Change Your World-NOT your Body

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Topics Tuesday-Dysphoria

Today's topic for discussion is dysphoria.  (by dysphoria I specifically mean here, feeling any uncomfortableness in your body at any time to down right hating your body)

Some possible questions you might answer:

1) Have you ever felt dysphoric around your body?
2) If you have felt dysphoria, was it primarily certain body parts or primarily your whole body?
3) At what age did you begin feeling dysphoric to your best recollection?
4) Did something happened that triggered your feelings of dysphoria? (sexual abuse/puberty etc)
5) Have you done anything to work through your dysphoria? (maturity, self help, therapy etc)
6) Have you successfully over came your dysphoria?
7) Have you ever felt like if you (your body) were just fill in the blank your feelings of dysphoria would go away and you would feel "normal"?
8) To what do you attribute your feelings of dysphoria? (such as family/society/religion expectations etc)

Feel free to answer/discuss any or all of these questions or some of your own.

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17 comments:

  1. 1) I have felt it, yes.
    2) My dysphoria is some body parts, mostly. The whole curves thing, having fat in the wrong places, voice never broke, facial hair takes forever, etc.
    3) I believe it was when I was 11 or 12.
    4) Puberty started, and it went totally the wrong direction. It made me feel like an alien had taken over my body.
    5) Yes, I've tried to self-medicate by over-eating, reading body-happy feminist books, and such things.
    6) Yes. I lose a lot of it when I am wearing my chest binder. Cutting my hair also helped, the flat chest + short hair makes it kind of easier to see the real me. I cut my hair off to fulfill my childhood dream of having short hair.
    7) Yes. I want my chest to be flat, my curves to disappear, my voice to deepen, facial hair. I can use a prostethis for "below the belt", however I haven't felt a lot of worries about that area.
    8) I attribute it to my own mind. I mean, if I were to live on a deserted island for the rest of my life, I'd still go through the hormone replacement therapy and chest surgery. I want this to be able to live with myself, to feel whole, not because someone else makes me.
    I am not transitioning physically, but next year I maybe will be going into the 2-year therapy that is required in my home country. It takes 2 years to get the diagnosis of transsexualism, during which psychologists will prod every corner of your mind to see if there is another issue at foot. Transitioning is supposed to be the "last resort"; nobody is pressured into doing it.

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  2. I used to have some dysphoria, I dont know why I hated the parts of my body that I hated. The part i hated most of my body was my neck, and I want plastik-surgery to fix it. I know it sounds random, but I just hated it and I know there is nothing wrong with it.

    And like lots of other people i hated my chest.

    But all of the dysphoria has been gone for months now.

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  3. 1) Have you ever felt dysphoric around your body?
    Yes.

    2) If you have felt dysphoria, was it primarily certain body parts or primarily your whole body?
    Throughout my life, I've experienced varying degrees of dysphoria. Ever since the start of puberty, I was somewhat uncomfortable with my form in some way or another. First, I compared myself to other girls and felt self-conscious about my breasts not being large enough. Later, I felt uncomfortable about the weight I gained and wanted a thinner body. I then struggled with binge eating disorder, which just increased that problem. Then I found the online trans community and identified as such, which just increased my discomfort with my body and the very curves I had once desired.

    3) At what age did you begin feeling dysphoric to your best recollection?
    Around the start of puberty.
    4) Did something happened that triggered your feelings of dysphoria? (sexual abuse/puberty etc)
    All incidence of dysphoria in my life was triggered in some way by comparing myself with others and not measuring up to societal expectations.

    5) Have you done anything to work through your dysphoria? (maturity, self help, therapy etc)
    When talking to a psychiatrist regarding my gender identity problems, she pointed out the fact that in describing my problems, I always kept coming back to how this related to society/other people, and not my own feelings.
    This led me to some deep introspection about how my feelings of self-worth were tied up into societal definitions. And once I realized the depth of it, I was able to cut those ties and finally accept myself as a person.

    6) Have you successfully over came your dysphoria?
    More or less. Now, I can look at my body and not resent it for not being in line with some cultural ideals. However, I still don't look how I want to look like - as mentioned, my binge eating disorder has taken its toll on me, and now I'm working towards losing fat and building muscle through weight lifting and better nutrition. What is interesting is that as soon as I had my cognitive breakthrough, the urges to overeat, which were present on almost a daily basis, immediately disappeared.

    7) Have you ever felt like if you (your body) were just fill in the blank your feelings of dysphoria would go away and you would feel "normal"?
    Yes. I felt this for both extremes, the stereotypically attractive female body and male body.

    8) To what do you attribute your feelings of dysphoria? (such as family/society/religion expectations etc)
    Society's gender stereotypes, definitely. Once I saw through the bullshit I was shocked that it all affected me on such a deep, subconscious level. I mean, even when I identified as a transguy, I knew about gender stereotypes and was principally against them on a conscious, rational level... when my very self-identification was built on them.

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  4. (part 1)

    1) Yes, for about 10 years (from when puberty happened 'till the last year). I think it was a pretty long time!
    2) My whole body, because I, with some small exceptions, saw it as all too female altogether. I am short (around 160 cm), baby-faced and, due to hormonal inblalances, in that period became fattish (I wasn't previously, I was a muscular and athletic little girl) and thus my figure (my thighs especially) became even more evident. The only positive thing I could find about me were my thick eyebrows, my happy trail (my family on my dad's side is very hairy and I still have more body hair than some males. And no, unless absolutely compelled, I won't shave it, it's mine). I tried being completely oblivious to my breasts and my vulva/vagina. I started slouching to hide my breasts and this habit caused me some back problems, which I have mostly remedied now by standing straight and proud now (and thus, I also realized I wasn't as short as I thought).
    3)Even though I always resented males for their privileges and better standing in society, I started feeling dysphoric about my body around puberty, which in my case was early, like 10 (I attribute it to family history on my mother's side and the fact I ate too much hormone-laden red meat).
    4) Largely puberty and the ways females and female bodies (in our society, they are the same) are seen by the media and the public. I went to a middle school which was very "ghetto" and most girls were sexualizing themselves (encouraged by society) by AGE 11. Which is a true crime. The fact I wasn't like them enforced my idea I was FTM. That's misogyny's ugly coin and its two faces: "whorification" of "feminine" girls and "transsexualization" of "masculine" girls.
    5) At first, passing as male, even if very young, eased my dysphoria and made me feel happy and warm, again confident about my body. Binding made me feel proud about my chest again, even if it hurt a lot because my breasts are very sensitive, so I didn't do it much (I mostly just slouched). I'm glad I didn't after reading your post on the dangers of binding.

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  5. (part 2)

    6) Yes, I explained why in one of the posts on my blog (the one about Mother 3). It's too long to post here, but summing it up: I learned being male was just a mask I used to hide my real, sensitive self and thus, if I didn't destroy it, I wouldn't grow as a person. I also realized body mod can't really make anything to you besides altering how you look, and that synthethic hormones have very real dangers. These days I find it wonderful just to exist, which is something I couldn't say before, and the little "amazonic" girl I was, with all her pros and cons, has resurfaced after a long slumber. If anything, I act even more "masculine" than I did when I thought I was FTM because it's just the real me!
    7) I thought transitioning and all the male changes brought by t (beard, muscularity, lower voice, etc.) would ease the pain of having such a "horrible" body and make me more like my male friends, who I envied and resented puberty-wise. I now accept my body, even if it's not perfect, and I still wish it was more masculine than it currently is, because a dollfaced woman wearing leather jackets, for example, is seen as ridiculous or cute for trying too hard. But I wouldn't change myself physically, because the challenges I have to face actually enrich me as a person. When I think about people who theorethically should have it way worse than me, like children with progeria, and yet, them being the little angels they are, living apparently much happier than regular people, I realize how limited my view was and how life is precious nevertheless. Also, reading Osamu Tezuka's "Phoenix: Karma" made me reconsider about how the physical exterior means very little to who you really are.
    8) Society, my own self ingrained male stoicism, having mostly male heroes as a little girl (not that there's anything wrong with it but if there had been more females I wouldn't have felt so wrong), how the media and the current government in my own country see women, porn's degradation of female bodies and the queer message of "body hate is normal".

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  6. To preface: I'm 35, have identified as a butch lesbian since I was about 16, and now I'm a month into HRT (testosterone).

    1) Have you ever felt dysphoric around your body?
    Well, no, not AROUND it, but in it, yes.

    2) If you have felt dysphoria, was it primarily certain body parts or primarily your whole body?
    Mostly, I've always hated my breasts. I can't even touch them to do a self-breast-cancer exam. A doctor did one on me about 6 months ago, my first ever, and they hurt for a month and a half afterwards. But really, my dysphoria manifests itself as a desire for secondary male sex characteristics, and not really hating my whole body (I'm fine with my nether regions, for instance).


    3) At what age did you begin feeling dysphoric to your best recollection?
    I only remember as early as 8, but my dad says he can't ever remember a time when I wanted anything to do with "girl" stuff (clothes, etc.).

    4) Did something happened that triggered your feelings of dysphoria? (sexual abuse/puberty etc)
    Nope, I think it's always been there.

    5) Have you done anything to work through your dysphoria? (maturity, self help, therapy etc)
    Living as a butch lesbian was the answer for me for a long time, although there was still the "don't touch my breasts and NO pap smears, please" problem. But around age 30, I started thinking about whether or not I was trans, and at 34 realized that I'd be happier in a male body.

    (continued...)

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  7. (continued...)

    6) Have you successfully over came your dysphoria?
    No, and I don't ever think I will. I think there are things that will always bother me about my body.

    7) Have you ever felt like if you (your body) were just fill in the blank your feelings of dysphoria would go away and you would feel "normal"?
    No. Being FTM isn't what will make me feel truly "normal." Transitioning is secondary to just trying to have a fulfilling life, overcoming some hardships, and knowing myself. THOSE things will make me feel "normal" (or close), not the beard and deep voice.

    8) To what do you attribute your feelings of dysphoria? (such as family/society/religion expectations etc)
    Really, I've thought about this a lot and talked about it a lot to a wide variety of people, and I feel like the jury is out about what causes dysphoria, the desire to transition, etc. There are enough conflicting medical studies, theorists on both sides, etc., that I'm not going to hang my hat on any one of them.

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  8. "No. Being FTM isn't what will make me feel truly "normal." Transitioning is secondary to just trying to have a fulfilling life, overcoming some hardships, and knowing myself. THOSE things will make me feel "normal" (or close), not the beard and deep voice."

    I'm so glad C wrote this. I agree wholeheartedly on this. I feel transition has been good for me in so many ways, but of course it does not take away all the pain and growth that comes with being human.

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  9. 1) I have felt pretty consistent dysphoria since puberty.

    2) I believe my dysphoria was a component of my depression so it was generally directed at my whole body, though generally targeted parts I felt were "feminine."

    3) Dysphoria (and the depression) really set in at age 15-16 for me, around the time I started to develop.

    4) I really can't blame puberty for -causing- my dysphoria...at puberty, though, I suddenly received a lot of pressure (from relatives, peers and society) to look and behave a certain way, and refusing to conform left me feeling freakish. I'd always been a tomboy, and the fact that this did NOT change at puberty (why should I change? I was happy) was a constant source of conflict with my family. I was also left with the feeling that tomboyishness is always something you "grow out of", and I never did.

    5) I was surprised by how much better dysphoria became after I did some basic no-brainer things like exercise and taking care of my hygiene and dressing myself well. Maturity helped somewhat, and also having healthy role models - role models for young girls (and I mean real role models, not just token gestures) are priceless. For me, getting over the assumption that all non-feminine women are ugly was the key to overcoming nearly a decade of depression and suicidal thoughts -- since I could not and would not become girly, I had long since assumed that I was doomed to ugliness (or that I'd better become a man).

    6) I think I've mostly overcome my dysphoria; it took a long time but I'm generally pretty positive about myself these days. I feel ten times better now that I've come to terms with being a soft-butch woman.

    7) I think I would be more comfortable if I didn't have a feminine-looking body, as I've learned to associate my physical shape with the expectation that I will behave a certain way or have certain tastes.

    8) I blame all the sources (again, media as well as peers) who presented me with the message that people who look like I do should behave like X, or should enjoy Y, or should never Z, or whatever -- and the near-total absence of positive butch role models. That expectation is the sum total of my dysphoria, and I can say with confidence that if nobody had expected me to be conventionally feminine I wouldn't have minded having a female body.

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  10. Alexander (same one again)November 24, 2010 at 4:00 AM

    I'm glad this topic was chosen. I've enjoyed reading the comments already.

    1) Yeah, to some extent. I went through a period when I was incredibly dysphoric about my body, somewhat tied into my male identity, somewhat tied into a period of weight gain, and somewhat tied into a messy breakup. Now the dysphoria is a lot more low level than it was then, and an analogy I found that fits my relationship with my body was the idea that it feels like a broken leg. One of those ones where it's twisted right round. It hurts, but more than that it just looks completely abnormal, not right, the leg should not be bent that way. The rest of society keeps ignoring the leg, saying that it's absolutely fine, but one knows deep down that that leg should not look like that.
    2) The dysphoria was focussed around different aspects of my whole body, for example my height, the size of my hands, my lack of cock (I was never horrifically uncomfortable with the genitals I had, more with the lack of the genitals I don't have yet), the fact that I can't bind my chest totally flat (I know binding is dangerous, but I find it necessary at the moment), etc.
    3&4) I really don't know. The wrongness preceded the dysphoria, and has continued after it. I first really noticed it when I was kicked off the rugby team I'd captained at the end of year six, so when I was ten, because girls couldn't play rugby with boys beyond that age. I'd looked forward to puberty, expecting it to make me really happy and a real woman and not this weird thing that wanted to be a boy when it grew up, but when I went through puberty the dysphoria got a whole lot worse. Mid puberty I experienced sexual abuse, but never felt that added to the dysphoria. It did make me struggle with men and with sexual encounters, but I never felt it changed my relationship with my body dramatically.

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  11. Alexander (same one again)November 24, 2010 at 4:01 AM

    5) I've been in talking therapy with my current counsellor for the last two years, and a different one for six months before that. We've explored ways of managing dysphoria, ways of making me feel better about my body, and feel like transition was the very last avenue, and he feels comfortably sure that I am right in this, having given so many other options a real try, and I intend to continue working with him for quite a while.
    6) To some extent, yeah. I am a lot less dysphoric now, whilst the wrongness persists, and what changed this is moving to an environment where people only know me as Alexander and as male, and don't know or need to know what's in my pants.
    7) I've experienced that twice, and decided both were wrong. I felt if my body was only beautiful I'd learn to deal with it, but in retrospect, it was quite beautiful at that point, and I still struggled with it, and I felt if only it was male then it'd be fine, but in retrospect, it wouldn't be, because it wouldn't be my body, it'd be someone else's body.
    8) I suppose I attribute them to partly my male identity, partly weight gain, and partly a messy breakup.
    In the end, for me, transition is a small part of my life compared to, say, my studies.

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  12. 1) Have you ever felt dysphoric around your body? A:yes, all the time
    2) If you have felt dysphoria, was it primarily certain body parts or primarily your whole body? A: whole body
    3) At what age did you begin feeling dysphoric to your best recollection? A: 9
    4) Did something happened that triggered your feelings of dysphoria? (sexual abuse/puberty etc)A: No
    5) Have you done anything to work through your dysphoria? (maturity, self help, therapy etc) A: yes- living in denial
    6) Have you successfully over came your dysphoria? A: No
    7) Have you ever felt like if you (your body) were just fill in the blank your feelings of dysphoria would go away and you would feel "normal"? A:No
    8) To what do you attribute your feelings of dysphoria? (such as family/society/religion expectations etc) A: female body structure and function

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  13. 1) Have you ever felt dysphoric in your body?

    yes

    2) If you have felt dysphoria, was it primarily certain body parts or primarily your whole body?

    both: as a child, i felt an entire body dysphoria, and now, only certain parts.

    3) At what age did you begin feeling dysphoric to your best recollection?

    5? 6?

    5) Have you done anything to work through your dysphoria? (maturity, self help, therapy etc)

    self love. growing up.not jumping into any crazy decisions. letting others love me THE WAY I AM and not the way i think i should be. therapy. lesbian feminist community.

    6) Have you successfully over came your dysphoria?

    honestly, not completely. i know if i was completely over it, i wouldn't even wear a bra at this point in my life. but i do. i am concerned about the gaze of others. but compared to my youth, i am pretty much fine!

    and a fighting amazon.

    7) Have you ever felt like if you (your body) were just fill in the blank your feelings of dysphoria would go away and you would feel "normal"?

    as a child and teenager, i would proclaim to all that i was going to have a sex change when i grew up. there is no way i'd change my body now. NO WAY.

    for me, a gender change is too simple, too one or the other.

    i belong in a world that is more radical and brave than that, with my sisters who have faught to be themselves and struggled to survive these times and stay in our natal bodies, not medicated or surgically altered. we are the ones to challenge society. butches especially, challenging norms and societal expectations.

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  14. @Soma at 12:56 am. Thanks, you've hit the nail right on the head.

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  15. 1) Have you ever felt dysphoric around your body?
    Yes
    2) If you have felt dysphoria, was it primarily certain body parts or primarily your whole body?
    My face is too round, my hips too wide, waist too narrow, hands too small, breasts, and the lack of penis and facial hair
    3) At what age did you begin feeling dysphoric to your best recollection?
    Very early, I was about two, I had wanted to grow a beard, but I never did. Later on it was the fact I didn't have a penis, then my breasts started to grow.
    4) Did something happened that triggered your feelings of dysphoria? (sexual abuse/puberty etc)
    No, I was born with it, but puberty defiantly was a large contributer.
    5) Have you done anything to work through your dysphoria? (maturity, self help, therapy etc)
    I've done self help, and some therapy. I'm currently transitioning.
    6) Have you successfully over came your dysphoria?
    No, but I'm working on it.
    7) Have you ever felt like if you (your body) were just fill in the blank your feelings of dysphoria would go away and you would feel "normal"?
    Yes. It actually helps a lot. When I bind or pack I feel like a weight is lifted from my shoulders, like I can be myself.
    8) To what do you attribute your feelings of dysphoria? (such as family/society/religion expectations etc)
    I was born in the wrong body.

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  16. 1) Yes

    2) The ones that changed after puberty.

    3) Around age 14, before puberty I was really good looking. I was reasonably tall for my age and very thin!

    4) Puberty, not being as attractive as I was before puberty. I fought with my body for years (still do) but have stopped taking laxatives and diet pills.


    5) I tried therapy, but they wanted to take my laxatives and diet pills away when I was not ready to deal with the side effects (both are hell when you first stop them). Feminist blogs (feministing) gave me the ability to talk about this kind of stuff publicly but ultimately being aware of feminism can't change the fact that the outside world WILL think more highly of you if you are thinner.

    6) I still have dysphoria and cravings for both diet pills and laxatives. But I only take them every few weeks versus every day now. I have cut back on them a lot!

    7)I feel like if I am an A cup or less breast wise and around a size 2 women's pants/26 men's I will not worry about my body anymore.


    8) I'm not really sure. I have gotten a lot better over the years though. I used to only wear extremely baggy clothes. Then I went to college and felt more comfortable with myself and started wearing trendier clothing/tighter pants. Things got even better when I discovered slightly tight sports bras. I stopped slouching and they gave my frontside a smoother appearance. I am not trans. I am fine with being female. I just wish I looked more like Shane from the L word/a hot emo guy.

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  17. Oh yeah, and thanks for the topic this was a good one!

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