As the group organizer for Swindon TG Group I get a fair few people asking questions about transgender and gender dysphoria. It is not easy to answer a lot of these questions on a general level as everyone is unique and their life experiences are unique to them. Being transgender is no different – our journeys are unique. However today I thought I would tackle one of the questions I get asked a lot and that is what is it like living with gender dysphoria?
Gender dysphoria is something I have lived with all my life and still do to some extent and my answer can only come from my own personal experience. I understand why people want to know what it is like as it is impossible to imagine it if you haven’t experienced it. What the question is asking me is what is it like to have always known I was different and didn’t fit in. What is it like to sit on the sidelines while boys played the games I wanted to play? What is it like to be dressed in the wrong clothes? What is it like to live in fear of discovery, degradation and being beaten up? What is it like to learn to behave as birth-assigned gender and live a ‘fake’ life?
I put fake in inverted commas as in my mind it isn’t being fake but making the best of things. I was trying to make my life the best I could with what I had. It has not all been bad, but there have been times the stress of hiding my identity got the better of me.
Gender dysphoria in itself is not a mental health issue. In fact, scientific evidence shows that it is deeply rooted in the sex differentiation stage of fetal development. This doesn’t mean the stress of hiding my identity did not lead to mental health problems such as depression – of course it did. While my sons were children I was able to keep my issues at bay to be the parent they needed.
During my teens and once my sons were adults dealing with the stress of dysphoria has been a big problem. At the time I could not see any solutions which added to the feelings of self-loathing.
All transgender people are different and some may not need surgery or hormonal therapy to live content and fulfilled lives. I now know the solution for me is gender reassignment. I know what that involves and hoped I could avoid putting myself and my loved ones through that. After top surgery I am beginning to appreciate the difference GRS will have on me and my acceptance of myself and in the long run it is better for those I love too.
Having said all that being a transgender person is not all that I am. It does not define me as a man nor as a person any more than my politics, religion, hair colour or race. It is just a part of me and of my DNA.
© JG Farmer 2016