Dysphoria Is: A Truncated Account of Experiences Living Transgender
When you’ve so few things other than your thoughts, your imagination and your memories, one often finds themselves in reverie of past experiences, analyzing, critiquing and reliving such experiences from a more mature perspective, all the while creating new scenarios and envisioning what might have been had you behaved differently, made different decisions or if you knew then what you know today.
This year, after suffering multiple personal losses, being affected by numerous cutbacks and setbacks and being forced to give up what it is that I want the very most, I’ve found myself living inside my head, withdrawing from the world more and more, leading a life of isolation, loneliness and despair.
Just recently, little over 2 months since I’d given up on my transition, my ever present dysphoria has grown to an extreme that even I’m unfamiliar with. As a result, I’ve been sick with depression, agony, self-loathing, guilt and shame. I’ve gone to some very dark, emotional places; places I’ve not been to since I’d tried to take my own life 8 years ago.
I’ve been forcing myself to channel my mind, my thoughts and my imagination toward doing something constructive, if not productive, lately, whenever my mind dips into the cold darkness, which has resulted in my making comic strips to amuse those I know and care about. By making others smile, laugh or happy, while it doesn’t make me feel much better, it keeps me from succumbing to my own, destructive impulses.
There are times, too many times, when I find myself recalling various times when I, knowing what I know now, would behave in a certain, then unexplained, irrational way, thinking, how did I not see it? How didn’t I know? How could I have been so blind as not to see that I’m transgender.
One memory that recently came to me this evening came as a result of someone asking me a simple question whose answer is so paradoxically complex and simple that I’d never given a second thought about it since I was a teenager.
I was asked by someone close to me: how can you shave your face in the shower without looking in the mirror?
I was taken aback. I’ve always shaved myself that way as though it was the normal thing to do, which to me, it is. But, I didn’t really think about how bizarre that might seem to anyone else. It forced me to think way back to the point when I first started seeing hair growing on my chin.
I didn’t hit puberty until fairly late in my youth. It wasn’t until I was 16 when I really began changing. The moment when I noticed that I had started sprouting hair on my face, my mind and body was wracked with panic and dread. I had no idea why I was so afraid, almost to the point of being physically ill, over the fact that I was developing facial hair; I didn’t care. I was just so repulsed by my changing body that I couldn’t bring myself to tell anyone about it. I just wanted it to go away.
Firstly, I began plucking the hairs from my chin, painfully, between my fingernails, before it had become thick enough that the only practical way I had to rid myself of all offensive hairs was to begin shaving. I found a cheap razor, determined to shave every hair off posthaste. I never told my parents that I’d been shaving, I never asked how it was done, I never wanted anyone to know.
My first attempts at shaving went pretty well. I seldom cut myself, despite the fact that I never used a mirror to monitor my progress, instead, relying on feel. I was so ashamed, repulsed and frightened by my facial hair, that from about the time I began shaving, I could never look at my face in the mirror without feeling physically ill. To this day, I can’t look at myself in the mirror most days; I keep it covered with bed sheets so that I don’t unintentionally catch a glimpse of my reflection, knowing, should it happen, I’d most likely spiral into a panic attack, which would likely cause me to inflict some manner of mutilation on myself, carving a tale of my dysphoria on my arm.
The truth is, most of my grooming takes place in the shower (sometimes with my bathing suit on because I often can’t handle seeing my body). I comb my hair, shave, even brush my teeth in the shower or in a darkened room if I am unable to cover the mirror. I’ve been doing it that way now for more than half of my life. Which brings me to the title of this post.
For me, Dysphoria is: being unable to bathe myself in a well-lit room and/or without a swimsuit or undergarment on to cover my genitals without feeling ill, sad or disgusted. It’s not being able to talk about or even think about shaving without wanting to cry, or being able to shave any place where I can see my face. It is feeling the greatest discomfort for having to shop for men’s clothes or shoes for myself, but feeling the most crippling fear for even being in the women’s department with the intent on making mental notes on garments that I’d love to get for myself. It is having to use the men’s room in public with the prospect of having to stand before a urinal when I can barely touch myself at any time. It is looking at beautiful, confident, strong, independent women and trans women, longing to be them, but knowing that am not and may never be, and the resultant shame for being noticed when I gaze in awe at them, fearing that someone like me staring at them with a sort of longing (though not in a romantic or sexual sense) is utterly despicable and revolting to them. It’s having to avoid talking on the phone, Skype, Google Hangout, etc. whenever possible because the sound of my own voice is like having shards of glass being shot into my ears and through my heart. It is choosing to be by myself and isolating at home because the thought of being with people I enjoy causes me such pain, fearing that my very presence sucks them down to the lowest rungs of the social ladder. It’s living inside the body of the person you loathe more than you ever knew you were capable of with no escape and no hope of anything ever getting any better, despite every effort made.