Thursday, October 25, 2012

Gender Identity Dysphoria:

“Dysphoria” is not exactly a term that comes up in daily conversation for the average person. “Euphoria” is much more common, so I suggest trying to imagine the opposite of euphoria to grasp the meaning of dysphoria. Euphoria is defined as:

1)      An intense state of transcendent happiness combined with an overwhelming sense of contentment.
2)      A mental and emotional condition in which a person experiences intense feelings of well-being, elation, happiness, excitement, and joy.

1)      The polar opposite of all of the above.
2)      A medically recognized mental and emotional condition in which a person experiences intense feelings of depression, discontent, and in some cases indifference to the world around them.

Wikipedia has a relatively well balanced treatment of the subject of GID:

But this treatment fails to capture adequately the experience of Gender Dysphoria.
It is quite difficult to convey the experience of gender dysphoria to those with a conventionally integrated gender identity, like talking to a fish about drowning.

There are several aspects to Gender Dysphoria for me:

1)      Grief and loss: I grieve for the little girl I never got to be, the adolescent girl, the teenage girl, the young woman, the girlfriend, wife, and mother I have never been. Seeing females in all these life states I can suddenly find myself identifying with them and unexpectedly thrust into an overwhelming sense of grief and loss. The closest metaphor I can find for this is the grief of a parent over the loss of a child. Every day older I grow, is another day of female life experience lost, never to be recaptured. Unlike the loss of a child which happens once and in time may at least partially heal, this loss of the me that has never been happens anew every day, growing stronger as the lost time grows and the lifetime remaining grows shorter.

2)      Wrong body: I look in the mirror and cannot figure out why there is this horrible aging male person looking back at me. I don’t mean literally that I don’t know what I look like, but no matter how many times I see myself, I can never get over the feeling that this is not the image that should be looking back at me. When you look out through your eyes, you normally are not looking at yourself, and may for example spend an entire day unaware of the stain on your shirt or the piece of lettuce between your teeth. Suddenly you see yourself in a mirror and are aghast at the image you’ve been presenting. I look out through my eyes and can almost forget that others cannot see the young woman I feel that I should be.

3)      Gender-specific presentation: I find myself constantly fascinated with everything feminine; dresses, shoes, hair styles, makeup, perfume, jewelry, handbags, posture, voice expression, walking, hugs, kisses, even the feminine decoration of a room; all things that are denied me in my male role but that have an overwhelming attraction for me. I often feel like a young girl observing the feminine world to learn how to grow up to be female, while constantly confronted with the distressing reality that I am not. Often my observation of a female is misunderstood as male leering, when actually I hunger to learn every detail of feminine fashion, absorbing every detail of what I want to be.

4)      The Inexorable Attraction and Simultaneous Dread of Transition: For all these reasons and more, I find myself drawn, magnetically, forcefully, to transition; the actual physical process of hormone replacement and surgical intervention to transition into a life lived as a female. I find myself taking one baby step after another toward transition, each step both a thrill and a terror. The exhilaration of a growing belief that it could actually come true, I could finally experience my life as the female I have always felt myself to be, and the foreboding dread of all that it may cost in the potential loss of family, loved ones, friends, employment, and so on. Even more than that, the fear that I will get half way across the chasm that separates male and female, and somehow lose the resources required to complete the transition. The only thing worse than never transitioning, would be to get halfway there. In many ways this would have been much easier when I was younger.

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