Gender dysphoria (GD), for me, can be triggered by any activity that reminds me I’m embodied – a physical creature that encounters the world through the five primary senses of sight, sound, touch, smell, and taste. I admit I had to take a leap of faith to proceed with physical transition – a leap that says “once you experience more alignment between the gender you feel and the gender people see you as your discomfort will decrease”.
I am now well into my physical transition. I’ve had top surgery. I’ve been on testosterone 6 months. My mis-gendering experiences have significantly decreased. So… is my GD triggered less often? Was the faith unfounded?
I openly admit I’m not a big fan of faith. I’m rational to a fault, a big fan of empiricism, and have always been part of the “if you can’t measure it you can’t manage it” school of thought. The scientific method, for me, is the best way to “know” things.
But… I also yearn for a way to grapple with the deeper problems of human existence that don’t fit in the purely quantitative realm. I’ve read lots of philosophy. I’ve studied world religions. I’ve tried to understand qualitative research methods in psychology and social science.
Perhaps I’m at a cross road that reads: “scientist heal/know thyself”…
The gut wrenching answer to the question – has my GD decreased as a result of measurable improvement in the alignment between my felt and perceived genders – is NO. My level of GD has not decreased quantitatively.
My GD is now triggered by things that may happen less often but are more intense.
Here is a simple use case: pre-op/hormones I was frequently triggered by having to wear feminine attire to social events. The intensity of the trigger depended on just how “feminine” I had to pretend to be (say, on a scale from ruffled shirt to frilly dress). That particular trigger – in terms of frequency and intensity – is now level 0.
So, what has replaced it? What now contributes to my experiencing the same “overall” level of GD? For one, even though getting mis-gendered happens much less often, it’s much more intense. I feel like, “WTF, I have five o’clock shadow, no breasts, a deep voice and you STILL say MAM? Maybe I should just throw in the towel because this shit just isn’t working…”
For another, alleviating the physical misalignment seems to free up energy to move on to emotional misalignment. In other words, I become my own worst nightmare of the gender police. It’s thoughts like “Wow, I’m never going to be a real man because <<insert whatever absurd reaction/emotion here that may typically be labeled as “effeminate” in our society>>”. Sometimes I realize I don’t really know what being “a man” means (who does) and that the only thing I do know is that I have no intention of becoming a caricature of “manly man”. At this point, my GD level qualitatively goes from “I am M not F” to “I don’t even want a fucking body any more”.
Where does this leave me? I have no idea. Right now I’m in “put one foot in front of the other” mode but continuing to do the same thing and expecting a different outcome is the definition of insanity so I guess I’ll have to come up with another plan. Unless insanity becomes comfortable. Stay tuned.