On Dysphoria

Let me tell you a little thing about gender dysphoria.

Once I started hormones, I thought I was free of it because it doesn’t live under my skin anymore. I don’t feel it as a physical presence in most of my body like I used to. And that's a truly amazing experience, it really is.

But it’s still there and it’s still tethered to me. Dysphoria is like a sentient cancer. It knows that I’m killing it and it’s doing everything it can to stay alive, so it's playing with my emotions and my anxieties, trying to keep me from believing that I'm a woman. Trying to keep me miserable because it lives in the space between my true self and my current self. Sometimes it digs deep down into my reptilian brain and tells me that my very existence is being threatened and triggers a fight-or-flight response that I can't control. It'll do anything to buy itself time.

It’s just a shadow, now, instead of something inside of me. And like any shadow, if you shine a light on me from just one perspective, the shadow is going to be really dark. The brighter you shine that light, the harsher the shadow is going to be. I have to surround myself with lights that highlight me from all different sorts of angles before I’ll ever really be able to live without dysphoria.

That's why it'll never really be enough to tell myself that I'm a woman. That's why little things like getting my name changed legally are so important. That's why it's important that you use my pronouns and avoid gendered terminology like "dude" around me. Because each external validation of my womanness is a new light, shining at me from a different angle, making another little sliver of my dysphoria vanish in the light.

Juliana AntoninusComment