What is Gender Dysphoria and can Non-Binary Folks be affected?
What were you born with? It was a simple question often asked in primary school during a time when we were all just discovering bodies.At the earliest stages of our lives we have been categorized, named, and labelled into the person that our families, societies, and cultures expect us to become. However, with these expectations, come conditioned care-giving and socialization of the child.
Through years of research, it has been found that children as young as two years old are able to have an awareness of rudimentary stereotypes. By the age of three, they are able to show understanding of sex and gender differences in adult possessions. Though, many questions and discoveries are still to be made about the ways in which we conceptualize and understand sex and genders, it is best to be able to differentiate between the two. (Please keep in mind these gender binaries we speak about are actually a largely Western (mis)construction, as it does not speak for the rest of the world).
When we talk about sex, we are relating to the biological, and hormonal activities that exists in the body. This also includes external and internal sex organs, which are part of the genetically controlled factors that result in the differentiation between sexes (This, remains an evolving topic as we are still learning more and more about the ways our DNA and chromosomes impact your body mutations).
On the other hand, when we talk about gender, we are not looking at the scientific result of chromosomes, or hormones. Gender is based on social constructs that we are most likely to adhere to throughout our lives, usually unconsciously or forced upon us through societal constructions and institutions.
Because these two are often confused, debates out there surrounding sexualities and identities are often misconstrued, and individuals are often left more confused, and left feeling invalidated. In addition, it is often not recognized that non-binary folks and genderqueer folks do experience gender/body dysphoria.
In the LGBTQ community, including the trans and non-binary communities, these misconceptions become a higher point of concern as it brings more harm to the support that we look to provide to each other. In order to first mitigate this misinformation, we define ‘Non-binary’ as someone who identify as either having a gender which is inbetween or beyond the two gender binaries of ‘men’ and ‘woman’ - or as having no gender, either permanently or some of the time (for some, this also can be termed Neutrosis).
When we fail to recognize this, we presume that non-binary folks do not exist, and are they are part of some trending fad. It is not unusual for non-binary folks to be excluded from the queer LGBTQ and trans communites. We have gotten “You’re not trans. You’re just a transtrender!”, or “why can’t you just choose to be a man or a woman?”. These thoughts are frequented with the idea that non-binary people are not transitioning to the opposite biological sex, therefore they cannot experience gender/body dysphoria. This ideology is extremely alienating and becomes much more damaging when it is coming from our own queer, LGBTQ, & trans communities.
Under the list of symptoms, the DSM-V lists gender dysphoria as strongly identifying as, wanting to be treated as, and having the same feelings as either the opposite sex “or some alternative gender different from one’s assigned gender”. This very well explains my entire life experience as a non-binary person.
Growing up, I was not well socialized, and was often uncomfortable with my entire sense of self and body. I was raised and treated according to what stereotypical ‘girls’ were expected to be, to look like, and to act. However, as the rebellious kid I was, I continuously would refuse to perform is such a manner. As my body developed, I didn’t hate my chest and, though I was not always okay with my genitals, it wasn’t killing me I didn’t have a penis.
Recently, I have started on testosterone. The big question I’ve been getting lately: “After your transition, how would you like to be referred as?” This was a crucial question asked by my partner, general practitioner, friends and my endocrinologist. It wasn’t something I had thought would be a question, but it made sense, if you're transitioning,,you would want your pronouns to match the gender you’re going to. However, for people who are non-binary, there is no specific end of the spectrum that we are looking to reach. For many non-binary folks, HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy) is sometimes, necessary to help us align our bodies with our gender identities and expressions. This can sometimes meaning taking both estrogen and testosterone blockers, this can mean going through reassignment surgery. Each and every transition experience is different, and will meet different goals along the way. For myself, so far, the mild subtle changes have made the biggest difference in my dysphoria.
I was never comfortable with the body I live in, and was never able to access the medical healthcare that I required to configure my body to the being that I felt comfortable living in. This continued on to impact my mental health, my confidence, and my social skills throughout my childhood, adolescence and my adulthood. It wasn’t until very recently that prospects of being able to change myself did I realize that I will never be able to exist on just one end of the spectrum. And for while I was unsure whether I was going to be okay not being recognized as ‘man’ or ‘woman’. However with years of re imaging, reworking caricatures, and self-reflecting, I realize I am happy not being either or. This does not mean that I don’t feel feminine or masculine, I just feel both sometimes and neither at other times. I am not confused, and I know exactly how I feel, and how I want to express myself (gender-wise) and I am confident in the ways in which I am changing my body.
With my transition, and the changes coming, I intend to continue asking folks to refer to me as ‘they’/ ‘them’. My body is never going to match the pronouns that Western society has established. And though I may look or present more masc/femme one day or two - I’m always going to be between binaries, I am happy with this, I am not confused, and I know exactly how I want to express myself (gender-wise) and I am confident in the ways in which I am changing my body.