I don’t fit that plastic mold and I’m ok with that too. It’s a stupid mold that harms people, especially women. For me, dysphoria is disgust and repulsion with my body, its shape, the way it carries fat, my boobs and I feel like I should be more masculine and boobless without being male. This confusion and why I’m talking to you is because I don’t want to do anything rash (like T or top surgery - although I have considered a reduction on several occasions because my boobs are pretty big and Pt2
uncomfortable, but it would still mean I had something there) And I don’t want to do anything permanent without some real thought and discussion first because as you said, it changes and could possibly get worse. And what ever I do I want to do it the smart way. The other part of the dysphoria is more social, being seen as female, refered to as a daughter, little things like that make me super uncomfortable. My parents have taken quite a while to me coming out, my dad especially pt 3
is in denial and keeps saying you will change your mind one day - despite my friend group being predominantly nonhetero and are people they’ve never made similar comments about. My mother really doesn’t accept me not performing “femininity”, I wear a mix of male and female clothes because they look good and I feel comfortable. They both get very upset and disappointed in me. They always told my brother and I they always wanted a boy and girl, but I don’t fit what they wanted. pt 4
Hey anon. I’m glad you wrote back. I understand and unfortunately, can relate to those feelings about your body.
I guess what I understand now is that those feelings don’t happen for no reason and they don’t come out of nowhere. They seemed to, for me, because I consciously rejected misogynist ideas so I thought that meant they didn’t affect me. It’s hard to overstate the impact of how it affects us to carry bodies whose parts are weighed down with such deep and horrible meaning culturally.
In my mind, I know that there is nothing wrong with breasts. Intellectually, I understand what breasts are and I know they are not shameful or bad or the equivalent of a “rape me” sign. I can certainly appreciate them on other women as both beautiful and inherently dignified. But my understanding changes when it comes to me. And this double standard holds true for all female fat: I’m cool with it in theory and on everyone but me. This is actually a new kind of dysphoria for me because I didn’t have this kind of fat until my 30s. Part of what made me feel outside of girl culture as a young person was that I didn’t have the same kind of body-rejection as other girls. I didn’t diet or watch my weight because I was basically built like a lean child until my mid-30s.
What I learned from my attempt to transition, though, was that changing my body in response to my distress over it might make me feel better on the surface for awhile, but ultimately it was an incredible rejection of myself and an attempt to erase my history. A kind of living suicide and false “resurrection.” The highs were like the highs you get from other kinds of self-harming. They didn’t last; they always want more sacrifices.
Instead of saying, “My body is not all there is to me,” it says, “This is not my body.” It deepens the split. My brain already said that my body wasn’t mine, and then I reinforced it with medicalized transition—a profound physical and social process of enacting that rejection. I think that being supported in this behavior by other people was at least as psychologically damaging as the physical effects. The most chilling part is that I would never have said so at the time; I would have said the opposite.
I could not see how it reinforced the feeling that there was some part of me that a) wasn’t really me, and b) needed to be eradicated.
What has worked better, in a lasting way, is a recovery model based on the principle of integration. My body is not the enemy. The thing that tells me that “my body is not me” is not the enemy, either. That is a coping strategy that is trying to save me, in its own way. I have cultivated the ability to act on behalf of my higher good, and I don’t need to act out everything I feel or believe everything I think, anymore.
About the social stuff—the baggage that comes with being a “daughter” rather than “child” or “son” is horrific. I don’t wonder that you bristle at it. I would encourage you to write, make art, express what it is that makes you uncomfortable—as clearly and as specifically as you can. You’re feeling the distortion of their projections. What are you perceiving? Speak up about it—at least in your journal, your sketchbook, your songs. Say what’s wrong. There are aspects of this that only you—you alone—can perceive. You can see what nobody else can see from within the specificity of your own body and life. We all need to hear what you know. We all need to hear what you can perceive.
And I wish you could come to a place like Michigan where you can meet many, many girls and women who have forged a very different communal meaning from words like “woman” and “daughter.” It’s not enough to know in your mind that the cultural baggage it carries is unjust. The damage is still accruing every day. Healing doesn’t happen only on the level of beliefs. You have to experience something different. Remember, this is not always what “woman” meant. Remember back, try to dream your way there. Before this reign of terror by men, what were we? Not this.
If it’s not possible to remember, we have to re-invent. Re-imagine for ourselves, for each other.
Finally, the pain of not being what your parents had in mind when they said they wanted a girl. I understand, anon, I really do. I was not the daughter they wanted, either. It gives me a lot of grief that you have to go through that. There is nothing wrong with you, and I know it’s hard to believe that, really believe it, in your body. That you are not straight, that you do not do “femininity”—these are signs of your strength and integrity, your amazing spirit. They should not be sources of disappointment to anyone. What you are is so profoundly threatening to this misogynistic culture that they don’t dare let you know the power you hold. They target you with this shame instead. But you are not meant for shame. That is not what you are here for.
You are the future the old dykes fought for. They fought so hard for you. You have so many mothers you’ve yet to meet, who would never be disappointed in you for showing your strength.
There’s so much waiting for you in the wider world when you leave home to find it. I will do everything I can to help maintain and build communities of women that can hold you, just as you are, and truly see you.