“My problem is: I dont’ have dysphoria”. On wanting to be transgender

A poster asks r/asktransgender: How do you know you’re transgender? (archived link)

Growing up, I was always a ‘tomboy’. I liked to play with boys, playing soccer, with legos and remote controlled cars. I liked to wear boy’s clothes, baggy pants and shirts, and hated wearing skirts and dresses. Since I was about 11 I had my hair cut short.

It’s the same obsession with gender stereotypes that we’re seen before, but this time from the female perspective. Rejecting the female gender role is seen as unusual, and potentially signifying something more than just not liking the female gender role.

During the years from about 11-15/16, I honestly wished I was a boy. I wanted to be a boy, it made me happy when people accidentally gendered me as a boy, (though it upset me when people purposely called me a boy to be mean). I hit puberty, and unfortunately my breasts grew to be pretty damn large. (I was forever hunched over, wearing baggy shirts etc. although I have never consciously felt ashamed of them in a dysphoric sense.)

This experience is incredibly common, but it seems like nobody is talking to young girls today about this, except in the context of trans issues. Just as teens are apparently sorely lacking in role models that don’t conform to gender roles.

Flash forward to me aged 19-21. I was never really comfortable with being female. I like the idea of femaleness and femininity, but.. I prefer it on other people. I still can’t be bothered with make-up, never have been. I love baggy shorts and snapback caps and basketball shirts, and more than that I love suits.

Note how she claims to not be comfortable with “being female”, but what she’s really saying in this paragraph is that she is uncomfortable with make-up and that she prefers clothes more commonly worn by males,

Now. Today is transgender day of visibility, and all over I’ve seen wonderful pictures of men transitioning, you know, those time-lapse photo sets, pre-t, 6 months etc. They’re the best thing I’ve ever seen, and.. I want that. I want to go from whatever it is I am now to being as happy and attractive and confident as they are.

This obsessing over “timelines” and youtube videos is a staple of these stories, and if you pay attention when browsing places like r/asktransgender you will see them a lot. Person being happy with their sex goes on week-long binge of obsessively consuming trans stories, a few weeks later they are feeling awful about their bodies and want to transition.

My problem is: I don’t have dysphoria. I look at my female body and I see just that, a female body. I don’t -feel- like a man the way some transgender people have reported that they always KNEW they were male inside. I don’t look at my female body with disgust, but I know that I would rather be skinny and flat and a boy.

Not feeling distress over your body is apparently a bad thing now. What is left unsaid here is that it seems like the poster wants a justification for her non-compliance to gender roles. It’s as if she thinks that if she’s trans, then she has an explanation for why she doesn’t like make-up and prefers to wear suits. It might seem unfathomable to readers with a traditionally feminist perspective: what happened to just being yourself? But like we have seen several times, there are many young people who think that liking things associated with the oppsite sex is somehow Very Significant.

But I’m ambivalent about being female. I refer to myself with female pronouns because it’s easier than explaining when I don’t exactly know who I am. I don’t mind having a vagina. Sure, I’d rather have a fully functioning penis, (as though I had been born male,) but I’m okay with having a vagina.So I suppose my question is.. I’m not dysphoric. I’m not disgusted with my female body, I’d just really rather it was a male body. Could I be transgender, or is this something else entirely?

This attitude of contemplating having different body parts from the ones you were born with is another recurring thing in these stories. It’s not unusual for people to be told “would you rather have a male/female body? In that case, you’re trans”. There is no reflection over the fact that our bodies have social meaning, and that the feelings we have about them do not just come from nowhere. Especially for females: the consequences of having a vagina are sometimes very unpleasant, from risk of being raped, to lack of reproductive autonomy, to earning less than males. There is also little acknowledgement of the fact that changing sex is not physically possible, and body parts are not things on a shelf we can pick and chosse from.

And as expected, the comments:

female3

You might say you’re fine with your body and you don’t have dysphoria, but you do actually have dysphoria.

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This is a common sentiment but it never gets called out on how bizarre it is. Wanting to control how the world sees you in a way that majorly conflicts with physical reality is a desire that is bound to create a lot of distress.

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Note how this poster talks about the same phenomenon mentioned above: she was feeling fine but envied men slightly, then got exposed to a lot of transition material online, and then wanted to change her body irreversibly.

Gender dysphoria can even be induced: (archived link)

female6

This poster learned to feel dysphoric over her body, and now her mother is going to let her take testosterone.

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It’s ok though, you can totally change your mind later. Except for the part where testosterone causes irreversible changes to female bodies, including the risk of sterility, permanent hair growth, permanently lowered voice, and increased risk of heart disease.

25 thoughts on ““My problem is: I dont’ have dysphoria”. On wanting to be transgender

  1. I was really RAH RAH pro-trans back in the day because I thought it was all about dysphoria and that transition was the only treatment. I was in for a shock when I started to look closer. There is a derisive term for people who think trans requires dysphoria.

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  2. The young woman who is experiencing distress because she sees herself as a “manly person” while the world sees her as a “sweet girl” doesn’t sound like she wants to force other people to look at her and see Bruce Willis or the lumberjack on the paper towel package instead of a female human being. It sounds much more as if she simply wants other people to stop assuming she has stereotypically feminine interests or wants to be treated in a particular (sexist) way simply because she has breasts and hips.

    She writes “the world is shocked when their image of me doesn’t align with who I am.” Again, this does not sound like she’s saying “I’m upset because no one mistakes me for my brother.” I would bet a lot that she’s referring to times when she’s expressed an opinion that someone finds unacceptable in a woman or girl (like supporting a military intervention abroad), or mentioned a desire to go into a line of work or take up a hobby that someone else considers too physical, or dirty, or violent for a “sweet girl,” i.e., a female human being they consider conventionally attractive.

    I’ve had that sort of thing happen to me a lot; I think it’s worst when you’re in your teens and twenties. Mention that you work, or used to work, or want to work, in some job that’s traditionally male and considered “rough,” and some people, especially men, will have a really, really strange reaction. They’ll get this hurt, wounded look and act shocked or even angry at you. If you’re young and the person you’re talking to considers you attractive (either in an overtly sexual way, or as an example of beautiful girlhood or womanhood) they can become particularly hostile when you say or do something that doesn’t line up with their idea of a “sweet girl.” And why do they see you that way? They noticed you have smooth cheeks, breasts, and hips, and invented a personality for you that has nothing to do with you. And that fictional creation will be more real to them than the person you really are.

    Not dressing in a conventionally feminine manner also gets the hurt/wounded/angry reaction “Why do you have to look that way?! You’re a very beautiful woman!” It wouldn’t surprise me if the woman or girl who wrote the post you screen-capped above has been hearing that on a regular basis for years from male classmates, teachers, relatives, coworkers, and strangers on public transportation, all with voices quivering with rage, or dripping with pity and condescension. Some women have probably joined the chorus from time to time, as well.

    I honestly don’t think the sentiment being expressed here is bizarre at all, although it’s unfortunate that the word she’s chosen to describe herself is “manly.” She sounds like she’s tired of being told that she shouldn’t be herself because it’s a boner-killer. What’s truly bizarre is that the only solution she’s being offered in 2015 is to decide she’s trans.

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  3. This method of developing dysphoria reminds me of those pro-anorexia online groups. They have a similar cult behavior. Feeling better about yourself means something is wrong with you, so you must go binge on pro-anorexia stories for “inspiration” on the internet. (Though, I will say the pro-ana people are usually just sad women and girls, and not rapey men with a lot of political power at least.)
    There’s something wrong with an ideology that claims that feeling better about your body means there’s a problem with you.

    I think Loup-loup garou’s comment is spot-on. Men do have a tenancy to invent idealized fantasies about women they don’t know, and they get upset when it turns out to be untrue. (Yet another reason to avoid them as much as possible.) That woman is probably tired of dealing with that crap.

    I have a problem of people idealizing me that way too and it probably doesn’t help that I look like a teenager. I’ve actually had girls as young as 14 tell me in a condescending way how cute my face was, but wouldn’t it be better with makeup and I’ve had teenage boys tell me that I could go to the prom with them if I dressed better. I’m almost 26. There’s a lot of backpedaling when I state my age.

    I did used to be jealous of my brother and other male relatives that they didn’t have to go through having periods, breasts, reproductive health problems, and sexual harassment like I did but I didn’t want to be a boy. (I wouldn’t have said no to a few more inches in height though.)

    Many women do have dysphoria and hate their bodies, but it doesn’t mean they are really men. It just means they live in a female-hating society with increasingly porny, photo-shopped, and unrealistic images of women in the media all the time, (Case in point: http://www.bellanaija.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/gallery-1432825153-cosmo-july-15-cover.jpg

    And this is a magazine that’s supposed to cater to women! I can see why a reaction to saying that women=hyper-feminine bs might be to claim to not be a woman.

    Testosterone also causes elongation of the clitoris and I don’t think that is reversible either.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sadly, many supposed “girls” in pro-ana communities are older, creepy men who love encouraging girls. Many collect “thinspo” photos from their many online “friends”, then use those selfsame photos as “themselves” to post on more boards and get more girls to talk to them.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Thank you for your article. I am also a traditional feminist who would likely be labeled a terf by the translobby for my views. I wish more children and parents read your article. But then, the translobby would likely regard what you wrote as being anti-trans. And that would not be p.c. in this current atmosphere of people, organizations and governments falling all over themselves not to appear transphobic.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m a transguy but I’m a bit feminine.

    Liking things of the opposite gender doesn’t make u a trans.
    If i like girly stuff, it doesn’t make me a girl.

    I don’t feel much dysphoria. But when you’re a trans, you know it. And ONLY YOU can decide ur own gender.
    I’d rather COMMIT SUICIDE than to be considered as a girl.(don’t get me wrong,I’m actually a feminist) I simply cannot accept that I’m a girl.
    It kills me to think that I’d grow up to be a woman.
    I was pretty depressed before I knew there was a thing called Transgender. But then I found out that I can be myself without feeling guilty. I see myself as a boy no matter what.

    You’re a trans when u just can’t accept being the gender u were assigned with at birth.

    Plus… throw stereotypes away. They’re a bunch of lies and the production of society’s expectations.

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      • Just call ur father a ‘she’ and he’ll get upset. Maybe bcz being considered a woman is unacceptable to him, or maybe bcz he just isn’t a woman and saying that he’s a woman is a lie. He probably wouldn’t know why he feels that way, I don’t know why either. I haven’t myself found the answer to that yet.

        Either according to stereotypes or not, I just don’t feel like I’m a female. It’s down there like, i can feel it. Maybe another trans person would understand what I’m trying to say…
        For example, I wanna have a deep voice and be able to be called a ‘he’. To me looking like a guy is freedom. *It aligns with the picture I have of myself in my mind.*

        I feel suffocated when I have to play the role of a girl, a sister, a daughter…

        The thing is… I wanna feel like I belong.
        I’ve never felt comfortable around girls and I never thought I was one of them. Even before knowing I’m trans.

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        • I don’t think he would be upset by that. Why would he?

          Sounds to me like you’re uncomfortable with gender roles. You’re not the only one. It doesn’t make you a man. To say otherwise is misogynistic.

          “I feel suffocated when I have to play the role of a girl, a sister, a daughter…”

          Why? What is it exactly about these roles you don’t like? You don’t have to act in ways you don’t want to act, but if you’re female then you’re female. That will never change.

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  6. I’m not even that manly and idc about gender roles. But I’m not OK with being called a female. I’m not a female. Don’t call me that. You don’t say that stuff to a transguy. I am a guy and that’s it.
    It seems like it’s hard for you to accept that some ppl can be trans.
    Just forget WHY I feel like I’m trans… ur denying the fact that trans ppl exist and they should just not care and accept their birth gender. Which is impossible btw. If it wasn’t important who we’re considered as, then no one would’ve ever transitioned.

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      • I was born female but I’m a guy on the inside.

        And that’s exactly your problem.
        You ARE obligated to RESPECT us trans ppl and our pronouns.

        Otherwise that would be “transphobic”. 🙂

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        • Except there’s no such thing as a “guy on the inside.”

          Gender isn’t innate. We have personalities, and we have bodies – in infinite combinations, all of them valid. “Gender” is the construct that makes it so painful for many female humans to be called “woman” and “girl.”

          You can call me transphobic if you like, it’s water off a duck’s back to me, it doesn’t change objective reality.

          I’ll happily use whatever pronouns I’m requested to, but that doesn’t change the fact that you’re female, just as I am.

          Liked by 1 person

  7. Omg wtf bruh? Why don’t you just read more stuff online or watch some youtube videos before asking idiotic questions???

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      • You weren’t so polite either, my friend.

        I can only ask you to gain more knowledge on this particular subject.
        I was serious about the YouTube videos. UppercaseChase is a great youtuber. Check out his videos if u want.
        I’m sure he can give you the answers you need.

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        • I’m not asking for YouTube videos. I’m asking you: what makes you “a guy”? Either explain in your own words or leave. I’m sure it’s easy for you to explain what it is that makes you a guy since it seems very important to you.

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