The internet provides so many definitions for Gender Dysphoria. More importantly, in today’s socio-political climate, truth seems irrelevant. Usually, I avoid posting articles based on anecdotes. However, this topic affects so much more than just me.
Defining Gender Dysphoria
Most mental health providers refer to the 7th Edition of the WPATH Standards of Care. In the opening pages, the book discusses gender dysphoria and nonconformity in great detail. However, like most things I prefer to simplify the definition so that I understand it.
Gender dysphoria refers to distress caused by a person’s sex, and the associated gender role. As well as the primary and secondary sex characteristics.
Gender Dysphoria and Me
Generally these anectotes begin with something like “I always knew…” Then, they go into some explanation of how male/female stereotypes felt wrong. Next, the anectode will launch into some form of self discovery. Finally, it closes with something about how happy they feel.
Unfortunately, my story varies little from the stereotype. And yet I came to such a different conclusion.
Gender Dysphoria During Early Childhood
For the longest time, I understood very little about gender. I knew that my sister wore dresses, and had pretty hair. Similarly, I knew that I wore a two piece suit and a bow tie. For the most part, we played with the same toys, and pretty much went on enjoying childhood.
The first notable experience happened when I decided to play barbies with our sitter. I enjoyed the time with her more than anything before. However, afterwards, people began teasing me for “being such a girl.”
Shortly afterwards, while playing dressup with my little sister, we put on matching dresses. The whole thing felt perfectly normal, until suddenly it wasn’t. Again, I felt the sting of “acting like such a girl.”
Stop acting like such a girl! Stop being such a girl!
A while later, I experienced a sexual assault by someone I trusted explicitly. The impact of that day registered with me after I actually understood intimacy. The uninvited sexual contact left me feeling deeply confused, and dirty.
Gender Dysphoria Through Puberty
Once puberty started, I began to see the stark contrast between girls and guys. First, the realization that I could never carry a child stung. Then, gross body hair and funky body odor began. Finally, it clicked that I just felt off balance with the changes puberty brought.
The realization that I could never carry a child stung!
Subsequently, I tried little things like shaving and painting my nails. Once again I felt the sting of taunts for “acting like a girl!” At this point I wondered about so many different things. Why did I feel so off balance? What went wrong in my head? How could I just act normal?
For half a heartbeat, I even questioned my sexuality. Though, I quickly realized that I still felt attracted to girls despite everything else.
I tried asking Google “why do I feel like a girl?” The resulting link took me to a page by some Dr. Conway. I soaked up the in depth article he wrote like a dry sponge. Realization never felt more palpable than at the moment I finished reading.
The shame of that realization drove me into trying harder than ever to bury my feelings.
Adult Gender Dysphoria
In college, gender dysphoria finally hit me like a freight train. During my first month, I experienced a dysphoric episode. First, little things began to feel overwhelming. Like seeing baby clothes reminding me that I would never carry one of my own. Then, things really spun out of control as my thoughts turned hard questions. I wondered why I felt this way. What purpose did I have? How could I end the pain?
Suicide Versus Anxiety
First off, I never felt suicidal. I know and understand that many people who suffer from gender dysphoria do. While self harm/mutilation crossed my mind several times, taking my own life did not. However, should you ever feel like taking your own life please talk to SOMEONE. You can even contact me if you want. I can also recommend some suggestions others gave me.
- Go to your nearest Narcotics Anonymous or Alcholics Anonymous meeting and let them know you feel distressed and need help. They will assign you a mentor who takes a personal interest in keeping you alive.
- Contact your nearest church, and let the pastor know you need help. They will immediately try to help, regardless of your personal beliefs.
Getting Help With Gender Dysphoria
Going back to my antectode, I spent the first twelve years of my adult life trying to “get over it.” First, I tried lying to myself. This meant I told anyone who asked the same lies I told myself. Then, I began the endless purge cycle.
This above all: to thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man.William Shakespear, Hamlet (Polonius to his son)
After serving in the Marine Corps for eight years, I finally reached out for help. Initially, I spoke to a Marine Family Life Counselor. She instructed me to go visit my medical officer. Then, after a quick two minute conversation with him, I met with my physician. Several months, a few mental health providers, and an entire medical team later, I began treatment.
Unfortunately, I allowed myself to start the full battery of treatment without telling Crystal. Of course I shared a few details and positive side effects. I left out the fact that I began hormone therapy and real life experience. This created my biggest regret.
Repairing Damaged Relationships
After a year of mental health appointments, I finally stopped living in denial. Consequently, I began sharing the truth with those around me. With Crystal, that meant admitting I’d been lying for over a year. As she pointed out, that meant I’d been manipulating her for six years. I regret the damage I caused to our relationship more than anything else.
No matter what, I need to repair the damage to my relationship with Crystal.
Life After Treatment
Unfortunately, no one seems to care about finding a cure for Gender Dysphoria. The American Psychological Association themselves admit they would rather avoid the socio-political consequences of trying. This fact sucks. The Marine Corps will continue my care until I retire, and then I’m on my own.
About a month before my gender care plan expired, I began to feel at peace. First, I noticed that dysphoric attacks all but completely disapeared. Then, I realized that mirrors felt so much less depressing. I do still feel longing and regret whenever I see a newborn baby. However, for the most part, treatment left me with a positive outook on life.
What Gender Dysphoria Means To Me
I hope this helps someone. Please share your personal experience below. How has gender dysphoria affected your life?
As a reminder, if you need to contact someone, and you feel out of ideas, please feel free to contact me.
I grew up in Colonia Juarez, Chihuahua, México, where people either owned cattle ranches or fruit orchards. Much of my work ethic came from working on Rancho La Mesa (my family’s ranch). That ranch also sparked what grew into my wild imagination. I read somewhere that you should write the story you want to read, and that stuck with me. My writing began in sixth grade, around the time I began learning to type.