Physical Manifestations of Dysphoria
Age: 33 years old
Identifies as: Non-binary trans/Genderqueer
I experience gender dysphoria in a few different ways. Even before I realized I was genderqueer and came out, I remember walking up the hill in front of a cis male partner. He reached out and touched my hips, admiring the curves. I had a strong negative reaction: it felt like an electric shock – not in a good way. I couldn’t easily verbalize why it bothered me at the time. But I really didn’t like anyone noticing or touching the curve between my waist and thigh. The nature of my dysphoria has changed since coming out and later starting testosterone. Now, it’s my chest that causes the most dysphoria and it frequently arises when I’m naked.
I enjoy sensation on my nipples, but I can’t bear to look at my partner touch them. And most of the time, even if I’m not watching, I still freeze up. It feels like a scream trapped in my throat. I’ll need to cover my chest immediately. If I’m leaning over and feel my chest moving, the dysphoria will be very strong. At times like that, it will be more mental – I will think it rather than feel it – and the thought is: what the hell are these things?! But it isn’t only my chest. Sometimes, when I’m having sex with my partner, even if I’m lying down, I’ll suddenly realize that I’m disconnected. My mind will be slightly apart and I am not really in my body. Usually it’s because I’m experiencing my body and the sexual act as my gender assigned at birth. But my cue is that I’m not feeling present – I’m slightly outside of my body. It’s like when you shut one eye and look at an object, then switch eyes and the object appears to jump over a little… the distance between your two focal points… that’s the distance between me and my body when I’m dysphoric. When I realize this is happening, I have to ask him to stop. I’m 33 and this is the first time in my life that I have felt that I’m able to ask a partner to stop sex without feeling guilty. Maybe it’s because my partner is a trans man. Maybe because I finally feel like I can exist in my body in a way that I never did before. Often, with a little cuddling and some time, we can get back to the business at hand. But not always.
Occasionally, when I’m having a rough day especially if I’ve been misgendered recently, I’ll see my reflection in the mirror and get a wave of dysphoria. In those moments, it feels like a compulsive itch: I must change my clothes immediately. The feeling is a little like when my blood sugar drops and I know I’m hungry but I can’t think of anything I actually want to eat. It’s a need, but I feel indecisive, irritable, and would rather just throw my hands up and be done with it.
Most of the time, when I have dysphoria that isn’t prompted by being naked or having an identifiable negative experience, I feel it as generalized anxiety that slowly builds to a crest. I won’t even realize why I’m feeling off at first because the anxiety is so low-grade that it just feels like I’m hungry or thirsty. But given a little time, it increases until I feel it in my gut, then my chest, then my throat. It’s a tightness, choking me off. I feel it travel up my spine like a tingle or an itch. I’ll realize I’m anxious, and then slowly figure out that it’s dysphoria. It may last a few minutes or a few days.