Our relationships with our bodies and identities can be a rollercoaster ride that never ends. It can have nauseating turns, seemingly endless climbs up distant slopes, and moments of weightless joy.
This rollercoaster isn’t unique to the LGBTIQA+ community, it can be represented in everyone’s individual journey with themselves. However, for our trans friends, it can have some common points of experience.
Let’s start with the term you may have heard of first, Gender Dysphoria. This was a term that originated within the psychiatric and medical fields, to clinically describe a very personal experience you can have with yourself. It’s come to be known as distress or unease from conflicts between the gender assigned to you at birth and your gender identity. This can arise in many different areas of your life, from your physical body to your experience being gendered in society.
Dysphoria can pop up as small discomforts, overwhelming distress, occasional moments or constant underlying unease. Some examples of Dysphoria triggers could be your assigned pronouns at birth, the shape of your body in fitted clothes, the sound of your voice or the way people treat you. The experiences of Dysphoria often have common elements between people but they also may not. This can make things difficult for those questioning their gender identity and who are looking out for common experiences with others to tell them that they’re on the right track. Please know that you don’t have to have the same journey as someone else to be valid.
Time for some good news, Gender Euphoria is the lesser-known positive side to the rollercoaster. This term originated within the LGBTIQA+ community to help describe people’s journeys and provide some light at the end. Gender Euphoria has been described as the joy and contentment from expressing your true gender identity, as well as the feeling of being affirmed by others in that identity.
Similar to Dysphoria, Euphoria is also a very personal experience. For some people, it can be an intensely joyous feeling, from seeing yourself reflected in the mirror in a way that finally feels good. For others, it can be a subtle warmth and comfort in one’s own skin, a sense of belonging that had otherwise been missing. It can come from your body changing to represent you physically, wearing clothes that feel good, or hearing a friend using your correct pronouns. There’s no one way to find this feeling and it can often be difficult to describe, so please don’t be disheartened if you haven’t yet come across it in your journey.
Things to keep in mind
- Whether you experience Gender Dysphoria or Euphoria, it does not define your personal journey as valid or not. The experience of these terms is incredibly personal and cannot be ranked in a hierarchy of meaningfulness against other people. Just keep doing you.
- These terms are relatively new, one originating from a medically diagnostic perspective and the other from the LGBTIQA+ community. This space is changing as we create better language to express these complex ideas and experiences. Try not to feel limited by these terms, there’s a good chance we’ll look back on them in the next decade as our beginner set of stone tools.
- The use of Gender Euphoria signals a shift in thinking about the trans journey, taking steps away from the negative pathology-focused outlook and towards a positive, and holistic view. By embracing Gender Euphoria, we challenge the narrative that being trans is only a Dysphoric experience filled with hardship and we bring into the spotlight the love that comes with being your true self.