Dealing with Dysphoria

Gender dysphoria, which is an unease with the physical characteristics of your body, is experienced in may different ways in different people. Of course, you don’t have to have dysphoria to identify as either trans, non-binary, or gender-expansive, but it’s a very common experience. For many of us, it is very particularly centered around our chests. For many, it’s centered around genitals. For others, it’s height, or facial characteristics, or body shape. Many of us feel dysphoria from multiple things.

Gender dysphoria is an uncomfortable experience, and is sometimes debilitating. For some, it comes up in particular situations, for others, it might be constant. Before I had top surgery, my dysphoria around my chest was very constant, and quite uncomfortable. Binding never helped – in fact, when I tried it, it exacerbated the dysphoria (I don’t know how common that is.)

Some surgeries can alleviate dysphoria, like top or bottom surgeries, as well as other procedures. But not all dysphoria is amenable to surgery (height dysphoria is an example.) And surgery is not accessible to everyone, depending on finances and geography.

How can you handle dysphoria? How can you feel better?

The key to this is three-fold, and these are simple, but not easy. But with practice, they can make a huge difference. First, notice and accept your inner experience of dysphoria. What does it feel like? What emotions arise? What do you tell yourself? Try to just feel and listen without judgement.

Second, if you have inner dialogue, practice redirecting that dialogue in a more positive, loving direction. You might start with just accepting that you have negative thoughts. You also might try something like the Buddhist Metta practice – responding to that inner dialogue with phrases like “May I live with ease.” “May I know I am lovable.” “May I love who I am.”

Third, learn to accept and love your dysphoria. Yes, I know it sounds wacky. Or at least, it sounds impossible. But if you can learn to at least fully accept that you have dysphoria, and allow the experience to exist in your body, it will still be unpleasant, but it doesn’t have to be distressing or debilitating.

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