Making Ourselves Understood
Age: 63 years old
Identifies as: (Affirmed) male with a transsexual history
Note to Self: Do not confuse body dysphoria with body dysmorphia. The latter is an obsessive fixation on the appearance of some aspect of the body, and often incorporates compulsive behavior, like constantly checking oneself in mirrors. No, that’s not what I experienced. GENDER dysphoria has been called confusion about one’s gender. No, that’s not what I experienced, either. Could we call this body dysphoria and have that terminology mean anything remotely comprehensible to the social scientists who guard our access to treatment? Will they always filter our attempts to describe our situations through their own perversions of linguistic mapping, diagramming trajectories that mirror their own assumptions? Will they ever believe that when we say things like “I have a penis, you just can’t see it. It’s inside me, pointing out, straining to extend itself. I feel the hard muscles of my chest and shoulders, but breasts shouldn’t be there; those breasts tell lies about me,” we are telling the truth?
I didn’t hate my body, and I wasn’t obsessed with looking at it. I just felt that I was a man and needed my body to express that for me, just like other men’s bodies do for them. It didn’t have to be perfect. It didn’t even have to be beautiful at all. Lots of men don’t fit the masculine stereotype of male beauty; I can live with still being different. I’ve known that feeling all my life. But once I knew what it felt like to be seen for myself, I knew what peace was. Funny, to be at peace and euphoric at the same time… can that ever be understood, as well? How do we manage to make ourselves understood? It’s so very human to just keep trying.
So, what does body dysphoria feel like? It feels like sandpaper on your skin. It feels like floating in an ego cloud, that being the only thing that can hold you together, since you have no body at all. It feels like struggling to breathe through moss, because the barriers between you and the world are so damn thick, yet frustratingly invisible to everyone around you. It feels like rages of solidity that well up from inside, between long stretches of pulsing in water like a jellyfish, waiting, waiting, waiting for something to happen, something to keep you alive. And in spite of all these feelings, you just keep going through your days as best you can, because there’s no way to explain what you’re experiencing to people who don’t/won’t/can’t understand, because their bodies say who they are, so they think all bodies do exactly that for everyone. We have to stop reducing everything to binaries, to simple equations. The realities are much more complex than we have been led to believe.