We live in a world where anything that doesn’t fit in a certain box of societal expectations, is often shunned.
And because of preconceived notions believed by millions, people worldwide experience a sense of stigma, isolation, criticism, and abuse... simply because of who they are.
Today, we’re going to take a look at gender dysphoria. And if you or a loved one is experiencing gender dysphoria, we aim to be a source of information, support, and even inspiration. You can consider this a safe space to learn and to feel a part of a community.
What is Gender Dysphoria?
Gender dysphoria is when there is "a conflict between a person's physical or assigned gender and the gender with which he/she/they identify". For example, someone who is born with the physical traits of a male may identify with being a female, and vice versa. Gender dysphoria however, is something that can be experienced by a variety of binary and non-binary genders.
Dysphoria means "a state of unease or generalized dissatisfaction with life," and is the opposite of the word 'euphoria’, which is "a feeling or state of intense excitement and happiness".
With gender dysphoria, individuals often have an intense desire to change their physical body so that it is aligned with what they believe is their true identity, and to be accepted as that gender. Gender dysphoria can be present in children, adolescents, or adults.
What Gender Dysphoria is Not
Gender dysphoria is not the same as:
- Gender nonconformity: this is when an individual displays behavior that does not match with gender norms of the gender assigned at birth.
- Sexual orientation: the gender to which an individual is attracted to.
Gender dysphoria is also not a mental illness. Prior to May 2019 however, gender dysphoria was classified as a mental and behavioral disorder by WHO (World Health Organization).
The change in status, according to Human Rights Watch, will create a "liberating effect worldwide".
And according to Dr Lale Say, a reproductive health expert at WHO:
"In order to reduce stigma, while also ensuring access to necessary health interventions, this (gender dysphoria) was placed in a different chapter."
And while this change may have reduced some stigma, there are still many social and mental implications of gender dysphoria...
What Are the Social and Mental Implications of Gender Dysphoria?
Individuals with gender dysphoria may become socially isolated, either by choice or due to ostracism. This could create a chain of negative effects and emotions such as low self-esteem, anxiety, depression, the loss of relationships with friends and family, substance abuse, and suicide.
For that reason, it’s highly advised for those with gender dysphoria to seek out supportive environments that allow them to express themselves whilst being the most comfortable and most authentic.
It’s also important for these individuals to be given the knowledge that treatment does exist, and that it may significantly reduce the sense of incongruence that they may feel.
LGBTQI+ Support Groups and Communities
- Trans Lifeline: a trans-led organization that connects trans people to the community, support, and resources they need to survive and thrive.
- The Trevor Project: an organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services for LGBTQI+ people under the age of 25.
- LGBTribe: peer-to-peer mental health support group for individuals living as LGBT or questioning.
- Psychology Today: a resource led by psychologists, academics, psychiatrists, and writers. By clicking on this link, you can find support groups in your country/area.
- Hope & Harmony Therapy: therapists based in Houston, Texas, that can help those with gender dysphoria to explore their gender identity, receive support, and to provide the required letters needed for hormone therapy treatment.
- Gender Infinity: a network of providers offering consultation, clinical services, and conferences focused on gender affirmative care.
A Guide on Being Intimate with Gender Dysphoria
In an article written by Serena Sonoma for VICE, these are her top tips to begin feeling comfortable enough to have sex, and to become more sexually comfortable with one’s body.
Embrace Affirming Content
Embrace content that you can relate to that praises, affirms, and celebrates. For example, Ana Valens, a writer a trans women in New York said: "Seeing other transgender women’s nude bodies helped a lot. It feels really good to see other trans women own their sexuality, not to mention it’s so affirming to see others find your gender attractive." Bare in mind that the majority of porn is created for the male gaze, and thus may not be an accurate representation. Take your time to find positive models that represent themselves by researching and talking with others in a shared and safe community.
If you’re currently in a relationship, talk to your partner about your feelings. Internalizing shame and self-consciousness tends to take over sexual intimacy, but by expressing yourself, you can start to focus on getting your physical needs met. You can also talk to them about the wods that you find most gender-affirming to describe the different parts of your body.
Take Your Time
Take your time navigating your way through sex and intimacy. If you feel too dysphoric to have sex or be sexual, then it’s okay not to. You do not owe anyone else your body. There’s no need to 'push through it’ and you do not owe anyone an immediate readiness to overcome your dysphoria.
We hope to have provided tools and knowledge that can help you or those you love with gender dysphoria. Your body is yours, and you deserve to feel your absolutely best in it.