Gender dysphoria is a condition where a person experiences discomfort or distress because there's a mismatch between their biological sex and gender identity.
Some days are good days, others are bad days and the worst are dysphoria days. Dysphoria is indiscriminate, the days when you think you'll be absolutely fine it suddenly hits you. You get up, dress, see the person you want to see in the mirror. You leave the house, grab a coffee and get called "darling"...and then dysphoria hits. The guy you saw in the mirror doesn't exist, because no-one else sees him. The woman who smiled back at you earlier has disappeared as your height is read as "man". And your good day is turned upside down, inside out...it's over.
Yesterday was one of those days. By the end of it I was lying in bed at 1am desperate to escape my own skin because it just. doesn't. fit. This isn't the uncomfortable feeling that comes with carrying a few extra pounds, or having a bad hair day. This is a deep down knowledge that the way you see me isn't the way I see me. This is an incongruence between how I feel and how I look. Every pair of trousers I pulled on emphasised what I see as feminine hips, not the sleek masculine hips in my mind's eye.
However the worst part of dysphoria tends to be other people. I can avoid mirrors, imagine myself how I want, but when a customer says "give that to the lady" and indicates me, when I'm feeling totally all over the dude-look, my heart falls to my feet. Actually I often think this relates to the inherent binarism in society or the fact that people insist on gendering everything (including me).
It is something that crosses my mind most days, especially due to the fact that I will probably never "pass". Firstly, because it is difficult to pass as a gender that is almost entirely unrecognised, and secondly because I will not be able to medically transition towards a more masculine presentation either (male is my back up gender, after non binary). So the thing I identify with least, the one thing I know I definitely am NOT, is the thing I am named daily.
I will not be the only trans* person who doesn't transition in a traditional way. Other trans* people will decide surgery is too dangerous, hormones are too risky, or transition is simply too expensive. What is important though, is that despite the outward appearance, their gender identity isn't questioned. In a collection of essays from queer writers I came across the story of a Russian lesbian called Vitya, who happened to be a man (and uses he/him pronouns despite being female and a lesbian). He had grown up in a country where queerness was quashed and trans* identities were invisible. It wasn't until he met and fell in love with a lesbian (aged 40ish) that he realised he was a lesbian too, just one that was living as a man. Vitya lives as a man, he has no choice (he says) to transition but also no desire any longer. He is in a loving polyamorous relationship with two lesbians and living in community with queer people who accept his identity as a lesbian, despite his outward male appearance. For Vitya, the recognition of his identity is enough, feeling female and being in a relationship and friendships as a female, he has no need to change his body. (I realise this is an exception and many trans* people feel the need to transition despite love and support).
"my friends relied on the internal promptings and rhythms of their bodies and hearts, not an ideology imposed from outside. They made it all up as they lived their lives."
David Tuller, Adventures of a Dacha Sex Spy
The unrealistic expectations of masculinity and femininity do not only impact cis people. They make the burden of trans*ness even heavier. No person will have the perfect body, few cis men are ripped and strong with all the right muscles and shape. Few cis women have "perfect" proportions or delicate faces. Yet these are the things expected of trans* people. A trans woman is expected to be super girly and a trans guy expected to shun pink flowery things or they're not female/male enough. It's time, in 2016, in the Age Of The Queer to throw away these binary categories of gender.
Unfortunately these things are easier said than done, I know my gender and love of pretty stationary or wearing makeup doesn't make me less manly. However the fact that I need a neon sign about my head to pass as a non woman isn't something that will change easily, and it is something that will trigger dysphoria until I find a way to overcome it. The perfect body doesn't exist, just as the perfect trans* person doesn't exist. We will overstep boundaries and make you feel uncomfortable until you come to realise that your recognition of your man/womanhood is not the be all and end all.
The ridiculous notion that anything other than our own internal identification is what decides our gender or sexuality...the notion that a woman can't possibly be a lesbian if she has had sex with a man but not a woman....the falsehood that a trans guy is less of a man because he hasn't had surgeries...these things are harmful and toxic. Your body does not dictate your gender, you do.