What Constitutes Dysphoria? Does it End?

Questions and discussions about gender, gender roles and identity.
asunflower
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What Constitutes Dysphoria? Does it End?

Unread post by asunflower »

Hi all,

As someone who was assigned female at birth (AFAB), I've often struggled with feeling not all together comfy in my body. Growing up, I thought this was because I didn't fit with the way media presented femininity to me. I felt and acted more "boyish," but I didn't feel particularly comfortable with the way the boys I knew acted either (a sort of casual misogyny that informed all our interactions). It wasn't until recently that I started thinking about myself as nonbinary. Sometimes I feel like that category is wrong for me, but for right now, the open quality of that terminology feels good enough.

Because of my recent self-consciousness about my gender identity, I've become more aware of the fleeting sadness I sometimes have about my very traditionally feminine body. I'll occasionally think to myself that I'm sad I'll never have a "cis boy body." My chest will never be totally flat. Button downs won't lie "right." I debate buying binders. I wonder if some magical exercise regimen will absorb my boobs away. And then I push down the thoughts because my body is what it is and thinking on this too much seems a recipe for self-loathing.

Still, it's not always all doom and gloom. With age, I've come to accept the things I used to dislike about myself, the traits society taught me were ugly or undesirable for folks AFAB. Most days, I can take my body for what it is and be glad for its strength and what it allows me to do. I'm not always thinking about how curvy I am. I can dress in ways more masc coded or more femme and feel alright. My feeling that I'll never be masc enough isn't 24/7.

The fleeting discontent makes me wonder just what dysphoria is supposed to feel like. Is that what I feel when I want to iron my body out? Will it always feel so flaky and disorienting? Like one minute I'm barely thinking about my physical form and the next it gets me in the gut? And most importantly, does it fade? Any advice for feeling at home in my flesh? I feel like I know the answers to these questions, but I guess I just want to hear from people.
Sam W
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Re: What Constitutes Dysphoria? Does it End?

Unread post by Sam W »

Hi asunflower,

The tricky thing about defining dysphoria is that it takes a lot of different forms, and the experience of it will always vary by individual. It can be a mild sense that something isn't quite right, an intense mismatch between the way people see you and the way you really are, and everything in between. And while some people feel it pretty consistently, others feel it in a similar way you do; it's there some days, and not there on others.

There are things that can make dysphoria fade, but they most often have to do with the ways in which a person is able to express their gender as it truly is; for some people that could mean HRT, or a gender-confirming surgery, or a different way of dressing. Which brings me to your question about feeling at home in your skin; how much room do you have to experiment with your gender expression right now? For instance, since you're curious about binding, are you in a space where you could try that out safely?
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Re: What Constitutes Dysphoria? Does it End?

Unread post by Raffles »

Hi! I don't have a ton to add, but I have one thing I'd like to share. I personally don't feel dysphoria all of the time. For me it's worse in specific situations, like when I see myself wearing a dress. I've also got a complicated relationship with my chest. I'm fine with the fact that I have breasts, but I don't like the assumptions people make about me because I have them, that because I have breasts, I must identify as a girl. That leads me to want to make my chest less noticeable even though I personally am okay with them. Does that make sense? I hope that helped at least a little bit to hear from someone else.
Mo
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Re: What Constitutes Dysphoria? Does it End?

Unread post by Mo »

I do think it's pretty common for feelings of dysphoria to wax and wane a bit over time; some of that might depend on other feelings you have about your body or gender in the moment, or on the environment/community you're in. You might feel pretty differently about your body and how it's being perceived when you're with close friends vs. when you're in a new situation surrounded by strangers, and dysphoria can be stronger at times when people are concerned or uncertain about how others are perceiving them (or when they know for certain that they're being read in a way that doesn't feel good or accurate).
I know my own experiences with dysphoria have had a lot to do with the environment I've been in; if people hadn't made specific assumptions about my gender when they saw that I had breasts, for example, I don't know that I would have been so uncomfortable with them and felt like I needed top surgery to be comfortable.
asunflower
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Re: What Constitutes Dysphoria? Does it End?

Unread post by asunflower »

Thanks for the replies, everyone. It's been reassuring to read about your experiences and realize that it's common for dysphoria to wax and wane, but that the come-and-go quality of those feelings doesn't make what I feel less valid. I don't think my dysphoria comes from how other people perceive me as much as it does how I perceive myself.

And to Sam's point, I'm in a position to experiment with my presentation. I guess I've just hesitated to try out some things because I'm not sure what 'look' would satisfy me or bring me closer to my ideal gender presentation and I find that frustrating sometimes.

Still, thanks a lot for sharing your experiences! I'll keep your words in mind as I navigate all the strange body feelings.
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Re: What Constitutes Dysphoria? Does it End?

Unread post by Siân »

Hey asunflower,

I'm glad that the folks here have been able to share experiences that are reassuring for you!

I get the frustration of wanting *something* but not being quite sure what that something is! That's kinda what experimentation is for though, right? So that you can try a whole bunch of somethings and see what sticks? And yes, it might be that one day one thing feels right, and another you want something else! You're not committing to always presenting a certain way by trying something out, y'know?
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