As a trans person you have likely heard the term dysphoria.
Dysphoria is defined by the oxford dictionary as: a state of unease or generalized dissatisfaction with life.
Though not all transgender or gender non-conforming folks experience dysphoria, many do. It manifests itself differently for each person who experiences it, a looming dark cloud, a gnawing at your insides, a buzzing in the back or your brain that you can’t quiet; sometimes subtle, sometimes debilitating.
Something that I didn’t realize, as silly as it seems, is that dysphoria has an antithesis. The hero to the villain in this story, the peak to the deepest valley. Of course, most things have an opposing force, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction… and also this idea is one that I was familiar with before I realized that gender is as complex as it is or that this biting, crushing, feeling I had was dysphoria. I had of course heard the term euphoria, maybe not often, but enough that I was well-acquainted with the idea.
Euphoria: a feeling or state of intense excitement and happiness.
That day you marry your soulmate, euphoric. Graduating college, euphoria. Experiencing your favorite band in concert for the first time — an utterly euphoric high. But the first time I experienced euphoria in relation to my gender was something I have burned into my brain and it made all the difference in my transition. It was, for the first time (at least that I noticed) a positive sign regarding gender, and one that I hadn’t heard many other trans people speak about. Dysphoria is a common topic, but what about those moments when you do pass, when your body feels right? Of course people talked about those times, but it still felt unnamed.
The first time I experienced gender euphoria I was at a concert, already in a state of euphoria seeing my favorite artist for the first time in concert (and if you must know, it was Kelly Clarkson, laugh all you want). I was with my mom, best friend, twin, and her girlfriend… the man at the ticket booth greeted us, “Good evening, ladies… and sir,” and nodded at me. I was 19, Bieber haircut swooping to the max, skinny and clad in a simple green sweater and slim jeans. My mother instantly flushed, nobody corrected the man but instead rushed me inside to our seats. To them he had made a mistake, but to me, I was seen for what I didn’t even realize I wanted to be seen as. I was elated. I realized that I wanted to be called sir, that I hadn’t felt unease the same way I had when I was “ma’am’ed” at work, or called someone’s girlfriend.
I feel like to a lot of transgender people remember that first time they passed, that sense of accomplishment (if you aim to pass a certain way that is), the validation that was felt. That is euphoria, and for me, realizing that I had moments of happiness and positivity regarding gender to balance out my depression and dysphoria made my eventual decision to transition feel like a more well-rounded one. Every little step I took toward and into my transition resulted in feelings of euphoria, and acknowledging those moments became essential to me to know I was doing the right thing for myself.
As humans we tend to talk more about the negative rather than the positive, most people only go on YELP to write a bad review, not about the perfect date they had at your local restaurant. This is just one person’s account, and so maybe just relevant to this one person and this one transition, but I wish I had known that there was a bright side to the darkness that was dysphoria, and to notice those moments as breadcrumbs on the path to my true self. At the end of the day, my gender euphoria around being seen as male ended up playing the largest part in my transition, even larger than my dysphoria surrounding being seen as female. Those euphoric feelings gave me a positive pursuit to focus on and work toward, and though they didn’t drown out my dysphoria they helped balance things a bit.