety disorders – but for some trans people, these are indeed symptoms which resolve once the dysphoria is addressed.

This is an initial attempt to feel out a phenomenon that isn’t yet widely known, named, or defined. Some trans people may recognize their experiences in this list, and others may not. But if I had known these things, it would have made my transition a lot easier. And perhaps cis people, too, can start to understand just how damaging dysphoria can be – and how important it is to treat it.

Signs of indirect gender dysphoria

1. Continual difficulty with simply getting through the day. For most of my life, everything was inexplicably stressful, and it was hard to work up the effort to do even the smallest everyday things. Going to the store, cleaning up the house, getting in the shower, any little thing people asked of me… it all just felt like too much. Even when there was no situational cause for this stress, nothing came easily to me. It was more than a mere habit of laziness – it was like I was so mentally fatigued that everything was a constant burden and a struggle.

I could force myself to get things done, but it would take a lot out of me. I would be irritable, snappish, annoyed by everything, and in anywhere from a mildly bad mood to a very bad mood almost every day. What happiness I did experience was typically short-lived and compromised by the ongoing undertone of dissatisfaction and, well, grumpiness. I didn’t like this at all. It was a constant tension, and I wished more than anything that I could find some way to relax and unwind. I didn’t want to be this way.

2. A sense of misalignment, disconnect, or estrangement from your own emotions. I was always on an unsteady footing with my feelings. As a child, I would cry almost every day at the drop of a hat. Anything could trigger it – being even mildly reprimanded, getting a wrong answer on schoolwork, the sort of insignificant things that no one else around me ever cried so frequently about. It really was abnormal, and eventually most of the people around me got pretty tired of it. It was so embarrassing and I tried to stop it because I didn’t want to cry so much, either. But I couldn’t control it.

In my teen years, this shifted: I could almost never cry at all, even when I wanted to. I would feel like crying, I would know on some level that I should be crying, but I just couldn’t make it happen. When I rarely did manage to cry, that was even worse. It was too much, and I would be overcome by it to the point of uncontrollable wailing sobs. There was no in-between, no moderate amount of tears. I cried as much at the death of a month-old pet rat as I did at my grandmother’s funeral.

And I dreaded crying, because afterward and for the next day or so, I would be smothered in this horrible feeling of emotional deadness. It felt like my head was full of concrete, like my consciousness was trying to wade through molasses, and it was a feeling that seemed to be genuinely physical in nature. It seemed as though my brain simply ran out of whatever fueled my ability to feel anything at all – like I had no emotions left. There was no way to “get over it” or force myself to perk up, I just had to wait it out. I resented anyone or anything that made me cry. I feared the awful choking numbness that was bound to happen next time.

3. A feeling of just going through the motions in everyday life, as if you’re always reading from a script. Everything always seemed like it was somehow less real than it ought to be. I didn’t feel like I was my own person – I had no sense of myself as someone who could make my own choices and decisions as I wished. I often lacked that internal initiative that wants things and seeks things for no reason other than the fact that you simply want them and that’s that. I didn’t even think of that kind of wanting as a feeling I was capable of – there was just no drive for it.

In the absence of a well-defined identity and a strong sense of self-direction, other people’s obligations filled the void. Since I didn’t want to do anything, I just did whatever was expected of me and said whatever was expected of me. That was all I ever did. I felt like an actor, being handed my lines by someone else, and I didn’t know how to be anything other than that. I didn’t know I should be anything other than that. I often thought of wanting to tear my face off to see if there was anything real underneath.

4. A seeming pointlessness to your life, and no sense of any real meaning or ultimate purpose. Even when I did find things to do that I vaguely enjoyed, it still felt like I was just killing time. Each day was like checking off a box, knowing that eventually the days would run out, but not really knowing how else to spend the time. When I worked on things, there wasn’t any higher sense of eventually working toward anything.

You live for a while, and then you die, and that’s that. I didn’t think there was anything else to life. So why bother with any real long-term goals? When I did set goals for myself, it was just for the sake of it – not because I was motivated by any purpose that I genuinely cared about. Nothing made me feel truly fulfilled, like I was accomplishing anything meaningful. So why bother?

5. Knowing you’re somehow different from everyone else, and wishing you could be normal like them. I often wondered how other kids could just go about their lives, talking and laughing and being so calm and happy, like nothing was wrong. I don’t know what I really expected of them – I didn’t have the vaguest idea of what was “wrong”, either. I didn’t know why I felt so anxious all the time, I just did. I had no idea why the rest of the world didn’t feel the same way, and I wanted to know what that was like.

It felt like my mind was constantly talking to itself without any interruption, and it was overanalyzing everything around me. Some second, parallel existence seemed to be running alongside my direct experience of consciousness: an inner monologue of sorts, but a very toxic one. I couldn’t stop thinking about everything – it was as though this loud voice in my head kept me from simply existing in the moment.

There was no way to shut off that voice and just be, like everyone else. I wanted those two sides to line up and merge so I could feel natural and at ease too. But it wouldn’t go away, no matter how hard I tried. There always seemed to be some invisible skin separating me from the rest of reality – I could move around in the real world, interact with it, but never actually touch it or feel it.

6. A notable escalation in the severity of these symptoms during puberty. Around 12 or 13, things really started going downhill for me. While it was already difficult to cope with school, friends, and a troubled home life, I was able to handle it before the onset of puberty. Not anymore. For a few years, my emotions weren’t just blunted or dysfunctional – they went missing almost entirely. I felt nothing, day in and day out. And each day was the same, a robotic routine of just waiting for the time to pass. I couldn’t even force myself to care about anything. This, too, felt like a truly physical thing that I couldn’t fight.

I knew I was failing every class, and it just didn’t matter to me. I handed in blank tests without a care in the world. I was fully aware of what the long-term consequences would be, but none of it seemed real. I’d already hit bottom – nothing could make it any worse. I couldn’t bring myself to get anything done no matter how much anyone lectured or threatened or punished me.

They told me I was throwing away my future – I didn’t even see any problem with that. What future? Why did anyone care about me? I sure didn’t. My parents withdrew me after sophomore year because there was no point to keeping someone in school who just didn’t do anything. So I stayed indoors like a hermit for most of my teen years, and didn’t do anything there, either.

7. Attempting to fix this on your own through various coping mechanisms. I often wondered whether some substance, like cannabis, was what I needed to loosen up and finally relax. I tried that. I tried drinking, I tried Vicodin, I even tried nootropics like piracetam, all of it in the hopes that it could improve my mood and make life feel easier. I wanted to find something, anything, that would be the key to repairing what I increasingly saw as the broken parts of myself. Some of it helped for a short while, thought not significantly. By no means did it “fix” me in any meaningful sense – it took my mind off things for a bit, but the problem was still there.

When none of that worked, I tried to train my mind to shy away instinctively from negative thoughts so that I wouldn’t spiral off into depressive ruminations as I had for most of my teen years. This was mostly successful, and it wasn’t a bad idea by any means, though the fundamental unhappiness and anxiety remained. I figured all I could do was ignore it as much as possible and focus on whatever positives I could find – I gave up hope of ever truly fixing this.

8. Substantial resolution of these symptoms in a very obvious way upon transitioning, particularly upon initiating HRT. While this is somewhat of a diagnosis-by-treatment, this is what makes it clear that these difficulties are indeed specifically gender-related, and not due to other conditions. If we’re fortunate, then one way or another, we eventually start to pick up on our own personal hints that lead us in the direction of reconsidering our gender. And at a certain point in the process, we begin to realize that this might be what we’ve been searching for all our lives.

For me, as I transitioned a little, it helped a little. When I presented in a feminine way and took on a feminine identity, I started to come into my own and take shape as a real person. I began to steer my life in a direction that I wanted. It was easier to have goals and things I derived satisfaction from, and this encouraged me to start caring about myself more. I was able to fall in love and have a real relationship for the first time – something I never saw the point of before, and had resigned myself to doing without.

Still, my general sense of discomfort and irritability remained, and it kept making my life difficult. I was tired of feeling bad every single day. But as it turned out, when I transitioned a lot, it helped a lot. Once I started HRT, the effect was immediate: these symptoms totally dissipated. It was such a stark difference, it became clear that what I’d been suffering before likely was indeed physical and chemical in nature. I could tell it had been gender dysphoria, because it just wasn’t there anymore once I received the treatment for gender dysphoria.

Now, I could actually relax – it was so amazing to be truly calm for the first time in my life. And it lasted, and there was no more pain to hide. I could cry and feel good afterward, as if it replenished me rather than draining me of emotion. It was possible to feel things in all their detail and depth and texture, rather than being limited to either numbness or emotional overload. The skin of separation was gone, and life was a breeze: I was just happy, all day, without constantly intrusive thoughts distracting me and separating me from the world. I can truly care about everything I choose to work towards, because it matters now. I’m the normal person I always wanted to be, and I can get on with simply living.

Finally, I was a whole human being. Nothing was wrong and nothing was missing anymore. I found what I was looking for, and it gave me back the life that dysphoria had taken from me.

Again, these signs aren’t shared by all trans people – every person’s dysphoria is a little different, and transitioning can have differing effects on us. But it seems that a significant portion of trans people, whether their dysphoria is clearly gender-related or more subtle, report having feelings similar to these. If you’ve been reevaluating your gender, and these experiences seem relatable to you, it may be worth considering that this could be gender dysphoria – and that it’s potentially treatable.

Update, March 2014: Please see my followup post on my recent experience of being diagnosed with depression after transitioning, as it contains important additional material pertaining to these symptoms.

Comments

  1. Amanda Daniels says

    Thank you for this article. its not bad enough to have gender dysphoria? Having it and not knowing what it is that makes you different can be maddening. And then finding family and community and hearing all the ” i have known since i was 2″. Well i didn’t know. not a clue. and so there is that feeling of not belonging, or maybe of personal misinterpretation. Am i really trans? everybody else has known since they were two. but not me. never me. and so i have had to intensely question myself. but something was up. i have known that my entire life. This article helps in ways you cannot possibly know. Thank you,
    Amanda Daniels.

    • Kade says

      I’m in the same boat. I didn’t know since I was two. I knew I was different but I didn’t know how. Like I always envied the boys but never understood why. I wanted the boy toys, and never thought about why. I wanted to be in boy clothes cause I never felt comfortable in girly stuff, and never thought about why that was either. But I knew something was different and it took me 27 years to figure that out.

  2. Question mark says

    Man, this all sounds so eerily familiar. My body’s always tensed up, never able to relax. And I used to be a crybaby as a kid and then one day I stopped crying completely. Honestly can’t remember when the last time was when I cried, and yet I feel like shit all the time.

    I wonder how exactly this whole thing works. I know that hormone imbalance can have a big effect on how you feel, but it seems kinda weird for sex hormones to have such a significant, pervasive effect on your demeanor. Too much or too little of certain hormones compared to just the right amount can be the difference between depression and bliss. It seems so out of proportion. Then again, nature doesn’t always have to make sense.

    Do all depressions involve hormonal imbalances? And how many of those would specifically involve imbalance of sex hormones? Questions, questions.

    • TalieLow says

      Well for gender dysphoria in someone who is trans, the issue isn’t the quantity of the hormone it’s that it’s the wrong hormone. The brain is wired to expect estrogen and it’s getting testosterone, so it’s not happy about it. Blocking the testosterone and giving it the estrogen it’s been craving all your life can be so powerful to leave you in a euphoric state for weeks before you get used to it and settle for feeling “right”.

      That feeling of “right” is so hard to explain, but Lauren has done a pretty good job.

      • Question mark says

        Oh, I wouldn’t want to make absolute statements about whether it’s the excess of testosterone or the lack of female hormones or the combination of both that makes some trans people experience this not-initially-considered-gender-related kind of dysphoria.

        What I find interesting about this issue is that it’s conceivable that some people might feel this kind of dysphoria and would stop feeling that way if they took the right amount of certain sex hormones and/or inhibited the natural production of certain sex hormones, but without desiring to dissociate from their assigned sex at all (i.e. they aren’t trans). Imagine if some non-trans people with dysphoria could be treated with HRT. Would make for some interesting situations.

        • Moonflower says

          You ask a good question. Many alternative practitioners are treating people with hormone therapy, with good results.
          What we put in to, and onto, our bodies gets absorbed into our bloodstream, and determines which chemicals and hormones our body’s produce.
          We are exposed to many chemicals in the U.S. through the food we eat, the water we drink, the soaps we lather our bodies with, the products we clean our clothes and homes with, and the air we breath.
          Much of our diets contain growth hormones given to animals, as well as refined carbohydrates and genetically modified “foods.” Our water is fluoridated, and inundated with chemical run-off from factory farms, drilling sites, spills, etc. Most of our personal and household cleaning products contain petroleum by-products. Our air is polluted from carbon emissions.
          Hormone therapy has helped many people with “gender” dysphoria, as well as people with other types of dysphoria. However, they are just one part of the puzzle of what is causing all of these many of these dysphoria problems.
          Our planet is one giant ecosystem, which functions as a whole organism. We are a part of it. We’ve got to find a workable balance with nature.

          • lance mead says

            Thats a first ……………… read your post an someone else thats already understood …… we are what we come in contact with !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! what we wash with everything …… it sucks …… why cant people see it ……. xxx

    • km says

      I’m cis, but I can tell you that the wrong kind of hormonal birth control really messed me up. Panic attacks mixed with deep depression that totally disappeared within a week of switching to a different formulation (and had a difference of all of 50 micrograms of progesterone a day). There has never been a clearer illustration to me of the massive effect sex hormones can have on your mood…not to mention the really interesting fact that many women do just fine on the first birth control I tried–even cis individuals really really differ in how they respond to hormones.

  3. Byron says

    Thank you for posting this. I’m FtM myself and have spent the past few months coping with my gender and coming out to a select few.

    My jaw literally dropped when I started into this. I could have written this list. Everything on there I’ve experienced to some degree. I’m certainly not a traditional trans* story but I remember this vague feeling of being wrong and fake, along with my mood and inauthentic emotions. Reaffirming to consider that my gender could be the underlying cause.

  4. Rob says

    Sorry for the bad news: I have had all of these emotions and I am not dysphoric (Is that a word?) Or am I in denial? Or just not ready yet?

    Anyway, I thought these “symptoms” were just a part of growing up.

      • Trey says

        *sorry- I may have misread your comment at first. I thought the exact same thing about denial, being ready, and growing up. I’m now at the point that my “subtle clues” add up.

  5. Firefly14 says

    This list is about as close as anything that I’ve ever seen to my own experience. I was born male, and I’ve come to realize over the past year or so–I’m 23 now–that I’m trans.

    My personal twist on this story was that the combo of my social issues (severe) and my intelligence (head and shoulders above most of the class) during middle school was enough to get me an Asperger diagnosis, so everything “wrong” with me that anyone knows about (which doesn’t include a thing involving gender, because although I’m at school hundreds of miles away from home, I’m still in rural Wisconsin) gets blamed on that.

    Just about everything in this list fits me.

    #3 (sick and damned tired of being what other people think I should be), #4 (hello, I’m in college, which is the primary “check off a box” activity in the US), #5 (I’m not telling the story of my first stop after realizing that the Catholic God was impossible), #6 (years before I had ever heard of LGBT, the point when I first started believing that I would’ve been better off as a girl), #7 (mostly alcohol, including one night with a Magnum bottle of Cabernet last year when I crossdressed for the first time), and even–in a very limited manner, precipitated by a few birth control pills that I found while cleaning dorm rooms over this past summer–#8.

    For just a couple of days, I felt a kind of vitality that I had never known before, and that’s about the point where I realized that there wasn’t anything wrong with who I am, just what I am right now. Not quite ready to take that next step (since it would almost definitely completely cut me off from everyone I knew before, family included), but I’ve started thinking about it.

  6. dangerousbeans says

    the weird ones i got were typical menopausal symptoms, hot flushes and crawling sensations, and this weird feeling of my body being too big. not as in my hands/shoulders being in the larger range for humans, but this weird sensation of me being a really tiny thing, and my body being a massive thing i’m floating inside of. no idea what that was about, but it’s stopped (mostly) with HRT.
    i remember a conversation with my doctor, the one who would later prescribe me hormones, where i describes a bunch of symptoms including the hot flushes, and him commenting that it would all make sense if i were a 50 year old woman.

    i think the emotions are one of the best bits of transition; 18 years of feeling either angry or meh, and now i can feel things!

  7. Sarah Lennox says

    Hi Lauren

    For interest I wonder if you have read this paper – ‘Transgender children: more than a theoretical challenge’ by Natacha Kennedy. Despite (or perhaps because of) what the abstract says about trans children becoming aware of their gender at a very early age, I think it makes a strong case for the way cultural/social pressures and the lack of a visible/viable pathway may lead to powerful denial and loss of direction. I know this was my own experience.

    A therapist ponce put it to me very well … Before you’re even really conscious of what you are doing, you bundle it all theta gender stuff that’s too difficult to think about into a closet, lock the door and place a big sign on it saying ‘Don’t even think of unlocking this door”

    Being trans can become just as unapparent to the trans person themself as it is to everyone else.

    http://www.academia.edu/2760086/Transgender_Children_More_than_a_Theoretical_Challenge_2012_updated_version_

  8. Great American Satan says

    I feel I often have to remind people of this: Hormones are not guaranteed to make you feel better! This should be communicated loudly and clearly to trans folks taking them, because you already have to deal with so much internalized cissexist doubt and pain, that when the supposed magic bullet doesn’t work, you have to deal with it afresh.

    Some trans people will feel better on the appropriate sex hormones. Some trans people will see no improvement in their emotional state. Some trans people will be unable to take hormones at all for medical reasons. It doesn’t make you less trans, just as a poor trans*man who can’t afford top surgery isn’t less trans than Buck Angel.

    • says

      For me, the hormones made me feel way way better, it’s just due to extreme isolation and bigotry it wasn’t (and hasn’t) been nearly as much of an effect as if I wasn’t in extreme isolation for years (continuing) due to shunning and marginalization, didn’t lose my family and extended family twice due to a cult we were in and then again due to bigotry, etc. Hormones for me were very powerfully good, and still are; they helped me amazingly, it’s just my life was so bad and got somewhat worst post transition due to transphobia so it’s not like the hormones solved everything. For some people though, hormones definitely don’t make them feel better, and those transpeople should know they’re no less transgender for not taking them and in fact shouldn’t take them if they make them feel miserable.

      In summary, I agree with you Great American Satan, well said.

      Also@Sarah Lennox,

      I found out the hard way what being an apparent transchild to my folks got me subject to brutal corporal punishment that wound up with bleeding from the nose, seeing stars, and inner ear off kilter, my dad doing this hundreds of times (striking me) and eventually targeting every limp wrist and act of crying. As well it resulted in being kicked, slapped, punched, verbally harassed, assaulted, etc, elementary, called the f-word (rhymes with maggot) so many times before I ever even got to the fifth grade, all for being visibly trans at times in ways I had no idea how to hide until I got older.

      Thanks for that .pdf, ofc it just shows how amazingly wonderful this culture is to transgender kids. Who would have known we were among the most oppressed and marginalized as children even If you listen to the cisnarrative out there we were just privileged little angels and didn’t realize it, all the while the same 2nd wave feminist cisscum towing that line were front and center making sure to erase our entire transgender identities coercively in grade school, allowing bullies to have their sway with those of us who were obviously transgender.

  9. AMM says

    I’ve never thought of myself as trans, although I do wonder from time to time, but it’s weird how this post seems to speak to me.

    I’ve had generalized dysphoria all my life. I was in therapy for ~25 years, and that was the diagnosis. I was also on antidepressants for 5-10 years (can’t remember exactly) just in order to function, and probably need to get back on them. (On my to-do list for today is to call someone for a referral.)

    I also have trouble crying, even when I feel awful and distraught and my mind says it’s an appropriate time. I tend to feel wooden instead. I don’t know if I cried a lot as a kid, but I think I got called a “cry baby,” though that was a pretty common taunt. But then, my growing up was an ongoing hell until about 8th grade, to the point that suicide was on my mind pretty much every day. I think when things started to improve is when I finally internalized “don’t be a cry baby” and stopped expecting anyone else to understand or help with any of my problems.

    I’ve never fit in in pretty much any group I’ve been in, and had it made clear to me over and over again that I don’t belong. The nearest thing I’ve been able to figure out is that each group tacitly requires you to be a certain way, and I don’t seem to be able to be whatever it is. Now that I’ve been an adult for a while, I’m able to manage in most situations that aren’t pure socializing.

    Gender and gender expectations have been an issue all my life. I’ve never thought of myself as anything but male, but I’ve never been able to get anywhere with all the stuff you’re supposed to be if you’re male. (Growing up in what I call “the Ante-Bellum South” didn’t help.) Most of it I couldn’t peform even when I wanted to (to fit in), and the rest just creeped me out. By now, it _all_creeps me out. Sex: male. Gender: get lost!

    One funny thing: for most of my childhood, I had this recurring nightmare that I would wake up and discover I was a girl. It terrified me. The ending of “the Land of Oz” creeped me out for years, and many decades later, I still have trouble reading it. To this day, I can’t read or watch stories that involve the protagonist experiencing some sort of gender swap, apparent or real.

    On the other hand, even though I’ve been attracted to “girl stuff” all my life (to the point that I now wear skirts or dresses whenever I can), I’ve never seriously thought of transitioning. For one thing, with my body, there’s no amount of surgery that could make me seem in any way female. For another, I have the impression that I would be just as dissatisfied with what women are expected to be and perform as I am with what’s expected of men.

    • says

      A VERY intelligent comment and I think your voice needs to be heard loud and clear. “I have the impression that I would be just as dissatisfied with what women are expected to be and perform as I am with what’s expected of men.” YES. IF NOT MORE B/C HELLO SEXISM.

      Sex: male. Gender: get lost! <– PERFECTION.

      Love,
      A Radical Feminist

    • Grace says

      I thought the same thing, once I got out of a two-decades stretch of denial. Yet: I pass, and I reject plenty of the expectations placed on women all the time. I own three pairs of shoes, I’m enthuasiastically sex-positive, and swear like a sailor when I feel the need.

      It wasn’t about the expectations at all. It was pretty hilarious when someone who “rejected gender” tried to tell me I’d be miserable. They were miserable with those expectations, and understandably so — the expectations are unfair and generally insane. But I am more whole than I have ever been. I was miserable before. I’m less miserable now even though society values me less.

      It was worth it. It was worth it even if I couldn’t get a job and can’t get paid as much as a man now, it was worth it even if I get weird looks for not knowing I mismatched colors occasionally, and it’s worth it even if men occasionally talk over me as if I’m not there. I butt right the fuck in.

      I’m a bitch, I transitioned, and I pass — and those are three things I never thought I’d be able to say about myself.

  10. otrame says

    Zinnia, what you are describing, especially in the first 4 above, are symptoms of depression. Depression is itself a symptom that can be caused by many things, so people who have those symptoms should not assume, hey, maybe I’m trans and don’t know it! It is #8 that shows where the stress in your life–possibly exacerbated by some hormonal and/or neurochemical imbalance–that was causing the depression was coming from.

    I suspect that most people with above average intelligence feel #5 during childhood and adolescence, though actually being different in some other way certainly didn’t help.

    And, by the way, there is nothing “unmedical” about trying different treatments and then diagnosing the problem by what works. Dermatologists do it all the time, because rashes are rashes and the only way to figure out what causes them it to treat for different things until something works.

    Depression is depression and figuring out what causes it sometimes does mean trying different treatments until something works. For me it was selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. I’m fine now, as long as I take my little pink pill every morning. For you it was being who you are right out in front of everybody and then making your body come much closer to who you feel you are with hormones. So now all the energy that you once put into pushing through depression to try to live your life can be spent on other things. I can only imagine what being trans is like, but I know what lifting out of depression feels like and I am happy for you.

    • Sally Martin says

      With all respect Lack of estrogen in transwomen and lack of testosterone in transmen cause depression. There’s a biological cause to the feelings described in the post. Otherwise transpeople could just put on a dress or pants and be happy, it doesn’t work that way!

  11. says

    I am a woman and I experienced all of these symptoms aside from the desire for SRS. Instead of thinking I should really have been born a man I read some feminism and realized I should really not give into sexist expectations. And neither should men. I recognized that gender and sex are different and that gender is the problem. Instead of saying that people have a “gender identity” that was born into the wrong body, how about we do the much simpler and kinder thing and SCRAP GENDER. Let boys & girls grow into their bodies AND personalities as organically and safely as possible. Let boys wear pink and play with dolls WHO CARES they should still feel like their bodies are their own safe homes. And let people who have actual SEX dysphoria pursue their treatment in peace.

  12. TrishaColum says

    Thanks for this. I’m in the late stages of questioning or the early stages of transitioning. I have plenty of dysphoria, but have never been able to figure out how much of it is specifically gender dysphoria. I was leaning to “some but not all.” Your story and even just having the phrase “indirect gender dysphoria” is helpful. My experiences are not all that similar to yours, but it is easy to see how most of my dysphoria “might” be indirect gender dysphoria I guess if I get to try out HRT that will clarify further …

    Oh and if you’ve never seen this little parable from Buttersafe you should … http://buttersafe.com/2012/08/16/the-seasick-squid/

  13. Heidrun says

    Thank you for this illuminating post.

    I believe I understand ‘the importance of recognizing dysphoria’, but what I do not understand which consequences to draw when you do.

    In my case, it took about 30 years to find out what was wrong (although, by hindsight, I should have known much earlier) and then it took another 15 years or so to realize that the bad stuff that is not gender related stems from this also. This post just confirms it.

    My point is that I cannot bring myself to believe that transitioning is not worse. Or rather, that it would not be worse in my particular case. The psych inquisition. The humiliating and dehumanizing hoop jumping. Making myself a target for the legions of bigots out there.My age. My good looks (haha…). Each day I tell myself that I do not have to undergo – that – and this helps me immensely to persevere.

    To put it bluntly – it is, and it remains, my pain, my unhappiness and my life, but I am in control and not some rotten doctor who would dissect it and pin it, and me, in a box like a dead moth.

    Frankly – I do not understand this. Is it so much worse for others that they rather undergo these gruesome ordeals?

    • Grace says

      but I am in control and not some rotten doctor who would dissect it and pin it, and me, in a box like a dead moth

      I didn’t see a doctor to get my HRT. I self-medicated.

      I spent time wondering if I’d be an ugly woman, and decided I was okay with it because I hated how I looked anyway — if I hated it differently, a change might be better.

      I did it to take control from biology. People are people, and they suck, but the agony of despising my own flesh was beyond what I could bear.

      Transitioning sucked. It is literally the hardest thing I have ever done, and a lot of trans people feel similarly. It made me want to die — but it also made me want to live, and I took my self-hate out on virtually everyone around me most of the time. They knew I was depressed. They knew I hated myself and didn’t know how to help.

      • Heidrun says

        Thank you, Grace.

        The idea of taking control from biology is very appealing.

        Unfortunately doing what you did iis not an option for me. But, if I understand rightly you transitioned because for you it was the lesser of two evils – as I do not as for me this is the lesser of two evils. For me despising my own flesh is more tolerable than what my dear fellow humans would do to me. I will not give them the opportunity.

        I hope, however, that in your case it was worth it.

  14. badgersdaughter says

    I’ve felt all of that as long as I was able to understand my own inner state. I remember feeling that disconnected feeling as early as three. Yes, it got a lot worse during puberty. It got even worse after I was pregnant for the first time. It got incredibly worse over the past couple of years. Believe it or not, now that I think I’m missing my first period of menopause, I feel emotionally better than I remember feeling at any time before puberty. It may be a coincidence. All my life I felt alone and disconnected with my own family, and responsible for everything and everyone around me without the corresponding ability to depend on anyone else. My new husband has told me and told me that no matter what happens between the two of us, I belong to his family now and I won’t be abandoned anymore. To an emotionally orphaned person like me, that is like finally coming home… no, it is coming home.

  15. Adella Peters says

    I greatly appreciate this article it describe very well what I went through before finally seeking treatment for gender dysphoria 18 months ago and new methods for treating my ocd. I started on hormones little more than a month ago. The changes have been amazing before I simply existed and described my self often as an actor to my dr.’s never daring to express these feeling to my parents and loved ones. I served them simply as mule to bear their loads in my case this meant doing well at school as well because if I did badly it directly put a hurt on them financially and emotionally, so acted and worked as they wanted me coming home most days in a blur at best. My interactions school never worked well except with girls as friends never in a sexual since. The one “relationship” I had was simply a farce the girl needed a guy to make her boyfriend jealous, and I needed excuse to keep my parents from thinking I was gay( no issue here just an extremely religious household and being the actor pleasing the critic I did not want to feel their disdain). So we “dated” for about two months and then she got back with her real boyfriend vs her “boyfriend”. In college for many years I was treated for depression with every pill possible and combination their in resulting in side effects as bad as seizures and not much improvement. Culminating in 9 days in the hospital after a particularly serious event to detox me I had been seriously questioning my gender by this point for a few months, and started to seek direct psychotherapy. The therapy allowed me to uncover things I had buried and to discover that a lot of what I had been feeling was dysphoria specifically gender dysphoria, we had treated the OCD and discussed and discussed it but it was not until we began to treat the gender dysphoria that things really improved. Thing especially improved after starting hormones all of my doctors remarked that it was nice to see smile a genuine smile for the first time. For those suffering from this I feel this all to common an experience it took until I was 27 to get proper treatment and fully recognize these issues I am not 28 nearly 29. I have gone from 20+ pills a day to 7, 1 to help with the OCD which may no longer be necessary as my symptoms have been improving dramatically since taking this path, 1 to help me sleep, 1 for blood pressure which is now improving,1 for cholesterol which is now improving, 1 for my crampy body which is getting better and 2 anti-androgens, and a once a week shot of Estradiol. I have been loosing weight since coming to terms with this and embracing it. Weight loss has been something I have needed for a long time with just the reduction in stress I have I went from nearly 290LBs(288) in May to now 243LBs and dropping at a steady rate of 5-6LBs a month. I imagine that will improve to as I now have the will and energy to exercise. I just wish my parents could see this they have not accepted it yet nor tolerate my expression as me around them yet if only they could see the pain I am free of as Emily and not Adam.

  16. Li says

    This was beautiful and illuminating, thank you for writing it. I’m curious if the sense of having better access to your emotions after starting hormones is different for FtM trans* people. I’ve heard anecdotally that T dulls your sense of your emotional range, and E heightens it. Could your sense of emotional deadness before hormones and sense of emotional fluidity after be partially due to which hormones you took?

    • Tnonymous says

      It didn’t dull my emotions. Others say it does for them, but if anything, I felt more, and more deeply, than I had been able to for years.

  17. Lockhart says

    This blog post deals with a problem I have been thinking about for a long time.

    I have had trouble figuring out whether my depression symptoms are related to my trans feelings.

    I think I am a transgender person. The problem is that I don’t really have any memories of childhood, and I can’t really remember hating my gender. I can’t imagine ever actually thinking about my gender as a child or teenager. It wasn’t until I was a young adult that I started thinking about gender at all. I’m not sure if i ever thought of myself as a man or woman before I started thinking about it as an adult. I can never figure out if my depression is related to my trans feelings or not. I have had problems with depression since I was a child.

    It doesn’t help that I have autism further complicating things. I always felt different from other children when I was young and my autism was probably a huge part of it.

  18. says

    I’ve always been pretty confused about myself. I never felt like I fit any “category.”
    I’ve tried to talk to therapists about it and it’s hard to be taken seriously. I don’t even try to have relationships anymore because the only thing that feels like it would be REAL to me and not faking something I don’t feel is something that has seemed like an impossibility.
    I’ve been reading your posts and other things, and I still am utterly confused by me… but at the same time, I kinda feel like something is changing.
    I still don’t understand myself, but I feel like some barriers are coming down in terms of the framework within which I allow myself to think of myself. I don’t know if that makes any sense.
    I also feel like if I ever dare express to anyone what I DO feel, what my dreams and daydreams since childhood of the “me” I imagine have always been, I’ll face criticism from all corners.
    Because it seems like everyone wants to impose their own set of rules, not just heterosexual cisgendered people.

    Then I tell myself I’m almost 50 and at this point it’s too late and doesn’t matter anyway.
    And I’m still afraid of offending people. Hell… I get constant complaints from family members just for wearing my hair both long and not “at least in a pony tail like men who DO have long hair are supposed to.”
    Something as minor as my freaking hair and how I like it to look. As if that’s even anyone’s business.

    The world seems to give you only either/or choices about how to be or know yourself.

    • Tigger_the_Wing, Back home =^_^= says

      I’ll 56 next Sunday. It’s never too late! Although I’ve only admitted who I am, genderwise, for a few years. =^_^=

      I’m not out to many people in meatspace. It doesn’t matter. I present ambiguously, sometimes even deliberately! Yes, some people don’t like it. I don’t pay them any more respect than they are prepared to pay me.*

      If you feel able to defy the either/or choices, do so. Some people really feel themselves to be very feminine women, others to be very masculine men, regardless of the shape of body they were born with. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that and if they are able to pursue that lifestyle and feel comfortable in it, I congratulate them on being true to themselves.

      Most of us fall somewhere between those two extremes. There are horrendous societal pressures on everyone to conform to the extremes of gender expression, or at least to perform them to the best of our ability. Those pressures hurt everyone who isn’t naturally that way inclined, but they aren’t exactly caused by the people who are lucky enough to fall within a few standard deviations of those points, although they can be keen policers of gender conformity I’ve often been hurt to discover that it is those people who don’t feel themselves to be able to fit into the box society wants to put them in who are the keenest to tell other people how they should present.

      Of course, there are many cis-women who have a perceived-to-be masculine gender presentation, and plenty of cis-men who are a great deal more feminine than them. And of course, none of that has anything whatsoever to do with sexual orientation and I haven’t even started on the NT/ND differences (I’m autistic).

      So why is it that those of us who are trans* are frequently supposed to conform to outdated stereotypes of cis-hetero-masculinity or -femininity that have never accurately described more than a subset of all the ways people can be?

      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

      *If I further transition (get rid of these useless, annoying and painful breasts, and take T), then I’m not expecting to start behaving in a much more masculine manner than I do already. I’m a biker and mechanic who loves to crochet (and used to knit, before arthritis made that impossible). As it happens, I have a friend who is also a biker who crochets; but he’s a cis-hetero man. I used to have waist-length hair, but for six years have either had a crew-cut (which I sometimes dye silly colours; easier now it’s grey) or been completely bald. I’m androphilic for my husband, asexual towards everyone else. I do sometimes wear a dress. When I was younger, I very rarely wore make-up. Just once every few years; even when I did get around to putting some on, I usually wiped it off before I left the house as it felt uncomfortable and I didn’t recognise myself in the mirror!

  19. Alex says

    Hey,
    thanks for the very interesting and personal post. As you point out, at least 6 out of the 8 points appear to be exactly symptoms of clinical depression – of course it makes sense that gender dysphoria is a cause of depression, but I imagine diagnosing based on that is nigh impossible without additional cues…

  20. Heidrun says

    There is something I find deeply worrying while reading all these posts. Saying it will make me very unpopular, but as I feel I am obliged to a certain degree of honesty when talking to other trans people ‘lll say it and leave. Zinnia – by all means delete me if what I say causes offence. What you do deserves the gravest respect, and the very least thing I wish to do is causing any trouble here.

    It is this: From ‘gender dysphoria’ to ‘depression’, people use medical and particularly psych terminology as if these ‘phenomena’ were somehow written in stone. At the same time it is very clear that political medicine, psychdom in particular, pathologize trans people (on your side of the pond names like Money, Bailey and Blanchard come to mind), act as goalpost-moving gatekeepers and line their pockets splendidly by ‘curing’ all the pain their dear colleages cause in the first place. More important, from gatekeeper to ‘therapist’, every trans person dealing with them enters power relation after power relation, and in each one the ‘doctor’ is the arbiter of truth.

    I, for one, refuse to call what I experience ‘gender dysphoria’. There is nothing wrong or harmful with my ‘gender’. There is something deeply wrong with a society and a culture which deals with the issue the way it does. What I experience is cultural and political oppression, not a ‘disease’ or an ‘illness’. And where do pathologizing and ‘othering’ theories come from? From the very same disciplines that obfuscate oppressive procedues as ‘treatment’ and ‘help’.They are not sciences. They have a long and disturbing history of ‘hunting the abnormal’ and of misogyny.

    This has nothing to do with individual intentions. They may be benevolent. After all, medieval witch-hunters were deeply convinced they were helping people, and the church had clarified the issue beyond any doubt.
    Neither are they ‘evil’ – they are wrong, and bigoted. as they were wrong and bigoted when they pathologized lesbians and gays, something ‘LGB(t)’ appears to have forgotten. And yes, this is bigotry too.

    By all means – if you think and feel you have reasons to trust your doctors and therapists and whatnot, forget what I said, and I wish you all the best. Honestly. If the definition of ‘gender dysphoria’ works for you – fine. As for me – in a place where terms like ‘clinical depression’ fly about I better duck and find my way out.

    Farewell, and again: all the best.

    • Daira says

      There is plenty wrong with this culture, but that doesn’t imply that trans people don’t *also* have a medical condition that benefits from treatment. Getting it treated certainly doesn’t have to entail an uncritical view of medical practice.

      Frankly, I think some of the people who have been involved in my treatment have been incompetent, but it hasn’t actually mattered much, since I’ve double-checked everything myself with multiple sources. You actually *do not* have to trust your doctors (and IMHO, shouldn’t, although I admit I may be relying on some educational and class privilege here that isn’t available to everyone).

  21. Alex says

    @Heidrun,

    You seem to deny that mental health problems are a thing. Do you believe that what is usually called depression is merely a result of oppression etc., that changing society would solve all these problems? Brain chemistry is a thing, irrespective of the problematic aspects and history of psychiatry.

    • sc says

      There is actual clinical depression, then there is what most people have that is called “depression” but is actually a state of awareness that comes with our society’s woes that cause people to become depressed.

      You and others like you prey on the weakness of self-aware and otherwise intelligent people that are going through dark times thanks to their station in life and the oppressiveness of society by giving them drugs to “conform” or telling them that they need to change genders to be happy, which is only a short-term distraction and not a real, long-term solution.

      Certainly there ARE — repeat, THERE ARE — people who are just fine with their lives and are clinically depressed that do, in fact, need help. There ARE people who are uncomfortable with their own gender that should switch. But the “signs” you list are often a sign of intelligent self-awareness and the feeling that our society simply does not care about you and would rather feed the super-rich than care for the average person and their dreams, not that someone needs to switch genders or are even clinically depressed.

      You are preying on the weak in order to recruit them into your own circle because you want more people to belong to the world you are in. It is a terrible thing to do.

      • says

        No one has to transition if they don’t feel it’s right for them. This isn’t something people do without a great deal of consideration and introspection.

        • Adella Peters says

          Exactly it took me many years of introspection and counseling to insure other issues weren’t clouding my conclusions before making the decision and I am glad I did.

      • Alex says

        Erm,
        @sc,
        What???
        was that supposed to be a reply to my post? Because I certainly didn’t say that anyone who does not feel well needs to be pumped full of psychopharma. That would be terrible. I was merely replying to Heidrun’s total denial of clinical origins of mental illness, which is also dangerous.

  22. Oob says

    I’m an odd one, I’ve always felt uncomfortable in my own body, but it is from a general disgust with the human body (or, bodies in general, my life wouldn’t be markedly improved if I was a cat or ape thing). Switching genders never once appealed to me because I’m equally disgusted with both versions. I get by by simply not thinking too much about my divided skull filled with crunchy bone bits for crunching up slime to poor down into a mucus sack to… and now I’m nauseous again… Mind you, SOME sort of human body is absolutely necessary, a necessary evil. And yes, I know exactly how horrible what I’ve just said sounds. I assure you that I don’t let it interfere with interacting with other people. I’m no hermit or shut in, though I don’t go to parties either. I just don’t much like physical contact.

    So yeah, anything having to do with maintaining this slowly rotting pile of meat tends to make me ill at ease, but for much more horrible reasons than simply wanting a change. At our current technology, I’ll die just like all the other meat bags never having changed a single aspect of that. It is my lot in life, but if I COULD change it, becoming some sort of bundle of data, I would in a heart beat.

    And throughout all of that, I just painted myself as some aberration, some misanthrope who despises humanity. I assure you that while I used some very strong words, it was mainly as an artistic license. I don’t despise humanity at all. Most of my best friends are human, and I love my family. Generally I get along just fine with people, its just those BODIES that I have a hard time with. So I guess what I’m saying is that while I can’t find a single touch stone to relate to the notion of gender identity itself (I’d rather go genderless entirely myself, finding the notion more or less useless in my personal life, but then I might have trouble urinating :D), I can CERTAINLY at least relate to being uncomfortable in one’s own skin and wanting to change that.

  23. Robby Peterson says

    I see a lot of people making the point that they experienced a lot of the above as a “normal” part of growing up.

    I had my moody moments, I had my depressed moments, I had my moments where I felt alone or alienated and that was a part of growing up to be sure.

    My experience growing up is almost a polar opposite of this post. I had transitory moments of these feelings, but generally was fairly happy. When I had a bad day I could easily relax by doing something I enjoy.

    I am not transgender. I do not have dysphoria of any sort. That has never been more clear to me than reading this post, and reading this post does a great deal towards helping me understand someone that does have these symptoms. They are starkly different than the average youth growing up – if you experienced these things and are still experiencing these things you should really seek help. It doesn’t have to be normal and you can feel better – whether it is gender based dysphoria or something else.

    • AMM says

      It doesn’t have to be normal and you can feel better – whether it is gender based dysphoria or something else.

      Easier said than done.

      If you read the experiences of people who’ve been through the mental health industry, you find that even when the professionals are very competent, dealing with depression and/or dysphoria is hit-or-miss. Medications that help one person make things worse for the next. Or they help for a few years and then they don’t. Side effects. Talking therapies have the same track record. There are many different kinds, and none of them helps everybody. Even assuming a person finds the best combination of medication, diet, environment, therapy, etc., for them, their “as good as it gets” on a good day may be a hell of a lot worse than your “normal.”

      And most professionals are a good deal less than “very competent.” Or they may be perfectly competent for normal people, but less so for us non-standard people. Most mental health professionals (like most people) have never had to question society’s concept of gender and are utterly clueless when dealing with people whose nature forces them to confront it. (Same for race, religion, ethnicity, etc.) My therapist, who was very good in other respects, was never able to empathize with my desire to wear skirts and dresses. She was convinced it had to do with my relationship with my mother and simply brushed away my feelings that there was more to it.

      BTW, this thread has mostly discussed gender-related dysphoria, but dysphoria doesn’t have to have anything with gender.

      Also, minor correction to my previous post — my diagnosis was dysthymia, not dysphoria. FWIW.

      • Adella Peters says

        I only support their being a GID diagnose for one reason simply it means my heath insurance will pay for the medications and surgery I need to align my body with my gender. I do not see it as a mental illness or anything along those lines I am simply a Woman inside a mans body and want my body to match my inside. If this means I haft to put with a label of GID to be able to do so I will.
        not meant as rebuttal or anything just view on the matter of them labeling us with a mental illness.

      • Robby Peterson says

        It sure is easier said than done. Leagues easier said than done, and there are a great deal of obstacles and not all mental health professionals are equal. Though on that last note, I definitely recommend shopping around as much as you can. There are mental health professionals that are educated on these things, even in places you may not suspect. A marriage counselor that my wife and I saw was alternative lifestyle friendly and I live in Utah.

        I just want to make sure people don’t dismiss it and don’t accept the “it’s normal, just need to tough it out, that everyone gets depressed so you just need to buck up, you’ll get better on your own, you just need to grow up” and all the other variations that people use to discount the things people deal with. That isn’t specific to transgender issues either, and really goes to any sort of mental health issues that might be going on.

        • Adella Peters says

          I guess I got lucky all three of my doctors, my primary, my psychiatrist, and my psychologist, are well versed in transgender issues as well as many other issue such as OCD, Anxiety, Depression, mania, addiction etc…

  24. AMM says

    Kind of OT, I know, but: are there any good WWW discussion groups for people who don’t know if they’re trans or gender non-conformant or just weird or none of the above?

    • Adella Peters says

      Susan’s transgender place and the Sissy and transgender section on ADISC.org there are plenty of people that span all spectrums and won’t judge you from my experince but just try to help you be you. Beware ADISC is first and for most a support site for ABDLs but there is huge gender non conformist community their that is open and helpful.

  25. eunoia says

    Wow! Thank you for writing this. While I am not personally trans, I’ve definitely experienced dysphoria like this – I think it’s possible that these are the symptoms of anyone trying very hard to be something that contradicts their true self. Congratulations on finding yours.

  26. Alex M says

    I skipped straight to the numbers, it’s late and I need to get to bed, but I need to say, thank you for writing this.

    I’m struggling with a lot, but I think this can help me clear up what’s most related to my status as transgender.

    I thought I had it all figured out, but things keep coming back, and I’d shoved my past away, To Be Dealt With Later, although I still have troubling envisioning a later, though at least I’ve gotten to a point where I know there will be one.

    Thank you.

  27. says

    Very interesting read. It would sure be nice if people were freer to just be what they want, with less expectations and role models tying them in.

    However, I am fairly sure that #5 on the list was merely a normal part of growing up. Not saying everybody feels that way but it seems to be too many people to use it as a symptom in this context. That was actually one of the weirdest realizations later: many of the other teenagers one looked at and wondered how they could be so relaxed and happy thought exactly the same thing to themselves, although for some it was more “I am a complete failure” or “I am the only one who will never find a boy/girlfriend” and for others it was more “I am the only one who is not a sheeple” or “I have deeper feelings than everybody else”.

  28. says

    Thank you for posting this. I’ve been experiencing symptoms one through seven for my whole life, it feels like. I was diagnosed as bipolar about four years ago and once I was diagnosed, I thought that all these feelings, and sometimes lack of feelings would go away. That the depression would stop getting worse and maybe even disappear altogether. But it hasn’t. It’s only gotten harder to deal with. I’m just now climbing out of a depression I’ve had all summer, the worst one I’ve ever had which, at its nadir, had me briefly contemplating suicide/homicide by arson.

    And though I can’t tell how much of what I feel is the bipolar, and how much is . . . possibly dysphoria, I was literally crying as I read this article. Because, except for the eighth sign, this feels like me. I’ve always joked a lot that I’d make a better man than a woman, and I’m more butch than most of my guy fiends (I can even remember being five and telling the principal of my school that I wanted to be a boy). Whenever I would imagine myself with, what to me was the perfect body, a lot of the times, I was imagining a male body. And still, until I came across this aricle, I never really considered gender dysphoria as a possible problem I might have. Despite the fac that I’ve never had a satisfying sexual relationship once in my life. Can’t really embrace the idea of having female genitalia–sorry for the TMI, but, there it is–and have just never felt like a sexual being in my own body. For the past year or so, I’ve been wondering if I was asexual, but even that doesn’t feel like it fits me, after doing some research.

    Is there any way to know for certain? For some reason, I find myself hesitant to bring it up to my counselor, though she’d be supportive and very cool about it. I’ve only brought it up with one friend, and only in passing. But the more time passes, the more I feel a sort of physical disconnec from my body. It FEELS like mine, but just in the sense that my laptop feels like mine, or my mug. But I don’t feel as if it’s really ME. Like I’m a brain and this body is my jar. That’s all.

    I’m sorry to blather your ear off, Zinnia, but I have nowhere to go with these questions–no one I know of who is personally going through this transition and with whom I feel some sort of kinship, if only because I’ve felt some of the same things. Any advice you might have–or that anyone on this blog who knows where I’m coming from might have–would be appreciated. Thank you so much.

    • Adella Peters says

      I am sorry for what you have been going through. One of the best things you can do is to tell your therapist and work with her. I say this as I felt this way growing up except I am MTF, it took me three year of counseling to rule out my anxiety and OCD that had built over time through my own burying of things. It culminated in multiple hospital visits and crazy spend on female clothing as an outlet. Since coming out and starting hormones that has faded. That said their is no sure way to tell except for knowing yourself and that is often a hard thing to do this road is an experimental one working with your therapist would be a good start, it by no means, means you locked into transitioning, you may very well just find yourself somewhere along the way be comfortable their. Again though working with your counselor is the first step what you describe sound like classic GID, and the complications that go with it, but I am not a doctor just a MTF transgender who has felt a lot better since I have found myself. Hopefully this is of some help until Zinnia can get back to you.

  29. nakarti says

    This is a surprisingly familiar description of life, though I had the fortune of it being a belief dysphoria causing my depression. Most of these are (also?) symptoms of depression, except for the sense of worldly wrongness that causes even more to not make sense.

  30. Oob says

    Is having a therapist a widespread thing now? Not that having a therapist is “weird”, but that I don’t know anybody who has one, or frankly, could afford one or fit that into their life. I occasionally hear “talk to your therapist” said in such a way that there’s an assumption that I HAVE a therapist.

    But more to the point, I have no idea how to FIND one that isn’t a total quack. Therapists are a dime a dozen where I live, but most of them have some bizarre flavor of madness running through their methods, from “Faith based” to crystal energy nonsense to someone who basically is using public misunderstands of psychology to “fix” people. When it comes to psych, I have no idea how to filter out the bad from the good.

  31. Ellian says

    THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR THIS. I have struggled so much with myself, simply because I don’t experience dysphoria in a way that so many trans* people do. Seriously, as I read this article, a sense of such relief and calm washed over me. I FINALLY feel like someone has put my feelings into words. I have experienced so much hurt and confusion in trying to figure things out – wondering why I wasn’t like a ‘real’ trans* person. Your experience is so similar to mine – except mine goes the other way.

    Thank you. This has made my day.

  32. Toni says

    That is one fantastic read…. Even though its 3 years since I started my transition, I still find interesting articles that make the most amazing sense. You have mirrored so much of my life to me through reading that and I hope this article finds its way to many who seek this type of information. Thank you for posting it, Toni

  33. Artemis says

    Wow, that was informative and extremely helpful. Thanks. Between this and many of the other things I’ve read lately things are actually starting to make sense for me.

  34. Leeloo says

    Wow while I was readin I thought you were talking about my life ! You don’t even know how much you helped me. Just to know that some people feel the same as me is so amazing. I’m dysphoric in general. Can’t fit in any group. Been questioning my gender identity for a little while. Hormonal changes really do affect me. I tried BC for a month and that was horrible. I felt like my body didn’t belong to me. And I always feel dysphoric the week before my periods. Like I stare at myself in the mirror wondering who the fuck I am, I struggle to find a way to dress that would reflect who I am in the inside and I have panic attacks. I know I’m not trans. I’m born female and most of the time feel like a girl but sometimes I really don’t know, it’s kind of a mess. Lately, I’ve begun to feel kinda unconfortable wearing dresses and skirts and I dress mostly in “guy” clothes. I know that I don’t want to be a man but I don’t know who I am. Well… fuck society and its binary rules that make me struggle with who I am :/

  35. Rose Thorne says

    I find your articles to be interesting to read. ^.^

    On this topic, I think there is some commenting I can make, that may hopefully prove helpful or enlightening.

    Dysphoria, I view as the flipside of euphoria, in a sense. It manifests primarily in my experience as the inability to feel most of what are called ‘positive’ emotions. Joy, happiness, surprise, and the like. This was the case with me, from puberty til HRT start. However, I kept getting what could be thought of as ‘roidrage’. Sharp, dramatic and crazed anger, triggered by random things. Typically, after would come nausea, shakes, cold sweats and horror at that flood of painful emotion.

    One way to think of this, is chemical. Hormonal dysphoria. While a lot of things can trigger active dysphoria on a mental or emotional level, it has a _cause_. A reason, a trigger, even if you can’t quite figure out what it is and why it is. Hormonal dysphoria has no cause; if one is able to meditate and filter reasons out and follow the various chains of thoughts to the end, it still exists, independent of you thinking at it and prodding it.

    Clearing that up, being able to _feel_ again after so many years of not, was amazing. And a lot of the other problems were easier to fix, without having to deal with that as well. HRT saved my life, if the existance prior could really be called living. That said, it won’t fix some stuff, to be sure. It won’t touch the longing to be accepted, and to have all those years you were stuck in that state back. It won’t suddenly cure depression, especially if said depression is being caused by conditions of life.

    But it can make you able to deal with them and push past.

    Second puberty though, has it’s own set of problems, including that some people just sort of go a bit crazy for a while. Horomones don’t to anything but everything.

    Ah. One other thing, it also triggered really uncomfortable nymphomania for me. And the dysphoria made sure that the inability to even enjoy an orgasm was slapped atop the constant craving for sex.

    (on a side note, a lot of neurotransmitters and the like have a distinctive colouring on the mental landscape. Histamine, for example, is the feeling of impending doom and anxiousness, with a large dash of ‘there is no future’. At least, in my experience.)

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  36. b says

    I’ve struggled to understand how people experience gender dysphoria, as I’ve always been comfortable with my gender. This article is very insightful.

    Oddly, I’ve experienced most of those signs listed. When I was three years old, I told my mother (apparently with a look of horror) that I was “in the wrong place” and that sums up the since-birth, serious emotional struggles. I’d never felt like I belonged, or “fit” or was supposed to “be” somehow. These are symptoms of being disconnected from your body, your being, and all the ways that can manifest, including gender. I’m glad I can make that connection now. What is really troublesome is the disconnect from others because of it; being totally misunderstood and mistreated. The more we can understand ourselves and others the better we can help each other be who we are, as unique as we are, and live happy and healthy lives.

    Thanks for sharing this!

  37. Serena Tomassini says

    This article is really enlightening, thanks a lot.
    I’ve experimented almost all the indirect symptoms you described, and untill one month ago I’ve thought that all this “crap” was linked with my life and I couldn’t do anything about it. I called these dysphoria symptoms “existential burnout” meaning the distress caused by my own counseling with myself. I just feel so overwhelmed that I can’t do anything with my life even if I try hard, and it’s not about laziness…people always tell me to focus on positive sides of life and to put effort on what I like but I can’t simply do that because I haven’t the psychic strenght! I feel a deep rage/distress/anxiety and I’m in a depressed and grumpy mood all the time, it’s like an under-track of my life that never stops even when it seems I’m enjoying myself.
    I’m tackling my gender’s identity issue right now, that I’m 24. And the more I get into this topic (informing myself, talking about it with confident people, writing in a web forum), the more I feel kinda released…it’s worst feeling misery all the time without reason, than feeling misery all the time due to a really scary and censured reason. My situation is quite vague, because even if I know I don’t feel a girl, it doesn’t mean that I wanna be an 100% boy…so I think dysphoria may be a sign of a vague situation of discomfort with our gender, without including a transition. Now I’m kinda shocked, I’m in a suspended state and I really don’t know which direction would be the best for me. Or maybe I just have to find my really deep desire of being a man that I’ve repressed for a long time…who knows!

  38. Retigo says

    I have to thank you for mentioning the possibility of Trans* people not suffering from dysphoria. I myself an very clearly trans*, and the amount of “lol, no you’re not you’re just confused” I get due to the fact that I don’t have any of the symptoms of either direct or indirect dysphoria is astonishing, and quite frankly, annoying. I get told that I HAVE to want to transition physically to identify as a trans*man, and that if I don’t have that desire at all, that I’m somehow less of a trans* person than someone who does. So, for putting that note in, I have to thank you. More people need to recognize that as a possibility. We get enough hate from the rest of the world, we don’t need it within our own community.

  39. CJ Jones says

    While I think it’s helpful to talk about different experiences of dysphoria, I’m concerned that the title of this article may be misleading. The title, coupled with listing your experiences as opposed to discussing them within paragraphs, could be mistaken as clinically-identified symptoms even though you gave a clear disclaimer in your intro. Unfortunately, readers often skip to the meat of an article (in this case, your 8 experiences), never stopping to consider that the rest of the article may hold important information.

    Readers dealing with serious clinical depression, a hormone imbalance, or even undiagnosed personality disorders could find themselves within your list of “symptoms”. They are especially vulnerable to being misled. It isn’t far-fetched to imagine someone seeking transition inappropriately, based on misunderstood information coupled with a welcoming community.

    It’s clear to me that this wasn’t your intent – I see that you have stated that these are your experiences with gender dysphoria. I’m asking that you go further and perhaps use a title that is more reflective of your intent, using the phrase, “my experiences” instead of “8 symptoms” so that readers who skip the intro are less likely to misinterpret the list as actual symptoms of gender dysphoria.

    Great article otherwise. It’s important for us to share our experiences and connect where we can. Best of luck on your journey.

    • barry says

      You could look at any title and call it misleading and wile we are on the subject of “a hormone imbalance” at the age 38 I was diagnosed with Klinefelter’s Syndrome 47XXY for most of my 20s into my 30s I probable had a hormone imbalance but didn’t notes any symptoms so no I would not have put myself with in this category it was not until I had been taking Testosterone HRT that I started having any adverse side affects to witch today I now suffer with gender dysphoria thanks to taking Testosterone proscribed by a Escapologist who stated I would soon feel more like a man and I’m shore many other XXYs with the same symptoms would tell you the same i.e. we are not all made the same we are not all male “but you” make the presumption we are.

  40. findingmyself says

    This article floored me.
    I just recently started therapy for my gender issues and Ive been searching the web looking for stories trying to find something similar to my experience because Im still questioning how I feel about the whole thing.
    Then I read this.

    It’s like someone took every page out of my book of life and copied it line for line. I think I may show this article to my therapist, it’s exactly what’s happened to me. It’s almost surreal.

    Thank you so much for this.

  41. AGuy says

    I was linked to this from a thread I made on reddit and I was completely floored. I’ve been dealing with pretty much everything on this list for years. Although I have no idea whats going on with myself, I thank you tremendously for writing this up.

  42. George says

    Can I just say thank you? It’s just… I’ve struggled with getting what dysphoria really is for awhile, especially since everyone who I tried to talk to (friends mainly) kept trying to steer me towards thinking “you’re just confused, you are a girl.” by pointing out trivial things that made me worry because I trusted them. Now I’m beginning to think that my depression wasn’t completely just getting depressed (or due to untreated, undiagnosed diabetes) but to dysphoria. For most of my life, my childhood- with the exception of a few moments- I felt like I was lost and different. There was some undertone of not fitting in no matter what I did. For a while I blamed it on being a mixed child, and for awhile I blamed it on being a fat kid, but it only got worse the older I got, and right now I’m only really truly just realizing exactly what I’ve been feeling and I don’t know if I’ll be able to transition anytime soon, but I know I feel happiest binding and going by George and wearing masculine clothing.

  43. RJ says

    This is the first description of Gender Dysphoria that accurately described my experience. This article is extremely important, and anyone who is interested in trans topics should read it. Thank you.

  44. Gale says

    Thank you, this was helpful. I suppose it’s much the same for individuals such as myself who are either agender or genderfluid, as my experience thus far is the same as the article

  45. ryuu takahashi says

    i am an ftm myself and i have a story of my own to tell.i went thru foster case and jumped from one home to another i was always angry and didn’t understand why i hated life and the people around me i was jealous of that fact that the y could live a normal life but i was confined to the small world of schools and the constant moving to foster homes or respite homes they placed me in at age 16 i got fed up with it and lashed out at the world and the people around me and became very destructive to myself and those around me my foster care workers feared the worst for me an place me in a place where i could get the help i needed but that didn’t work out so well i quickly me became violent and even more angry at the fact that now i had little to no freedom, age 18 i had calmed down and have stayed that way for some time now due to the fact that one all the meds that doctors had me i now don’t even dream of touching i also have been exploring the transition process and have found a new lease on life i no longer lash out and am steadily taking steps to change my gender i have accepted who i am and i am now very happy i have a lot more friends then i did before and even my world around me feels right i am no longer jealous of those around me cause i now feel normal

  46. Travmania says

    Why does this sound so much like OCD with the anxiety, and overlapping of intrusive thoughts and analyzing the past for ANYTHING and EVERYTHING to prove something, in order to relieve the anxiety only to do it over and over again?

    Sounds like misdiagnosing someone as being trans is the latest tool to ignore the real issue.

  47. Jo Alex SG says

    This is one of the most powerful trans testimonies I´ve ever read and also many of the comments with readers´ testimonies as well !!! I have given up the just-begun transition at 17 for several reasons and had to struggled deeply to adapt to my body till I got 48,when I finally felt comfortable with the slight adaptations (body shaving,etc) into light forms of androgyn I had been making do with. However, I don´t recommend this to any trans person,cause it has been cost me decades of intense emotional and existential suffering ,even though it was worth the excruciating pain in the end,due to path I´ve chosen in life. I respect so much those of us who dare face the horrible social pressure and the many dangers when they choose the more adequate path to transition (and those who want them and can afford them , the surgeries of sexual reassignment in different degrees, from partial to complete stages).It´s not an easy choice for any of us and most of us are often put between the cross of living a biological identity which does not match our psyche and brain and the sword of social rejection, extreme difficulty in finding an honest job as well as the legal problems of getting new documents,etc . I´m proud to see so many enlightened testimonies of our community and would like to say that I have started to find other trans like me who,though adapted (god knows how hard it has been for us) into our bodies,have not forgotten that we are stil trans and we´ll always be so. I AM convinced it´s a condition rooted in the brain structure but I know this is just my opinion and would not go further into this here (I just try and read material which support this thesis,without pathologizing us though).

    • Jo Alex SG says

      Sorry for mistyping struggled instead of struggle and any other one I might have overlooked.

  48. Jo Alex says

    This is one of the most powerful trans testimonies I´ve ever read and also many of the comments with readers´ testimonies as well !!! I have given up the just-begun transition at 17 for several reasons and had to struggle deeply to adapt to my body till I got 48,when I finally felt comfortable with the slight adaptations (body shaving,etc) into light forms of androgyn I had been making do with. However, I don´t recommend this to any trans person,cause it has been cost me decades of intense emotional and existential suffering ,even though it was worth the excruciating pain in the end,due to path I´ve chosen in life. I respect so much those of us who dare face the horrible social pressure and the many dangers when they choose the more adequate path to transition (and those who want them and can afford them , the surgeries of sexual reassignment in different degrees, from partial to complete stages).It´s not an easy choice for any of us and most of us are often put between the cross of living a biological identity which does not match our psyche and brain and the sword of social rejection, extreme difficulty in finding an honest job as well as the legal problems of getting new documents,etc . I´m proud to see so many enlightened testimonies of our community and would like to say that I have started to find other trans like me who,though adapted (god knows how hard it has been for us) into our bodies,have not forgotten that we are stil trans and we´ll always be so. I AM convinced it´s a condition rooted in the brain structure but I know this is just my opinion and would not go further into this here (I just try and read material which support this thesis,without pathologizing us though).

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  50. Kade says

    I read your article, in it’s entirety. Lately I’ve been questioning myself on why it was never so clear to me before and then it kind of filled me with some doubt as to if I was doing the right thing in transitioning. I mean I KNOW it is, but then again I didn’t know either. Like Up until just over a year ago I never knew what was wrong, just like you didn’t. I never connected my depression, anxiety, and lack of cares about life to my gender or physical being. When I discovered it I was ecstatic about it and I could DO something to feel better. I started HRT a little over three months ago I’ve never felt more alive. But then it made me wonder if this was truly the right course, cause until recently I never connected the two together, but I see that I’m not alone in that and it’s reassuring.

    Thanks for writing this. It seriously helped me out and made me feel better in the fact that I am doing the right thing. Thanks so much!

  51. Uhidk says

    I’ve been dealing with worsening depression and anxiety for the past seven years or so. This correlates exactly with the onset of puberty for me. When I was younger, I always acted like a little boy, despite being a girl, and it didn’t matter. But as I’ve gotten older, the disconnect between who I am and who I appear to be just keeps getting bigger.
    I have been going through the motions for everyone else for a pretty long time and I’ve finally started realizing I don’t have to. I have had “crushes” on guys because I thought I was supposed to, I even dated one. Now I realize that it’s not a crush, it’s jealousy of them being able to be a guy. That’s a recent realization, two years ago I just thought I was bi or lesbian.
    I’m not entirely sure how I’m going to move forward, because I’m pretty sure my parents won’t approve of this, like they don’t approve of me dating a girl. (When if their problem is with non-straight, then that’s exactly what they’re forcing me to be dating guys.) I know that I’m not going to be able to partially transition because of the anxiety I already have from pretending to be a girl while I have a girls body, imagining trying to be myself while still in a girls body is terrifying.
    Sorry if this is really badly worded and confusing. I’m extremely screwed up sleep-wise right now.

    This is kind of a sharing my experience but also asking for advice on how to help my parents understand and also what I can do to deal with this time before I transition.

  52. pleaserewind says

    Hi! Thank you for this article. Though I can’t relate to it directly, it got me thinking. The symptoms (er, I know it’s not the right word, but I can’t think of any other right now) you listed could imo match some psychological disorders like e.g. dysthymia. I’m writing this because every one of them “matches” my own person. I’ve felt “different” my whole life and had difficulty “connecting” with other people as well as with my own emotions. Also, I experience this sense of purposefulness to everything I do and never really enjoy anything. Well, in general, I share all the experiences you write of. But I have not and do not experience all that in relation / due to gender dysphoria. With me, it’s more like dysthymia. I go to a therapist and work out all the different aspects of it. There are many, as I was brought up by dysfunctional parents and have been subjected to sexual and other violence. Grounds enough to be depressed. BUT (this “but” is bigger than the previous one) even though I don’t consider my general unease with myself and my life as a result of gender dysphoria, and I don’t consider myself a transgender person, there is something about me that makes me feel like maybe there’s something wrong with me being a woman. Because I also share most of the experiences related to gender dysphria per se. Saying that I’d rather be a boy when I was little, disliking girls’ clothes, preferring boys as playmates, being awkward with girl playmates, not feeling ok with what was going on with my body at the onset of puberty – all of that is my experience, but I never “really” thought I would like to be a man. I mean, not physically. From the age of around 14, I have neither liked my femininity nor felt like I was or wanted to be a man. Thing is, I wouldn’t like to be a man physically, but I don’t like my female sex characteristics either. I would like to say it’s indifferent to me what gender I am, but it’s not… So thank you once again for this article. I feel very weird after reading it, whith all the thoughts that came to me now, but I feel weird anyway so it was generally good to read that I’m not the only one feeling weird. I hope it will resolve some day some way. I’m happy to read also that you’ve already got behind all that unease and sadness that was there in your life.I wish you all the best! R.

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  54. Streaker says

    Hi All,

    I’ve just come across this website after searching for “solutions” to my son recently coming to me and saying that he feels like a woman in a mans body. He has Autism and suffers from depression and has been having what the psych calls “dark thoughts”. From the sounds of things these seem to be similar feelings to what you’ve had. He has told me he feels very asexual and doesn’t have thoughts of sex or relationships with others, just that he feels trapped.

    So just a few questions.

    How did your parents react?
    How did you go about the transgender process of a f2m?
    How long does a transition take?

    I’ve spoken to him about the implications and I’m fine for him to go ahead and do whatever makes him happy but don’t know what the consequences are long term for him. Is there any out there who has gone through this over 10 years ago who could list the pros and cons so that he makes an informed decision.

  55. barry says

    That was wonderfully put kind of helps clear up a few pointers as I’ve always felt at odds with who I am, from a young age putting on the cloths of a girl I felt as if I was a the girl in the cloths later in life aged 38 I was diagnosed with Klinefelter’s Syndrome 47XXY and prescribed testosterone to witch I add I wish I had never taken as it played real bad tricks on my mind and made me feel at grater odds with who I was and I’ve always tried to understand certain this about who I am M or F i.e. if I am male why do I have these gender dysphoric thoughts and feelings, if I am male why do I find female cloths more appealing than male and why can I see myself in a sexual relationship with another male/female as female, why do I have such an overwhelming sense feeling that I should have breasts like other females. Some days are good some very bad and yes moody most of the time.
    Would my life be better living as a female in some ways I’d say yes but I’m constantly head butting a well and finding excuses 80% of the time I hate myself hate what I am.

  56. Johanna says

    Reading this I can relate, all my life this has been going on, underneath tragedies, hardships, selfharm, Borderline and what not. .Im finally getting help. Thank you for this

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  58. Ro says

    After reading this and the follow-up blog about your depression, I found an incredible amount of it hitting really close to home for me. I’m a straight male almost in my 30s and I’ve experienced an unpleasantness with who am since my mid-teens. All of the signs of gender dysphoria that you described from your personal experiences eerily match up to my life since my Junior High years. It was like you literally read my mind. In my mid-20s, I discovered I had been suffering from severe social anxiety and depression all my life and I got therapy and treatment for it that continues up to now with daily medication that levels me out pretty well and has helped me maintain good work ethic. But even with the highs it brings and a mostly brighter disposition, like you experienced post-hormonal treatment, I still had separate feelings of anguish and sadness resurfacing.

    Since I was a teenager and those pubescent years helped me to finally articulate my sexuality, I found out I was driven to assume stances and acquire things of the female persuasion. I began wearing women’s clothing that still passed for mostly male (jeans, ambiguous tops, underwear, boots with average thick heels), I already had long hair but I started to style it more femininely, I got my ears pierced and like to wear long dangling earrings or big hoops, I like to wear a lot of jewelry, I shave my legs, chest, back, and arms, along with my face, and paint my nails.

    But I haven’t moved up to dresses or makeup for a variety of reasons. One of those is my anxiety of wondering just how far this goes for me, the anxiety of telling the people I care about, and to the annoying extent, the fact that I have a really coarse beard (even the stubble) that does not cooperate on a good day. I also do not have the greatest body but I’ve been dieting and exercising to first lose excess body fat to see if these feelings remain as strong by then. I’ve never been skinny in my life so a new experience like that could see a different reaction.

    Also I’m afraid of rocking the boat with my parents as there’s no one I trust more but they’re an older generation (baby boomers) and my dad is less open-minded than my mom. In fact, she’s the first one I told about my possibly having gender dysphoria. She’d support anything I’d need to do but she also reminded me that we live in a very backwards area of the country that’s not as tolerant as it could be and I’m not prepared in the least to pick up and move either.

    I dunno, I’m sort of torn right now at a crossroads but your columns really helped shed some much needed light on my situation, thank you so much.

  59. WolfieKate says

    I wanted to comment here as I have Body Dysphoria but as far as I know no desire to move in another gender direction. And yet what is gender except a human construct to fit us all neatly into a box of societies making? Since puberty my breasts have bothered me to an extreme extent leading to dieting, exercise, drugs and drinking, surgery. Of course all the time trying my hardest to fit in with a norm of being female. I’ve gone as small as a reasonable gender normal surgeon can take me and I am still out of synch with this body of mine. It drives me crazy! Because if I have BD, according to what I read, a spot of CBT and a few drugs will cure me right? No they haven’t and at the ripe old age of 45 I don’t think they ever will. I won’t get a surgeon in the UK to touch me with barge pole now unless I contact some trans clinics which I have, but I have no desire to give up being feminine, I just want to be feminine on my own terms. and that means flat up top. I hope I find help out there. I am also on the waiting list for autism assessment as my son has Aspergers.

  60. PAULA says

    INTERSEXED XX/XY
    First of all I have had known that I was intersexed from my first memories when I was about 2 I started to question what am I. you see I had male and female genitals. I remember that I was sitting on a desk talking to a lady explaining to me the difference between being a boy or a girl. I also had 2 birth certificates one female and one male. This was in 1954. And had visits with this lady. I was being raised as a boy. But my mother had both sets of clothes for me to wear. My hair was long enough that you really did not know what I was. My mother always told me to never let anybody see my genitals. Well one day when I was about 3 I was at a child care place with others dressed as a boy and had shorts on and I wet my shorts and a boy that was working their took me to the corner of the room and pulled down my shorts and saw my genitals and in a corner of the room he pulled down my shorts and I had panties on and then he pulled down my panties. Whit a loud voice said to me ARE YOU A BOY OR A GIRL? I just pulled up my shorts as he had taken my wet panties off and then I ran up the stairs and out the door and hid in the bushes. Also once an uncle and aunt saw the neighbors girl swimsuit on our clothes line and as they came into the back yard they said to me seeing the swimsuit they thought that you became a girl. The lady that ran the place called my mother and she came and got me I was terrified that he had seen what I was not too let anybody see. Then came more visits to the lady that explained more to me about girls have babies and boys don’t. She asked me if I wanted to be a boy or a Girl. For some reason I think because I had a boy name. I said boy. She said are you sure and I said I don’t know. I knew how to use the phone and I was told to call her if I changed my mind. Well one day I called and was going to say I wanted to be a girl but could not say a thing and hung up. Then I called again and said nothing and she said she would tell my mother that I wanted to be a girl saying my name. I could not understand how she knew who it was. My parents decided that I should decide for myself. so time went by and while my brother was at school I would wear a dress or skirt.
    This went on until I went to first grade. The first day of school my mother sent the female birth certificate with me to give to the teacher but I by that time was living as a boy with short hair. And she said in front of the class that your birth certificate says I am a girl and I said it was a mistake and took it home and brought the male certificate in. All the class laughed! My certificates only had the last name on them. My mother wrote in my boy name. I still not have surgery to correct my genitals. I still had not decided. Our class had a private bathroom in it so nobody knew. Then second grade was about a month away and my Dad told me I had to decide if I wanted to be a girl or a boy. I really wanted to be a girl. But told him I did not know so he had me write down what I liked about being a boy and what I liked to be a girl. I chose to be a boy because of the embarrassment after going to school. But what they did is just closed my vagina opening and left the female sex organs in me.
    Then came the summer before fifth grade and I started to develop breasts and was ashamed to say anything, did they ever get sensitive and wanted to tell them. In the beginning of March I got very sick. Well what happened was that I ended up in the hospital. I was told that my appendices had to be removed that night. Not knowing what was going on but I have a scare that resembles a hysterectomy and did not return to school until sixed grade. I was just told that I had to let the stiches inside of me heal if I would have known what was going on I would have chosen to become a girl. One thing I remember is that my mother during the summer saw me playing with my breasts and said if I did not stop she would put ribbons in my hair. But I did when she was not around and I loved it. Well the gynecomastia did not go down and stayed the same. It was embarrassing. By tenth grade my breast started to hurt again but did not seem to get any larger. During the summer I bought two bras 32A. I kept them hidden and wore them when nobody was around I also bought two panties. Then as my senior year was ending I bought a skirt, lingerie, blouses, wig, pantie hose, makeup and a wig. As summer started my mother found them. My dad was on a business trip for six weeks. Mom then told me what she thought I did not know and made me shave my legs. I was to stay home and wear the clothes to see if I wanted to be a girl. On the second day we went to see the Doctor and he gave me an injection and some pills. I did not take the pills. After 5 weeks I told her that I wanted to be a boy and she took all my female things to be a girl away. In the Fall I started college met a girl and slowly told her what I was. And what had happened to me. Well the shot that the doctor gave me made my breasts sore again. My soon to be wife liked to play with them. As we were dating she had me wear female clothing in private. After twenty five years of marriage I was in a car accident and she said being a nurse she was going to get me some female hormones as I wanted to be more feminine and she wanted me to develop breasts. I started to take them and my breasts grew to 36B. I then stopped taking them as I could just wear larger shirts and a tight t-shirt we made a nice nest egg for retirement. So I was able to retire she would retire in two years during her last year she got me to take female hormones again and have my festivals removed. I ended up with 38D breasts and a full wardroom of woman’s cloths. Beside she only had nine months left until she retired. Three months before she was going to retire tragedy struck. And she passed away. With enough money so I did not have to work the rest of my life. So now I have no girlfriend and have to decide if I should get a sex cerement. I became a girl when I was four or my parents would have been honest with me in fifth grade. It has been a year and a half living as a woman without a lover. I wrote this to parents that have a child with XX/XY chromosomes. Let them have a complete set of what God gave them. I just shortened the things that happened to me as I could write a book it.

    • Barry says

      Pour mutilation of our bodys a practice that has been taking place for many-a century without regards to how it will affect use, its outrageous with mondonday medical technology and understanding that they still perform such alterations on young innocent people who know no difference.

      I feel for you.

  61. says

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  62. Liarra Sigla says

    I have been battling depression for a while now, and general gender confusion (I’m not sure what I am, mum) and thought to look up symptoms and “solutions” to help me along. I already knew what dysphoria was but it’s only obvious in retrospect, I thought nothing of not knowing exactly what I am and what I want to be.
    Nothing I read online was overly helpful and not even the advice of people who went through similar things as I am seemed very helpful. I assumed I was trans due to the amazing euphoria that I experienced after coming out to my mother about it, but I gave no exact answer.

    Every. Single. One of these signs you mention is something I remembered clearly (even before reading I was thinking about how strange my sudden shift in crying ability was, crying more over literally bad thoughts than a death in the family and such). Even the silly love one is true, as my girlfriend only met me through me going as a female online, and I DID think that I would never experience love myself before then.

    I still do look at other people around me and wonder how the hell they manege to do even half the things they do, making me look like a no hope layabout.

    All of these things are exactly as I feel them, and nothing on the internet ever has been before. I have no idea what to do or who to talk to, but now that I have that goal of finally experiencing actual happyness instead of not-as-unhappy which currently pretends to be joy infesting my life, maybe I can do something about it.

  63. Bry Hitchcock says

    This was super helpful and enlightening to me, too. I’m just emerging as a trans woman, but I’ve been struggling to reconcile the powerful dysphoric feelings i read about from other trans people with my own. I don’t have a sense of bodily loathing. But so much of your list resonates with my internal life. Cranky, not fitting in, feeling like a spectator… Thank you so much for sharing some wisdom.

  64. says

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  65. says

    Thank you for this article! While I believe I just have a ‘mild’ case of gender dysphoria, there is certainly a lot of what you write that sounds terribly familiar to me, with an exception: I had very clear goals and worked towards them until I was 30-something. By that time, I had also accepted that I was a crossdresser and did crossdress as much as I could (which was not so often as I wanted); in fact, my whole energy was put in making as much money as possible so that I could retire early, consider transition, and never worry about getting a job again — because of transphobia. Even if I never went through transition, the goal to ‘have enough in the bank not to worry about money problems again’ was a very strong incentive which got me going for a decade or so.

    Then my whole life changed. The post-9/11 crisis and its many personal consequences basically threw my best-laid plans into the garbage bin. Not much afterwards, I finally told my wife about my crossdressing, and the need to regularly dress, and she tolerated it, understanding, from what she read on the subject, that this is something I need to do. While not so optimist as in the 1990s, and although by then I had lost all my sex drive and have effectively zero libido, I still didn’t feel the way you describe — ‘running through a script’, ‘doing whatever others require of me’, ‘checking days off the calendar’, and so forth. But that came in little steps. Because of my age, and the ongoing financial crisis, it’s unlikely I’ll get a job again, or start another company of my own; around 2008 or so it was clear that the only choice left for me was to become a teacher, so I went back to university, added a master’s degree to my curriculum, and I’m now engaged in doing the PhD (a requirement to be able to teach here). But as time passed, even this failed to motivate me to a large degree. Thoughts of transition became more common — the phase of labeling myself as ‘merely a crossdresser’ were replaced with ‘a failed transexual: someone who would go through transition if conditions weren’t all wrong’ — but also an increased sense that even that might be worthless: after all, the prime of my life is already gone, the time I might have enjoyed myself as a young woman are in the distant past, and looking towards becoming a sweet old granny simply failed to attract my attention. As a result, I also failed to connect my own feelings, inertia, procrastination, and overall indifference with ‘gender dysphoria’, because in my mind, transition also became something not that important any more. It was a (possible) goal when I was 30, but not any more, now that I’m 45.

    Then, over the years, and more intensely in the past months, the ‘symptoms’ you describe have become more intense, and to a degree, are preventing me to function normally. It is only with an extreme effort that I get anything done. But I’m good at hiding that. I tell lies to myself, and partial truths to others, and manage to hide my feelings, sometimes even from myself. Nothing brings relief except crossdressing, but there are even days when I’m so tired that even that gives little pleasure, and it’s only for a few hours anyway. While others might think that ‘the best day of their lives’ was the day they got married, or graduated, or got an award, or got their first kids, or some typical event like that, in my case ‘the best days of my life’ were 5 vacation days in March 2013 when I went with my wife to an hotel, paid by my mother-in-law (since we couldn’t afford it), and could dress every evening and go out — while my wife caught the ‘flu and spent most of her days moody and depressed at the hotel room. Clearly, this is not what ‘normal’ people think to be ‘the best days of their lives’.

    On the other hand, unlike so many transgendered people I know who are in transition, I don’t seem to have this huge urge to do the same — mostly because I still have much to lose: family (we don’t have kids, though), home, job, friends. As I get older, starting from scratch and abandoning all that becomes harder to do; I cling to the sense of ‘normalcy’ that my environment provides. Almost all people in transition that I know have discarded all that — not easily, but they certainly found that transition is much more important for them than keeping a relationship with a beloved one, having good relations with the family or friends, and they couldn’t care less about losing a job and a home. I cannot do that. Also, most of them don’t even look very feminine, but they couldn’t care less about that, either, while I’m overly self-conscious about how ugly I look as a woman (I’m even worse as a male, but that doesn’t worry me much) and how utterly impossible it would be for me to go through a Real Life Test until I underwent massive, extreme cosmetic surgery, which I’m not able to afford anyway. That definitely told me that I wasn’t really a ‘real transexual’, since I don’t find transition so important as to warrant years of discrimination after having lost everything in my life.

    But then again, I guess that the indifference you allude to also applies to transition as well. I never thought of it that way!

    Things came to the point where I had to recognise the symptoms of depression and connect them to gender dysphoria. I’m well aware that gender dysphoria cannot be ‘cured’ — or that the only available ‘cure’ is transition — but I have read enough in the past two decades to know that therapists can at least help me to cope with the symptoms of depression, and help me to fight inertia, indifference, and lethargy, and at least allow me to focus again on my work and the ‘important’ things that society demands of me, instead of being locked in depressive/anxious/obsessive thoughts.

    It’s time for me to stop pretending that I can cope with this on my own, as I have deluded myself for the past few years.

Trackbacks

  1. […] Trans and questioning people sometimes doubt that they’re trans simply because they don’t have distinct feelings of gender-related unease. They might otherwise face a great deal of confusion about what it is they’re feeling, but they can be aided in their self-understanding by the insight that gender dysphoria doesn’t always manifest as a neon sign flashing “FIX YOUR GENDER”. For them, it can help to realize that their less specific feelings of discomfort might also be due to gender dysphoria. It can give them a possible answer to explore. It can give them hope. (Source) […]

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