Gender dysphoria is perhaps one of the most important facets to understand about the transgender experience. Gender dysphoria is the manifestation of negative feelings, stress, or distress experienced by individuals whose gender identity does not correspond with their assigned sex at birth. Not all transgender individuals experience gender dysphoria, but it does affect the vast majority in different ways, ranging from small to severe.
Gender dysphoria can present without any trigger simply from the clashing of gender identity and assigned sex at birth, but is most severe when triggered by a factor beyond a trans individual’s control.
Common triggers include:
· Misgendering (referring to an individual as a gender they do not identify with) or incorrect pronouns
· Dead naming (using a trans person’s name they were given at birth that they no longer use or associate with)
· Bodily features that might not match their gender identity (ex: facial hair on a transwoman, or the appearance of breast tissue on a transman)
· Gendered expectations based on one’s assigned sex at birth.
· Bathrooms, locker rooms, or other spaces that are typically segregated by sex.
· Speech that separates or divides a class by sex (ex: “Girls go over here; boys go over here”)
It’s hard to explain the physiological and psychological effects of gender dysphoria, as it varies from person to person. Symptoms can range from mild annoyance to severe discomfort that can overwhelm one’s focus and concentration, even leading to suicidal thoughts or attempts.
Gender dysphoria should be treated seriously, because of its potential severity, especially in adolescents. Perhaps nobody describes the feeling of gender dysphoria better than Sonny Nordmarken, a trans individual who identifies as male, who was misgendered while out to eat with a friend.
“The server, an apparent young, White, ponytailed woman with a spritely smile bounces toward our table: “Hello, Ladies!” Startled, I exchange a look with my friend. Ouch. This hasn’t happened for a while. My jaw is tight. I feel like I am not really there. Invisible and unrecognized. I feel like a monster. Alienated. And humiliated. Again. I hold the feelings like they are a plate of 20 candles burning, hot wax dripping onto my hands and pooling on the floor. I don’t know how to not hold the feelings, the candles, the fire. I am used to it. A lifetime of learning how to hold burning candles. Not knowing how to put them down, how to ask someone else to hold them, how to put them out.” (Nordmarken, 45)
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