“Gender dysphoria is a condition where a person experiences discomfort or distress because there is a mismatch between their biological sex and gender identity…This mismatch between sex and gender identity can lead to distressing and uncomfortable feelings that are called gender dysphoria. Gender dysphoria is a recognized medical condition, for which treatment is sometimes appropriate. It is not a mental illness.” (source: http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/Gender-dysphoria/Pages/Introduction.aspx )
When you hear the phase “body dysphoria” it is usually in the context of the transgender experience. A man or woman is describing the way they feel towards the mismatch of their body parts and their gender, because for whatever reason, they want the traditional man=penis+testicles, woman=vagina+uterus+breasts equation (not all trans people feel this way, but for argument’s sake I’m focusing on the ones that do). But then there are people like me, whose gender is not so black and white, that aren’t accounted for in that equation.
People understand the transgender experience because it fits in the male/female binary; it boils down to being the opposite of what everyone perceives you to be. But there is no script for being genderqueer like there is for being a man or woman; there’s no set way a genderqueer person is supposed to look. So I guess you could say our relationships with our bodies are…complicated.
I’ve read things online about genderqueer body dysphoria before, and it seems everyone’s experience is different. Some people want a mix or male/female parts, some people want the entire male/female connotation removed from the description of their body, some people are happy with what they were born with and the male/female status of their body, some people want the “opposite” of what they were born with. In a way, it’s nice not to have pressure to get any surgeries or start hormone therapy, but on the other hand it leaves a gaping hole where there would normally be some sort of frame-of-reference. I can’t just do what everyone else is doing, or do what society sees as the “genderqueer body”; I must sort through my feelings about every part of my body…searching for what I see as “me”.
Though there has been a lot of relief with mostly coming out as genderqueer, there has also been a lot of frustration. Most people don’t use my they/them pronouns, and most still see me as a woman (or girl, if they are being infantile about it). And most of the time I hate it. It makes me feel so angry inside to constantly be put in a box where I don’t belong…”I’M NOT A GIRL!” I want to scream. But usually I don’t say anything because I either don’t want people to feel bad, don’t want to be judged, or have to explain myself. It gets sort of exhausting after a while to try to teach people over and over what you are, especially after living a life where everyone assumed things correctly. People mean well, but it feels sort of alienating to have to explain something so integral about yourself as your gender. No one asks men or women to explain what a man or woman is, or when they knew they were one, but they do with me.
I hate being different sometimes. I hate that people see my body, my face and use it against me—to label me as something I’m trying so hard not to be. No matter how flat my boobs seem to look, people still know I have them and talk about them in a feminine way. No matter how skinny I get, people see me as having hips and an ass that is different from men’s. I can’t see to get away from “woman”…but I don’t want to get rid of parts of my body in order to be seen as something else. I don’t want a penis so I can be “manly”; I want people to see the masculine parts of my personality and know that I can be “manly” as I already am. But looking past the boobs and smooth face requires more work than most people are willing to put in.
So I look in the mirror at my body and feel mixed up. Sometimes I love it as is, other times I wish my boobs weren’t there, or that the curves I was once so proud of would even out… My body now is everything I wanted as a teen: skinny, feminine, mature; but now it doesn’t match how I feel on the inside. Everyone calls it female, making me feel so disconnected and sometimes resentful of it. As someone who has struggled hard to love themselves as they are, this makes me feel even angrier. I want to love my body as it is, but it seems to be the source of almost all of the misgendering that happens to me.
I know in a lot of ways I have it easy. My breasts are easier to bind since they are now smaller, and my skinniness makes guy clothes fit easier (though I definitely do still have trouble finding the right fit). My race also helps, since masculinity is not as hyped up as it seems to be in other races and ethnicities. But even with all this privilege, it will never measure up to the privilege I had as a cisgendered woman.
There’s freedom in being something that society has yet to define, but there’s also loneliness in it. My experience as a genderqueer person is so hard to relate to because I am often the only genderqueer person people have met. I guess that means I can sort of set the tone for what “genderqueer” means in my area…but I don’t want the weight of that burden. I just want to be me…why can’t people see that? Why can’t they see how uncomfortable they are making me when they call me a girl? Why can’t they understand that my gender has nothing to do with theirs, and that my existence isn’t affecting their femininity or masculinity at all? Why can’t people just accept me? Why can’t people just accept me?
For the record: I love women, and I loved being a woman while I felt I was one, but I’m not a woman. I shouldn’t represent women any more, or be asked to speak for them and their current experiences. Yes, I did identify as one and had experiences in that cisgendered phase of my life, but that’s not who I am now. I don’t want to speak for women anymore; I want to speak for genderqueer people…people like me.
It’s that time of year again! The holiday season has come around, and with it the five or so relatives you hear saying, “I’m really going to cut back this year so I can look good for the Christmas party.” Getting together with family means eating, but also trying to impress your relatives and hunt for comments like, “You look so nice! Have you lost weight?” And so the holiday round of, “Oh god, I need to hit the gym more” hits you over the head.
It’s not that I’m really trying to impress anyone this year, or even that I think I ate too much at Thanksgiving. It’s the Christmas shopping that is starting to get to me. Picking out clothes for someone else to give to me is great for a number of reasons, but this year it’s starting to drag. I see all of these really cute dresses, begging me to spend more money than I should, and think, “Well maybe….” and then I’m stopped in my tracks. I can’t buy this dress. Why would I ever think I could actually wear something like that? My body looks NOTHING like that model’s, and my hair could never pull off something so glamorous. It’s too tight, it would show my muffin top and my back fat (which, who knew that could even be a problem?), and my legs are not that long. My boobs could never squeeze into that, my stomach would show up like a giant neon sign, I have no waist whatsoever, and my arms will never be that toned. So what do I do? I tell myself I must find a more flattering style. Only you know what’s in style? Bodycon dresses, shift dresses, backless, strapless, cut-outs and short short short. Nothing for me. So instead I opt for a modest sweater and sigh at what could have been.
I used to be skinny. Not skinny, skinny, but skinny enough. I’ve always had a bit on cushion on my stomach, but it would hide under sort-of loose shirts and would stay sucked in whenever I’d wear anything else. I was able to wear size four or six, and I felt like I was passing in the golden crowd of girls who could always find their size and wear trendy things. But then I went to college, and suddenly I kept gaining more and more weight. My boobs added on a whole other cup size, my hips started to show, and suddenly I was kind of curvy. While I was sort of concerned, I was also okay with this. It was nice to feel like I looked more grown-up than I did before, like I could actually push out a baby if I wanted to or something. But then fat showed up in the weird places, like my sides and back, not to mention under that strange place in your armpits that emerges between your bra and arm when your arms are at your side. (Here’s the visual aid: http://www.colormebrave.com/2014/04/get-rid-armpit-fat.html ) And then I couldn’t wear some of my
clothes because they didn’t fit or look good anymore. Shopping started to become less fun, because I had to find everything in a size or two up, and even then, it usually looked too big in some places and too small in others. While I knew before that the fashion world was unkind to anyone who didn’t fit into their mold, I had never realized how sad and difficult it made finding clothes.
My self-esteem went down, naturally. And it’s been a struggle to regain it ever since. It doesn’t help to be constantly surrounded by a culture that praises thinness, or people who go along with it. It doesn’t help that my roommate is thin and beautiful (as with the rest of our friends), that my motivation to work out (or time to do it) has shrunk exponentially, or that I’m constantly reminded by adults that “The habits you make now will either help or hinder you later in life”. It does help, however, to have a boyfriend who loves me and my body, just how it is, and to have supportive friends and family.
I hate diets. I hate those little comments relatives make about your weight, because my body isn’t a decoration to be altered or shared in discussion. I want to look like me, but I also want to be healthy, and what’s really unhealthy is my attitude about this weight I’ve gained. I don’t know what to do, because I don’t have all this extra time to work out and I hate salads. (A LOT). Plus I don’t have tons of money to spend on healthy alternatives to cheap meals.
It’s a vicious cycle of hating your body, desperately wanting to change it, and wishing you could just find some peace with it. And unfortunately, most women are stuck in this cycle for a long, long time.
All I want for Christmas is to stop wishing I was thinner and to stop comparing myself to other people. I want to start appreciating my body more and start taking care of it more, and most of all I want to do it in a killer dress that knocks the socks off my boyfriend.