Gender dysphoria (GD) is discomfort and distress associated with a mismatch between gender identity (the brain's gender) and external factors which can be loosely grouped into (1) your physical form, (2) your style of presentation, and (3) how you are identified socially. (Here is a metaphor which might help explain what GD feels like, and here is the entire history of my relationship with gender, with an emphasis on dysphoria.)
I experience both #1 and #3. There seem to be a couple of root issues:
- I cannot imagine myself in a positive light if I think of myself as male.
- I seem to have an intense need for certain female primary and secondary sexual characteristics.
The consequences of these issues fracture out into innumerable particulars which have basically shaped my whole life, in ways that have mostly been to my detriment although there have been some positive consequences as well.
All that said, I don't seem to follow some of the more common transfemale narratives.
How I'm atypical
Unlike many transfemale people, I never had any desire to self-express through feminine attire (clothing, make-up, jewelry), and really am not much interested in most of that (with a very few exceptions, such as hairclips). This has made things both easier and more difficult:
- The fact that most transwomen do seem to desire more feminine attire, and that these feelings are often overwhelming and can define a large part of their dysphoria, is one of the primary things which made me think I couldn't actually be transgender, which meant that my self-discovery was delayed for many decades – despite the presence of strong clues as early as kindergarten.
- On the positive side, it also means that I can avoid the whole awkwardness of appearing to be a "man in a dress". I dress how I've always dressed, so regardless of how I come across gender-wise, there's no clash and no social taboo being violated regardless of how people read my gender.
- ...which in turn also means I'm not helping, as much, to normalize feminine attire on male bodies and erode the taboos (a down-side).
- ...and also leads to a lot of being gendered as male (another down-side); I'm hoping this will change as the facial hair is uprooted.
- Yet another down-side is that it means that I don't have the option of using feminine fashion to reinforce the appearance of the gender I want to project, because it's not really me – not a genuine expression of who I am.
- I mean, I could, but it would hardly be any more honest than pretending to be male.
- I expect I may experiment with more feminine clothing once I feel like I naturally appear less male, but I have only vague ideas at this point.
Another thing which made me think I couldn't really be transgender was that I didn't like typical "girls'" toys and games, like dolls or "playing house", though I would sometimes participate when my friends were doing that kind of play. (I really had no idea how to interact with dolls, however; doll-play made no sense to me.) The toys I preferred – building blocks, Legos, Meccano – were generally considered "boys'" toys -- though in my experience, most of the boys actually preferred combative/destructive play that involved knocking things (and people) down.
Less well-known outside trans circles is something I've heard from many transpeople, where they reject the idea that they're "an X in a Y's body", because "I am X, therefore my body is an X's body". Although I support that position for those people for whom it works, it doesn't fit me. I do pretty much feel like I'm a girl stuck inside a boy's body, and I need to do what I can to correct that in order to have any hope of feeling comfortable with myself.
- One of the songs I wrote and recorded, All the Beautiful Girls, is largely about gender dysphoria and the feelings that go with it.
- I desperately, desperately wanted to be brilliant genius girl; the idea of being a brilliant genius guy always felt uninspiring at best, repellent at worst – but I believed it was the only option open to me, which only fueled my growing depression.
- Wikipedia has a page which explains how GD works in general.