As a pre-T trans man, it’s not easy to dodge dysphoria. I have a strong, positive mindset and attitude but even that is not a solution on its own. I keep oscillating between positive self-talk and negative dysphoric self-talk. For days, it seems as if dysphoria is gone or is no more but then it just suddenly strikes back and stays put for a while.
Here are some of the things that cause me to feel dysphoric starting from the most common ones –
1. Getting misgendered or being called by my legal name
This is the worst.
Surely, there are times when it’s a necessary evil and I just can’t escape it. And similarly, there are times when I just brush it under the carpet and pay no attention to it. There are times when I ignore the person involved (a silent ‘get out of my life’) and there are times when I actually correct the person (very rare).
Getting called by my legal name or being misgendered is simply not tolerable by me. More so, when it is done by someone whom I am already out to, it feels like that person doesn’t respect me at all.
And in the case of strangers, when they don’t misgender me then they definitely think that I am some 12-year-old boy. That sucks too but at least I can joke that I have drunk from the fountain of youth.
2. Being short
I am just 5 ft tall.
If I get stranded among tall people, the negative self-talk comes faster than a speeding bullet. It’s still better when there are at least a few short people around.
I know there is nothing that I can do about it. Accepting and acknowledging this fact is the only solution.
It is what it is.
I always wanted short hair, but that didn’t seem like a possibility until I turned 20 and my then-girlfriend and other friends pushed me to take a step in that direction and just face my fear of its consequences. That was the first significant step towards my transition (apart from wearing masculine clothes and cologne).
Even now, when my hair grows a bit longer, i.e. over the ears, it starts making me dysphoric.
But also, it’s intimidating (though validating) to go to a men’s salon and get a haircut every other month.
4. Body Hatred
I don’t remember how long I have been hating certain parts of my body. I guess since the wrong puberty.
Every trans man wishes to just wake up the next day in a boy’s body, and so did I.
In class 8, I lost my faith in God because he made the mistake of putting me in the wrong body. But God doesn’t make mistakes. Hence, God doesn’t exist. Proved!
That was the thinking of my 13-year-old self before I even understood why I was feeling the way I was feeling.
Back then, I couldn’t imagine a future for myself.
I just couldn’t picture my face. And I hated my face in pictures.
Sometimes I wondered what was the point of my existence and that it would have been better if I simply didn’t exist. I still sometimes think like that. But the term ‘transgender’ which I found when I was about 18 years old, was not just a medical, descriptive term for me but an explanation and a possibility that it was possible to live as my authentic self, no matter what it took and how much far ahead in the future it lay.
Today, while still hiding myself in baggy clothes and dealing with negative self-talk, that hope of a future when I would actualize my possibility keeps me going.
One day I would look like a complete man (with or without donning a Raymond suit! B) )
Another way how I deal with my body image issues is by focusing on the controllable parts.
Exercising helps. And so does having a punch that can actually hurt. And a couple of muscles that at least try to make an appearance. These are just little somethings that make me look good and feel happy about myself.
5. Security checks
Metro, malls, and cinemas are the most common places where we all have to go through gendered security lines.
I stopped going through the women’s security line almost two years ago, right about the time after I had started passing as a guy most of the time.
But still, every time I go through a men’s security line, I am a little anxious or scared thinking what if they don’t see me as a guy.
So, I try to limit going to the places where such gendered security checks are usually present.
I haven’t been to watch a movie at a cinema in two years now.
I rarely go to the malls; I try to avoid them if I can.
But the Delhi metro is the lifeline of our city. I do take the bus if it’s on a direct route to my destination and I have a lot of time on my hand, but more often than not, I have to take the metro.
Going through the metro security as a guy has certainly added a lot to my confidence.
And I’ve only ever been questioned by the security guards maybe 4-5 times in these past two years. Those are good enough odds for me to keep travelling in the metro.
6. Gendered public toilets
Public toilets are the most common gendered public spaces.
These days we can find a lot of gender-neutral washrooms especially in restaurants, which is awesome because the last time I went to a women’s washroom (in 2017) was an embarrassing experience.
At college and university, it was an anxiety-ridden activity for me to go to the washrooms, which I avoided as much as I possibly could.
At my last internship workplace, thankfully there was a gender-neutral washroom. I don’t have any more experience at workplaces yet.
Fingers crossed for the next time.
7. Coming out at job/internship interviews
Every time I give an interview, somewhere or the other, I have to reveal that I am trans. It’s necessary for me because I want people to call me by my preferred name and pronouns and at the same time, I have to give them my legal documents for all the legal formalities.
It does make me anxious.
Most cisgender people don’t have to think much about it. But as a trans guy, I take it in my stride. Being my authentic self is important to me, and my colleagues respecting me and treating me as just another guy is also important.
I own it. I am proud of who I am.
And if a company doesn’t respect me, then well I am judging them back. Why would I ever want to work at a transphobic place!
So be proud of yourself.
8. Not being understood
I seek attention and understanding when I feel dysphoric and anxious. I just want someone to listen to me rant and comfort me.
But oftentimes, that’s not a possibility. It can be hard to find someone who would listen and it can be equally hard to open up and talk about the emotions.
It’s hard to open up to cisgender people because it’s often hard for them to understand and relate with the fears and experiences of a trans person. They might think that it’s no big deal, or it’s just something in our mind. Apart from that, I am also not very good at sharing my feelings and talking about myself.
So, I turn to my fellow trans men friends for understanding and support, as we can easily relate to each other’s experiences.
It’s important to have a few different people with whom you can talk about different things without fear of any judgment and possibly even getting some advice.
Other things that I do to deal with my emotions are writing in my journal or making an audio or video recording about how I am feeling. It’s important to vent out your emotions in a healthy way.
Dysphoria and anxieties keep coming and going. It’s part of life. At the end of the day, it’s important to realize that every single person on the planet is dealing with their own fears and problems. Trans people are no different or special. This is life. You just gotta keep going on, facing your fears, overcoming difficult situations, celebrating little wins, sharing laughter and happiness, and making memories with family and friends.
P.S. While facing anxieties remember: What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.