Eu·pho·ri·a - Noun
A feeling or state of intense excitement and happiness. Elation, joy, glee.
Before I can talk about discomfort, I have to talk about relief. Gender euphoria is itself a sign of gender dysphoria. You might be asking yourself, “how can happiness be sadness?” The answer to that is simple.
Imagine a person who was born in a cave, who spent their entire life living underground, with their only source of illumination being candles and oil lamps. Imagine they’ve never been above ground; they don’t even know the surface exists. Then, one day, a cave-in happens in a side tunnel, and reveals an opening to the surface. Sunlight pours into the opening, and at first it is blinding and the person runs away in fear. Later, they return to the opening, and, as the person’s eyes adjust, they look out through the hole and see a bright and brilliant world full of colors they didn’t even know existed.
That world is scary, huge, and full of unknowns, so they crawl back into the cave for safety, but that hole is still there, and they see the light every time they pass it. Gradually, they peek out more and more frequently, and further and further from the opening. They start to want that light; they find reasons to visit it more often.
Eventually they realize that they don’t want to go back into the hole any more. They have to go back, because that is where their family and friends are, but this place is so much better, and they want to stay here. Going back into the hole feels wrong; it starts to hurt to be in the dark so much.
This is what gender euphoria is like: brief flashes of a light that may be too bright to handle at first, too confusing to understand, but as time goes on you become more accustomed to them and you realize that this is where you belong, and the darkness becomes the dysphoria.
Fish don't notice water. It's all around them. Most fish have never left it.
And often, trans people in denial don't notice the gender dysphoria that suffuses their daily lives.
I'm just going to list some idiosyncrasies and discomforts that I didn't realize were dysphoria:
Many trans people have no idea how much pain they are in until they find small bits of relief. Cosplay, stage acting, drag, role playing games, video games; small little forays into a different gender than they have lived as. They find that it feels just a little bit more comfortable. They’ll make up excuses for why (“If I’m gonna be looking at this character’s ass, it might as well be a girl’s ass.”), they’ll try to convince themselves it’s all just for fun, or an artistic expression. They might tell themselves that the bits of joy they feel at hearing a different pronoun are just novelty. But soon they find themselves looking for reasons to get that more often. More and more frequently they’re role playing characters of a different sex, building more costumes, buying more clothes, performing more often. You find yourself wanting to do that all the time, because it just feels better than your real life, and being “you” starts to hurt. Eventually, the old you becomes the costume.
This is the most fundamental reason why we as a community say “you do not need dysphoria to be trans”, because black ink on a black canvas isn’t visible without close examination and a lot of light.
Anything that can be a source of dysphoria has an equal and opposite euphoria.
Just finished 22 valentines cards for my son's daycare class. We wandered about Target to get some candy. It is great just existing, being myself, with my son and living life being seen the way I truly am.
Even all of his daycare friends say "your mom's here!" :)
@ErinInTheMorn It really is. Just... existing. No mask, no filters, no misconceptions. Fully actualized. It’s bliss. Cis folk take it so for granted.
@TwippingVanilla Yes they do!
- Being gendered correctly
- Being addressed by your chosen name
- Wearing correctly-gendered clothing
- Seeing and feeling changes in your body
- Seeing yourself in the mirror (removal of depersonalization)
- Socializing in a way that conforms with gendered expectations
- Getting a haircut in a masculine / feminine / androgynous manner
- Shaving your legs
- NOT shaving your legs
- Being included in something you wouldn’t otherwise because of your assigned gender (e.g. bridal shower or bachelor party)
- Feeling sexy / having sex in a way that aligns with your gender and sexuality.
Even just being out in the world as yourself and being seen as yourself can be massively euphoric.
What euphoria is NOT is a sexual high, turn-on, or fetish. Sometimes euphoria can trigger a sexual response, and there are many factors at play that cause that (feeling good about your body is a turn-on, for example), but it is not a source of sexual excitement. Trans people are not “getting off” on presenting or acting like their true selves.
That said, many people who have not yet realized they are trans may resort to fetishes and kinks to express their gender and/or relieve their dysphoria. They may maintain some of these kinks through transition. There is no shame in this; how they find sexual fulfillment is their own business. However, these things are alongside their gender. A trans person’s sense of gender persists indefinitely; it does not go away when they go back to their daily lives.