It’s that quiet sense of discomfort. It’s hard to diagnose, like a creak in your house in the middle of the night. What is it? And why can’t you stop thinking about it?
Having gender dysphoria is like having a creaky body, where certain aspects of yourself ping at you and you don’t know why. This sense of discomfort can lead people to hurt themselves in various ways, both physically and mentally, so solving the mystery of why you feel so weird is crucial for robust mental health.
Everybody’s gender dysphoria is different, but hopefully this article will help you understand if the strange creaky sensations are gender dysphoria or not.
What is Gender Dysphoria?
According to Transgender Health, gender dysphoria when someone “experiences an emotional conflict between the gender they’re assigned at birth and the gender by which they identify.”
Gender dysphoria would be being born with male biology but identifying as a woman, or being born with female biology and identifying as a man. Or something other than what you were born as/assigned at birth.
So dysphoria is feeling discomfort at the parts of the body, gender roles, language, etc reminding you of what you are not. If you feel you should have a male body but have a high-pitched voice and breasts, those characteristics would cause you dysphoria.
Common Traits of Gender Dysphoria
Feeling uncomfortable with certain parts of your body, especially primary or secondary sex characteristics (genitals, voice, chest, hands, etc).
Feeling discomfort around gender roles people think you should adopt, gendered language that does not honor how you identify, and other instances of gendered interaction that does not align with how you feel.
Disliking or refusing to wear clothes that other people with your assigned birth typically wear.
Having had some gender non-conformity in your childhood or adolescence — though you don’t need this to still experience gender dysphoria as an adult (with a post-puberty body).
Hiding the parts of the body that bring you discomfort with baggy clothes or makeup.
Wishing you could have corrective surgeries or hormones replacement therapy to assuage the physical and mental discomfort you feel.
Mental anguish, such as anxiety or depression, over your body or gendered interactions.
Finding relief in when you do activities that align with your gender identity, such as changing pronouns, your name, clothing, etc.
The worst part about gender dysphoria is that there are no physical symptoms. A physician can’t look at you and say “Huh, there it is! Right there on your armpit — gender dysphoria!”
If only it were that easy.
Instead, gender dysphoria lives in the brain, so you’d either have to go to therapy or do some major self-reflection to find out if your feelings of unease result from your gender or something else.
How to Know If You Have Gender Dysphoria
The best way to figure out if you have gender dysphoria is to experiment with things that make you feel good in your body versus things that don’t.
It’s likely that a majority of things in your life will make you feel uneasy. Pronouns. Gendered clothing. Someone calling you by your birth name versus another name you like.
Notice how you feel when you are gendered as your birth sex. Does it make you feel weird? Does it cause a twinge of pain or panic?
One helpful trick to figure out if you have gender dysphoria is to create empirical gender data over yourself. Treat gender interactions like an experiment and be sure to write down the results. Jot down when you feel negative feelings and what caused them.
For example, “Got called ‘Sir.’ Felt weird” or “Someone called me ‘Ma’am,’ I didn’t like it, but later someone said, ‘Excuse me, sir!’ and that felt better.”
When you catalog your feelings and their causes, you can see if the data trends towards gendered interactions making you feel bad or good. If you feel bad because you’re gendered as your birth sex but feel good when gendered as what you identify as, it’s likely you have gender dysphoria versus another type of body image issue.
Coming to Terms With Gender Dysphoria
If you think your discomfort results from a mismatch between your birth sex and the gender you identify as, there are options to help you alleviate your dysphoria.
You can seek surgery or hormone replacement therapy to assuage discomfort in your physical body and therapy to handle the mental strain having gender dysphoria might have caused you. Not all of these options are available for everyone, though, so do what you can to physically alleviate dysphoria (bind, wear make-up, grow/cut your hair, etc).
No matter what, a strong support system is crucial to getting through gender dysphoria. Foster in-person relationships with those who will accept you (you might be surprised at who will).
If anything, there are plenty of places on the internet where you will find acceptance, such as the Reddits r/MtF (male to female transgender), r/FtM (female to male transgender), r/NonBinary and a bunch of other chats and forums on the internet. No matter how you identify, there’s a space for you.