There’s no trick, no secret. It is only possible to fight through day by day.
When my dysphoria was at its worst, pre-medical transition, I tried to cultivate a mindset of taking every day as it came. It helped me move through the world rather than stewing quietly alone in my room, but it only helped because there was a clearly defined light at the end of the tunnel. These days I still manage my dysphoria by working through day by day, but I am much gentler and more open to wherever this journey takes me. The only end point in sight now is to not care or notice at all.
My dysphoria grew from the time I began wrapping my head around the idea that all of my childhood issues could be due to not really being female at all, and it amplified steadily. Prior to these realizations at the age of 17, I had a persistent idea of my body as fundamentally different from the bodies of the women that I was interested in, but did not have the words for it. I loathed the idea of my body being penetrated, but related very much to being the dominant aggressor and the way that it allowed me to place my body “off-limits.” Some of my earliest memories are of being a young child (4-5 -ish) and thinking about the girlfriends I would have someday, and I remember thinking about making out with them and I would get this sense that there would be something extra in my pants that would fit with them. I do not really know where I got this rudimentary understanding of sex, but I do know that I was already firmly in the camp of being the one that “fit in” rather than the one that got “fit in to.”
When I learned that there words for this persistent experience and disconnect with ones given genitals, it was a quick trip from there. I latched onto the idea that I had never been able to connect with my peers or make friends because I couldn’t relate to other people as a woman, because I was a man! There were answers to what I was dealing with and with Modern Medical Technology could correct this very simple birth-defect that I had recently diagnosed myself with. My discomfort with my body would be eased and the world would suddenly know how to relate to me!
It all seemed way too good to be true, so I eased in cautiously. I had already been wearing clothing from the men’s section for awhile, but I discontinued use of anything from the women’s section regardless of aesthetics (really all I had was some super dykey flannels and such, but if the buttons went up the “wrong way” they were out). I thought about different names, and tested a few online and with close friends, but eventually settled on sticking with my birth name partially because I thought it would ease the blow for my parents. I cut my hair shorter. And shorter. And shorter. I don’t even really remember my first buzz, but I know it didn’t come long after I named my discomfort. Soon after, I bought a buzzer and started asking friends to shave my head so that I wouldn’t have to deal with the looks in the salon or the barbershop, because I got them in both. I bound my chest and marveled at just how flat I could get. I considered myself very lucky.
I began passing fairly easily as male, which was fun and being treated like a full human being felt right and good. Passing did not do anything for my sex dysphoria, however, which had been growing with every single day. I became increasingly frustrated with the function of my genitals as I became increasingly recognized as male with my clothes on. I was putting on muscle from hauling band gear around a few times a week and was very comfortable in my social relationships with “other” men. I got a lot of validation for what I looked like when what I looked like was acknowledged as “male,” which is very different from the reaction of horror that one sometimes gets when one looks like this but is read as a Dyke instead. After so many years of trying, It seemed to me that testosterone was the next logical step in attempting to mend these feelings of disconnect and finally give myself a body that functioned in the way I wanted it too, as well as solidified my appearance as male to the outside world.
The thing is, testosterone did help alleviate some of my sex dysphoria, at least to a point where I have been able to reconcile with my body. I still do not have answers for what I would do if I had not chemically modified my body. I often wish that I had different tools so I could have given myself a longer time to figure out if I could have been happy with my function “as is.” Testosterone is a hell of a drug. However, it eventually dawned on me that my experience on testosterone would not be a continuous growth curve in terms of the way the function of my body was changing. I would never reach the end point that I had decided would “feel right,” because it was and remains biologically impossible no matter the medical intervention. Testosterone alleviated some of my sex dysphoria by modifying the function of my body, but at the same time it exposed my dysphoria as a moving target and brought the medical limitations of my self diagnosis and essentially self-directed treatment into sharp focus.
This clarity coincided with my growing discomfort with living as a stealth male and led to a perfect storm for detransition and learning new ways to exist and thrive within my body. I still experience sex dysphoria in the sense of a feeling of phantom genitals at times (very similar to what I remember as a child, but the mind does play tricks so who knows), which was worse in the first few years off testosterone and is much less frequent now. I have a partner who I am functional with in a way that works for me which, let me tell ya, does wonders for sex dysphoria.
Sometimes I experience intrusive thoughts related to my female body that circle and circle and can throw me off for weeks or months, but I deal with them as they come and remind myself that just because something comes out of my brain doesn’t mean it’s true in terms of material reality. At times I’ll call these dysphoric thoughts because it feels the easiest way to explain them, but they’re not always related to sex dysphoria – sometimes they’re more related to bullshit expectations of the female body that I have ingrained so deep inside of me that they shake my known reality to the core when they surface (you’ll never be as big and strong as you could be in this weak female body, etc).
I no longer experience what a lot of people term “gender dysphoria” because these days I expect to be treated as a human being and accept no less. When someone treats me poorly because I am a woman or a dyke, I do not get mad because I should be treated “like a man,” I get mad because I should be treated like a human being (which is to say, treated like a man, in practice). At this point I decide if it is possible to brush this interaction off (a cashier I would have no contact with again, etc), or if I need to directly confront the situation (someone I am working with, etc), and proceed appropriately for the situation. I approach it logically from the expectation that I am to be treated as an intelligent, capable, complete human being. Changing my understanding did work for alleviating the entirety of my “gender dysphoria.”