Gender dysphoria sucks – trust me. I can’t describe it, but despite that, I wanted to write about how you can self-care when dysphoria hits hard. For starters, just putting a name to it can be helpful, as it can help with dealing with those feeling of confusion as to why you have a strong disconnect / discomfort / dissatisfaction with your physical features or social aspects associated with your gender. But please bear in mind that I’m not a medically trained professional, and I’m not a licensed therapist either.
But I do know what dysphoria is – its basically a feeling of intense dissatisfaction with your gender and can be separated into two categories – body dysphoria and social dysphoria (body dysphoria: dissatisfaction with your physical body. Social dysphoria: dissatisfaction with your gender in social situations). Normally my body dysphoria is pretty mild, but when its bad – trust me, its bad, and some days I wake up and its just there – for no apparent reason. So on the days when I’m struggling with gender dysphoria, it can be hard to remember that I am a person whose gender is valid, and that its OK to take care of yourself.
- Create: This can come in many different forms – writing, art, photography, music etc – every act of creation results in some sort of gratification. Its a way of channeling negative emotions directly into something that is special. But above all, art can help us to see ourselves in another light. I also plan to blog more if I’m feeling dysphoric, as that will help me write my way of my dysphoria, if only for a brief moment.
- Listen to Music / Sing: Personally, I like to listen to music when I’m feeling dysphoric – its an outlook for how I’m currently feeling, as well as validates my dysphoria as well as my gender. Listening to music helps me to express how I’m feeling without me having to do any talking. I would also recommend singing – this can be helpful when dealing with dysphoria because its something that can temporally take your mind off your dysphoric feelings.
- Challenge the gender binary: As trans and non-binary individuals, our very existence is political. We are a marginalized group, and are even subject to discriminatory legislation – so by openly supporting pro-trans politics, you are both empowering your gender identity, and you are connecting over activism – which is a great way to build community.
- Build a Community: By building a community a affirms your gender identity / expression, you will gain an outlet for your dysphoria and help feelings of loneliness – find people who you trust with your questions, fears and feelings. Place yourself in a position where you can truly be yourself – for this, I personally use social media to talk about my dysphoria, as I can tell my friends how I’m feeling – and I’ve only told them as I trust that they won’t make me feel worse than I already am. In addition, I would recommend taking to voice your dysphoria, and share them with others -you could join groups and forums, make a blog, read, or connect with people. Share your experiences! There’s something about telling or writing about your dysphoric feelings with people you trust – so don’t feel afraid to be vulnerable, but give others the opportunity to do the same.
- Assert your Identity: Some of us have more freedom to do so than others – even if we aren’t able to express our gender in public for whatever valid reason, it can be affirming to find anyway to channel our dysphoria into our external gender expression. It could be something small, something personal to you – for me, expressing my gender in a “masculine” and “preppy” way helps me to lower my dysphoria. Asserting your pronouns can also be validating (which is something I struggle with). Self-expression through fashion can be very liberating and empowering.
- Put on your favourite outfit: You know the one – the one that makes you feel AMAZING – wear that outfit even if you aren’t going to leave the house, and even share it on social media if you want to!
- Read an LGBTQ+ book: This can help with dysphoria because you will see people who are just like you, and that’s one of the many wonders of positive representation – especially if you are a minority group. It may even remind you that you are never alone.
- Find some LGBTQ+ representation online: Watching trans creators online can help with dysphoria, as it may help with feelings with feelings of isolation (I’ve also written a post about my favourite LGBTQ+ YouTubers, which you should totally read)
Cuddle a furry friend: Trust me, your pet doesn’t care about your gender identity / sexual orientation – meaning that if they have all they need, they’ll be happy. So if you’re feeling dysphoric, cuddle your pet – be it your family pet, a friends pet, or a pet that you own – there’s no such thing as a transphobic pet.
Take a moment to point out a few positive things you love about your body: Just remember that your genitals do not define your gender, so try and point out things that you like about your body – as it will provide a gentle reminder that there are positive parts about your body.