I posted this on Facebook this week and was completely blown away by the positive response.
Concerned moms of the internet want to know:
Just last week my boss’s boss (who knows I’m trans) told me in conversation that if “someone with a penis” was sharing a locker room with his teen daughter he would personally march over to the school to rectify the situation. No amount of delicate explaining about the realities of trans kids and teens made a dent in his perception that all teens with penises were pervy teen boys.
I had a girlfriend in high school who claimed she had had an out of body experience. She claimed that one night, her soul left her body and floated around her house, and visited different rooms while her body remained resting in her bed.
I’m not stupid and I’m not superstitious. I know a dream when I hear one. Yet the story stuck with me, and for months I would lie semi-awake in bed hoping the same would happen to me. All I wanted was to leave my burdensome body behind.
This all came back to me today as I was thinking about what it has meant to be trans all these years before transitioning. My whole life experience has been about being disassociated from my body. Now, as I build a body that feels like it belongs to me, I’m realizing that everything I have known so far has been an out of body experience. My goal now is to come home to a body I can roam the world in comfortably. And then, I hope, I can rest easy.
(Disclaimer: I’m not a mental health professional, so this is not a clinical description of dysphoria. You can find that here.)
Defining gender dysphoria isn’t easy. It manifests in so many ways–anger, social anxiety, depression, shock, delusion, disjointedness. Before I had a name for it, I assumed it was an insecurity of the variety everyone experienced. Nobody loves their body, right? Everyone wishes people could see them differently. Everyone winces at the sound of their own voice on an answering machine. If these things are normal, how was my discomfort with myself special? What is it about being trans that makes living in the body you were given untenable?
It’s about context. Dysphoria is a shadow, and your assigned gender is the sun. When gender shines brightest, because, for example, you need to get a manicure for a relative’s wedding, or join a women’s work association, or participate in Girl Cabin 8’s performance at the summer camp talent show, the shadow of dysphoria is darkest. Sometimes the gender sun dips behind clouds–because you’re with someone who accepts you as you are, or you’re in the mosh pit at a punk show with the guys, or you’re walking alone on a summer evening listening to music. But here’s the tricky thing about dysphoria (bear with me through the long analogy), at any moment, the sun can emerge from the clouds and leave you staring at a very long, dark shadow.
Before blogs, families had to use the postal system to air their laundry. My Dad managed to get a January or February Christmas letter off somewhat annually. As it turns out, these make a pretty neat summary of my childhood.
[This year] began on May 25 with the birth of A– E–. We have little recall of events prior to that date. The day was as sunny, beautiful and fragrant as the baby it brought. A– is an eager little person whose curiosity, determination and brute strength already challenge her brother’s well established domain. She is something unusual for [our family]–BIG! [Ed. note: that was short lived :(]
I have so many gender-based memories, some subtle (preferring legos, robotics, antique cars, climbing, and karate to barbies, gymnastics, horses, shopping, or dance). Or the screaming, crying tantrums I would pull at age four when I got a dress for Christmas (I was otherwise a meek and quiet kid). But some are undeniably about gender and take on a special poignancy now that I’ve made sense of my gender identity.