A Look At Gender Dysphoria Part 1 – My Own Experience

Posted: 07/14/2012 by erichblayde in Gender Dysphoria Series
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**AUTHORS NOTE** Today’s entry is the first in a five-part series publishing once a week with the intent of exploring the big wide world of gender dysphoria (discontent with the gender assigned at birth and/or the gender roles associated with a persons biological gender) Using an interactive format that includes visual aids, these entries will explore four questions I feel are crucial in learning about gender dysphoria, its effects, and how it differs from the concept of Gender Identity Disorder. To be dysphoric with ones gender is not at all an indicator that one is transgender, but these days many associate dysphoria with transsexuality and transsexuality only. Let’s debunk that shall we?)

My earliest memory of school is of playing in a kindergarten classroom, we were all playing restaurant and everyone around me was having a blast. The only thought in my head as I busily worked to make imaginary pancakes was “it’s an apron, it’s a big frilly pink apron, all chefs wear them”

You see, my mother had the gall to shove me in a dress.

I knew the traditional trappings of budding femininity weren’t right for me, it just didn’t fit. People called me a cute little girl and it made my spine crawl. I was far happier in jeans and a t-shirt, playing hockey and war with the boys. At that time I didn’t really feel like I was a boy, I was just happier doing the things they did. But that didn’t fly in my small town of 3000, there was no room for weird.

When I was six, I received my first marriage proposal from a boy whose name now escapes me. Everyone knew he was going to do it and they had all turned out to watch. I was furious and humiliated, I remember saying to him “But you can’t marry a boy and I’m no girl” The teacher intervened quickly and I was sent to the principals office, where I continued my insistence that, since I felt nothing like a little girl, I must be a boy.

The principal was not amused.

On the drive home, as I sat in the back clutching my suspension papers, my mother did not look as angry as I thought she would be. I was furious and completely fired up. Mom raised a hand and said quietly, “Stop” I was not going to be dismissed this time though and shot back “But it’s true! I am not a girl!” She shook her head and sighed. “Look kid. you just cant talk about it. You have to keep quiet about it” My six year-old mind went completely blank “What?” She shook her head again “Just let it go”

From that day on I steadfastly refused to wear anything specifically made for a girl. I kept my hair cut short in neutral fashion and played as much hockey as I could. For a child it is relatively easy to escape the pressing of reality and I did well for many years. I was a tomboy no doubt, but I flew under the radar well. It wasn’t until late in my high-school years that the dysphoric feeling resurfaced. Mom had died when I was 11 and I was living with a cousin in Coquitlam. I had come out as a lesbian years previous and was fairly content with my butch ways, but somewhere around my 16th birthday that gnawing feeling climbed back into the pit of my stomach and stayed there, this time for good.

The next years of my life were a horrible mess of coping badly with a feeling I could no longer ignore. In those days transition was still not accepted in the mainstream and there was a distinct resistance to it in the gay community as well. I had no idea how to express myself to my friends much less to one of the incredibly twisted staffers at the now infamous VGH Gender Clinic. Because things were hard enough if you had to tell someone you were transitioning genders, never mind telling someone that you really felt both male and female (A status now known more as genderqueer) and that you were ok presenting masculine with a few….twists thrown in.

After deciding that any action was better than nothing I came out slowly to old friends and supporters. It never seemed to go as planned and I ended up shoved in a box of FtM (female to male transgender) But anything felt better than sitting in my ill-fitting lesbian identity doing nothing while the world viewed me as something I wasn’t, so I went along.

Eventually gnawing in my stomach began to build again however. I was not this butch little trans guy I had so effectively hid behind for so long. I was furious. I had done everything I could think of and STILL this feeling of not being comfortable in my gender persisted. I wasn’t a girl, but I wasn’t exactly a boy either. So what the fuck was I? A goddamn unicorn?

Enter the drag queen.

The first time I dressed up in queen drag I was completely nervous. As far as I was aware no one had taken this tack before. An FtM just wasn’t allowed to be a drag queen. But there I was, teetering along on my heels and actually kind of enjoying it. Until I made the mistake of greeting a friend. Then all hell broke loose. Over the next months the queens split down the middle, some stepping up to cheer me on but many more decrying my daring to go and do things that just weren’t allowed. I was stuck in yet another mess and STILL didn’t quite fit.

It was around this time that I was interviewed by the local GLBT paper for an article showcasing the top youth activists in Vancouver. I remember being inherently terrified at the prospect of talking to this reporter and reminding myself throughout our delightful phone conversation to “keep it butch” I didn’t want to though. Secretly inside my head I wanted to come out and say “stop talking about masculine things! I am more than that!” But I kept my secret and my silence well. How ironic was it for me to read the article when it was printed and see just three profiles above my own masculine focused profile, one of Vancouver’s top genderqueer activists (and someone I am delighted to know) Sylvia Machat talking openly about identifying as genderqueer and the struggles that entailed. God how I longed to be that brave, to just step out and say “I am not a girl, but who says I have to be a boy?”

Try as I might I have never been able to summon the courage to completely leave the gender binary.

After leaving Vancouver I made significant progress in that department by becoming less dependant upon gender specific clothing and more focused on the actual look that I liked but it is still hard. It is still a fight every day to step out into the world and somehow find the courage to tell it that I am neither boy, nor girl. I am just a human hybrid. I find myself to this very day struggling to leave the confines of the binary gender system and I often am only able to leave when the gnawing voice in my stomach tells me this I am getting far to black and white again.

It’s not an easy thing to wear this skin that doesn’t fit, nor is it in any way an easy thing to talk about. I guess I always hoped that transitioning to male would eventually just grow into me and that the little gnawing voice would eventually get bored and go away. There are days I wish I could just wrap myself in this blanket of FtM and never look back. Just live out my life as a boy and accept it.

But somehow I just don’t think that’s in the cards

**POSTSCRIPT** Please leave a comment answering today’s question of the day. Let’s foster a disscussion on gender dysphoria right from part one and see just where we end up after part five.

TODAY’S QUESTION

Have you ever felt dysphoric? When and how did that feel?

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Comments
  1. grosenberg says:

    In a perfect world or even a better one you would not have to worry so much about what box you fit into and would be able to freely be and express yourself. Why be a box when you can be a warehouse containing them all? Great article

    • erichblayde says:

      Thank you Gary! You’re right, in a perfect world I wouldn’t need to concern myself with who thinks what about anything. But until then I guess we all make do 🙂 Thanks for commenting!

      • grosenberg says:

        You’re right tho there is something to be said for being the change you wish to see in the world 🙂

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