What it is like to have Gender Dysphoria

By Lucia Blake

So recently (after copious amounts of gin) I revealed myself as a transgender woman to my mother. She wasn’t too shocked as I’d been changing my appearance over the past year or so. At first I’d used Rupaul’s Drag Race as an excuse to explore femme clothes and makeup, I’d say “but look how successful they are, seems like an easy job to me, I’m gonna give it a go!” But the truth, was that I had no desire to be a drag queen, I wanted to change the vessel of my identity to suit the woman I’d known I was since a child, I wanted to put down the fake persona that was bestowed upon me at birth, I needed to become myself.

My mother is now extremely supportive and I couldn’t be more grateful, she sacrifices her small income to help pay for my laser hair removal, hormones, fillers, etc. However, even though she can see my constant pain and empathises deeply, she still can’t understand what it’s like to have Gender Dysphoria. She tries to comfort me when I’m a blubbering mess on Facetime, but admits openly that she doesn’t know what to say because she can’t imagine what I’m going through. I struggle to find the words to explain, how do I convey the dissociation and detachment I feel from the only body I’ve ever had?

How do I demonstrate the doom in the pit of my stomach, when I look in the mirror and see bone where it should never have grown. I analyse the structure of my face most hours of the day, my large bony forehead, my heavy brow ridge that protrudes forward and conceals my small eyes, my strong nose, my large chiseled jaw and square chin. I actually love all of these features on other women, but when I look in the mirror it feels as though I’m wearing latex prosthetics for a movie, that my actual face is hidden underneath these malformations. They are a symbol of what should never have been. I call them “genifestations.” Genifestation is a blend of the words “gender” and “manifestation.” You can use this word to describe parts of your body or being that relate personally to aspects of your gender experience or physical manifestations of your gender dysphoria.

I then glance down at the disproportionate body, narrow hips and the empty space where my breasts should be. I’m 22 now, why aren’t they here yet? They aren’t here because I didn’t experience the correct puberty. It’s almost like there was two pathroads and my body malfunctioned and took the wrong one, and ever since I’ve watched my body mutate into a man, whilst the voice in my head panics and shouts “No, this shouldn’t be happening.” Again, hips and breasts don’t define a woman and it often floods me with guilt to be insinuating so, but I just can’t shake this feeling that I’d have them had I been born in the correct gender, my soul yearns to be united with the body and face that it was meant to have. It’s like my body is the aftermath of biology’s mistake and if I can correct that, then it’ll erase the 22 years of constant turmoil and hysterical dysphoria.

As a young child, I couldn’t understand why the girls wouldn’t let me play with them, what was it about me that was different? I genuinely remember standing in the yard and looking at the groups of boys and groups of girls playing and thinking where do I fit in all of this? One time the girls did let me play with them, on a school trip to the park where I announced that I wish I’d been born a girl. A boy called James overheard and began shouting “Eeee have you heard what --- has just said? He said he wants to be born a girl!” This is my earliest memory of being shamed for being trans, and I wonder if that was the exact moment I began hiding my femininity. I’d also always pretend to be a mother in any game that I played. I was usually a mummy dragon or dinosaur, fiercely guarding my babies in the nest. I always knew that this was to be my role in life (maybe minus the scales and talons,) and I can remember the exact moment I realised that I’d actually never be able to carry a child. That I am without womb and I’ll never know what it’s like to grow a baby inside me, that regardless of my strong maternal instincts to be pregnant, I’ll die without ever having that experience, and it devastated me.

The gut wrenching anxiety, depression and discomfort of gender dysphoria often hinders my experience of life and dims my shining light, like an abusive partner at a party, giving me a dangerous look if I’m too confident and likeable, to remind me that I’m worthless and I should step down. A study by Gires in 2014 showed that 84% of trans people have thought about commiting suicide and I’m not surprised by that statistic at all, as I am one of that percentage.

Genifestations are different in every trans person, for some it’s as simple their clothing and haircut, for others it can be their genitalia, breasts, voice, movement, name, body hair and facial structure. However someone’s gender dysphoria has manifested in how they act or their physical appearance, it is extremely important that they take ownership of their being and are supported in correcting what they know is wrong. This isn’t a frivolous expedition for beauty, in fact most trans people know they will never live up to society’s beauty standards. This is much deeper than that, it’s about aligning body with soul, it’s about having an authentic identity. Most people will never know what it is like to have gender dysphoria, but they should know it is never easy and it is never a choice.