halfthoughts

A gender journey

Tag: disphoria

That Time I Cut My Hair

A few months ago I got a hair cut.

I was inspired by LGBT YouTuber Ashley Mardell who had recently cut her hair. I remember watching her video about hair and following her kickstarter campaign in which one of the perks was she would be cutting her hair. Anyway, the way she talked about hair disphoria super resonated with me.

When I saw the first instagram she posted of her new do. I remember looking at the photo and feeling that positive tingly sense of euphoria filling my chest. I looked at the photo and my mind said, “Yes! I want to do that too.”

So I saved a screen shot of the photo on my phone and set a day two weeks out to cut it. On February 3, I went to the barber, showed him that photo, and got my hair cut.

It was the first time I’d ever cut my hair that short. And it was the first time I ever loved my hair cut right off the bat.

 

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Affirming Flashbacks: Dresses

Sometimes it helps to be affirmed by other people. Especially other people who knew you before you started transitioning and coming out.

When they say something that translates to: “oh yeah, now that you mention it, this thing you used to do makes a lot of sense now”, I feel this wave of affirmation wash over me.

Maybe it’s euphoria. Maybe it’s just a sense of consolation that I’m not crazy. Simply knowing that other people can “see” the real me, too, helps me ease more and more into the confidence that this IS me.

Affirming Flashbacks is an ongoing series about those moments.

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My friend M is not trans. But she has her own disphoric relationship with clothes. She comes from a very conservative family. So when she’s living at home there are certain clothes she can wear, and certain clothes she can’t.

I remember we met up once on the east coast, and she told me how excited she’d been to pack for the trip. She was so happy to finally unpack the “can’t wear” box, that sits in her room, and give some of her favorite items a chance to air out.

She recently moved to her own apartment in a new city, and she just loves being able to wear all the clothes she wants. She was describing how much more free she feels now. Whereas before,  there was a mismatch between her outfits and her insides.

The way she described this feeling reminded me of the definition of disphoria. Or at least how I understand disphoria. As I understand it, disphoria is that uneasy feeling you get when how you feel on the inside does not match how people see you on the outside.

I feel this a lot when I get complimented for being “beautiful.” I know that I’m not bad looking, so theoretically this should feel good to hear. It’s not a lie. But whenever I would hear it, it would make me squirm. I never understood why. But recently I’ve begun to understand this squirm-y-ness as a symptom of disphoria.

It’s as though  when people would call me “beautiful,” I knew what they meant was  I was a beautiful girl. They saw me as a girl. But since I’m not a girl, I did not want to be perceived as a girl. Therefore I did not want to be seen as beautiful. There was a mis-match between what I felt on the inside, and how people perceived me to be.

This is all background for the part of the story where I explained to my friend M why I was experimenting with a more gender neutral style of clothing. After I related the story about putting on a tie for the first time, she told me she understood because of her own relationship with clothes, as described above. And then she said, “Yeah. Whenever you would wear a dress, I would definitely notice that S is wearing a dress today.”

Something about that sentence sent a wave of affirmation up my spine. I’ve never liked wearing dresses and I was relieved to know other people could see it too. There was something about me wearing dresses that stuck out. Now that I identify as gender queer, I realize the thing that stuck out was some sort of underlying mis-match between gender norms and my gender identity.

I can finally stop wearing those dresses without feeling guilty. From now on I can feel free to wear all the ties I want!

 

Shame Triggers

I walk into class late. I get reprimanded for it. I immediately start to have a shame attack.

Being late triggers shame for me. I have been late all my life. To school. To work. To hangouts with friends. I have trouble waking up to my alarm. I have trouble waking up early. I have trouble falling asleep early enough so I can wake up early enough without feeling tired.

And all my life I have been shamed by my family for being late. For getting up late. For going to bed late. So I have learned to shame myself when I am late. No one even needs to tell me anything, but if I am running late I feel so much shame.

This shame has been amplified ever since I’ve started to discover my gender identity.  I am mourning myself. I’m morning my gender. And when you mourn you go through the stages of grief. And each stage might last however long it lasts. For the last few months I have been stuck in the depression/ anger cycle of grief.

How this depression manifests is that I get insomnia. I end up staying up until 3 or 4am every night, which leads me to wake up at noon. It causes me to have trouble waking up early, even when I set an alarm. And of course because of my shame, when I do wake up “late” I immediately feel bad about it. I think about how I should have gone to bed earlier. I should have stopped binge watching youtube videos. I should have stopped reading all those tumblr posts. I should have set more alarms. I should have done more yoga or more exercise so I’d be more balanced.

I have a whole list of shoulds. And what I have learned is that shoulds are never compassionate. It is impossible for me to change my behavior when I continue to shame myself with shoulds. I’ve been reading a lot of Bene Brown’s work on vulnerability and shame. And I agree with her conclusion that shame NEVER changes behaviors. In fact it almost has the opposite effect.

And so when I am late, if I am reprimanded this triggers even more shame. What’s worse is the shame spreads beyond just the incident of being late, to my entire being. When I am shamed for being late, I feel shame for getting up late. Since I know I get up late because I am depressed. I feel shame for being depressed. Since I know I get up late  because of my insomnia, I feel shame for my insomnia. Since I know my habit of staying up late is partly a result of researching coming out stories and experiences of gay and transgender people in an effort to understand myself. I feel shame for being gay and for being transgender. Since I know I can’t change either of these parts of myself. I feel shame for who I am as a person.

And how do you explain this to people? How do you walk into a room and say: I’m sorry I’m late. It’s because I am trans and I am ashamed of who I am. Please don’t yell at me because that’s gonna trigger me. That’s not something you can just slip into conversation. And then I’m afraid that even if I explain myself I won’t be listened to. I won’t be heard. And I won’t be understood. And all I want is to be understood.

The First Time I Wore A Tie

How to tie a tie.

I typed the words into google and clicked through the links that popped up. After searching through a few articles, I settled on a simple explanation with pictures and followed the directions.

It took a couple of tries to get it right. The thin end kept being too long, or the noose kept being too loose. Frustrated, I gave up looking at the directions and just made up my own way to tie a tie.

Finally, I managed a knot that seemed right. I stepped into my bathroom and glanced in the mirror to see how I looked.

I remember the moment distinctly. Suddenly, my heart opened up. It’s as if my heart had been locked in a cage my whole life, and I hadn’t even noticed. But the tie was the key that unlocked the door. And suddenly I was lighter inside.

It wasn’t until weeks later, that I discovered there was an actual name for that feeling: Euphoria. As in the opposite of disphoria. As in it felt right.

That feeling was my body telling me, “Yes”.

This tie is exactly what I needed. And I had no idea how much I had needed it until I slipped it around my neck.