Gender Dysphoria

Gender Dysphoria is not hating your body. Hating your body is thinking you’re too tall, too short, too flat, too pimpled. Its worrying you are not beautiful enough, or athletic enough. Its fear of rejection. Gender Dysphoria is the sneaking suspicion that your body is a liar.

If you’ve ever told a lie about yourself, as opposed to about someone else, or about something unimportant to your identity, you know how afterwards you must imagine the lie was true. Actors do it all the time. They step up on stage, say “I am King Lear,” and from there on they can either behave as they think King Lear behaves, or break character, and to break character is to offend the audience. For actors it is an easy choice. This is their passion, and possibly their profession. For trans people its different. For one, our role does not last hours, but a lifetime. For another, the audience of theater knows it is being lied to, and is only pretending it doesn’t know. The audience of real life thinks it knows the truth. We are walking around in a costume we were born with, playing a role we never auditioned for. Our audience did not wait for us to announce who we are. Instead they looked at us. They saw breasts or lack of them, heard a high or low voice, saw a feminine or masculine face, and decided our role for us, and when we break character they are as offended as any audience. They even take the liberty of adding to our costume. A barber cuts our hair to masculine or feminine fashions. Relatives buy us gender-appropriate clothing. Or is that gender-inappropriate clothing? We can try to explain ourselves, but a public uneducated about transgendered people doesn’t even know how to listen. They think you’re a boy or a girl, and what you are born as is what you are. They want to listen to our lying bodies, not to us. They corroborate our bodies’ stories, until we ourselves are confused about what we are.

Hormones and surgeries, if they are opted for, are not like plastic surgeries. They are not an attempt to conform to some standard of beauty. They are disciplines. When we were children, if we lied, we were reprimanded and told to change our stories to the truth. Our bodies cannot be told to tell the truth. We must remold them ourselves. Then, when we shift roles to Cordelia or the ambiguous Fool, if someone comes and says “weren’t you Lear?” it is no longer our word against our bodies. We tell the truth, and our lying friend amends their lie, and hopefully the audience believes.

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