A female who describes herself as AFAB (assigned female at birth) and calls herself “genderqueer” has started taking wellbutrin (an antidepressant), and her feelings of gender dysphoria have significantly lessened. She posts to r/asktransgender:
Ok, so I’m AFAB genderqueer/genderfluid and I’ve been experiencing an insane amount of dysphoria on and off (corresponding with fluctuations in masculinity/femininity) since about June. I realized I was genderqueer about 3 years ago, but decided not to anything about it until this summer because, as I said, my dysphoria got intense. I came to the conclusion that I needed a low dose of T to be more androgynous and more able to pass in boymode… and after much angst came out to my mother and brother and asked my PCP for T. She said she’ll look into it (she’s never had a trans patient before) and possibly start me on it in January.
In the meantime, I’ve been struggling with depression on and off my whole life, and it’s been made unbearable by the dysphoria, so I finally accepted her recommendation for an antidepressant. She put me on Wellbutrin (150mg 2x/day) 5 days ago, and I’m already feeling WAY better in terms of my mood, but I also haven’t experienced any dysphoria at all. I tried boymoding once a few days ago, and it felt good, but still no dysphoria. Now I’m really worried that all this gender stuff is just a side effect of my depression, and it’s not real. I mean, not having dysphoria is good, and I know that dysphoria isn’t necessary to be genderqueer, and I still want to boymode and aim for a more androgynous presentation, but I just don’t feel like shit about my body anymore. I never thought that feeling better would make me have an identity crisis. Help?
TL;DR: I’m genderqueer and depressed, went on an antidepressant that works too well and got rid of my dysphoria. Now I’m having an identity crisis. Help?
Note the casual attitude towards taking testosterone – a drug that can have drastic unwanted consequences for females, but that in many transgender groups online is seen merely as something you can take to help you get a certain “look”.
Note also that the poster describes the lessening of trans feelings as an “identity crisis”. Shouldn’t feeling better be a good thing? What do the posters in r/asktransgender have to say? Interestingly, there are a few that have similar experiences:
Interestingly though, many posters stress how this relief of negative feelings isn’t really a solution.
They tell her that her dysphoria is probably still there, just wait. This relief is probably temporary.
“Antidepressants helped me, but I still wanted to transition”.
“You are just treating the symptoms”.
“It may come back.”
The narrative that have been created in these communities is that being transgender is an underlying, physical condition and the only way to cure it is by transitioning – by which they mean taking hormones and often undergoing radical body modifications. When people report finding relief in other ways, the consensus seems to be that these things don’t really help – they are just treating the symptoms, or masking the problem. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
We’ll show in later posts that this belief leads to significant perverse incentives pushing people toward dramatic, irreversible changes–making them alarmed or anxious when their negative feelings about their body go away. It puts one in mind of the internet’s “pro-ana” communities, in which anorexic young women convinced one another that not feeling fat was a moral failing. Having days when you feel comfortable in your own skin isn’t a sign of progress, even when it’s accompanied by a lifting of depressive symptoms, because it subverts the narrative that as soon as you start to question your comfort with gender roles, you’ve proven yourself to be destined for a permanent, fixed identity as transgender.
The fact that the poster likes being in “boymode” is seen as evidence that she is trans, no other explanation is considered. Could it be that she enjoys wearing masculine clothes? Many women do. Could it be that she likes being seen as a man because women are often catcalled, talked down to, or creeped on my males? Maybe it feels safer? No one asks her this.
Why does preferring a certain way of presenting yourself mean that you are somehow metaphysically the opposite sex? The traditional feminist view that we have bodies, we have personalities and preferences, and that these do not have to “match” seem to have disappeared somehow. Instead we get people feeling like they have an “identity crisis” when their negative feelings about their sex go away, because they somehow think that you need to have a condition to be able to present yourself in the way you wish.