Posted: November 23, 2010 in Bodies, Gender, Personal, Sex & Sexuality
Tags: , , , ,

Trigger warning for body dissonance.

So what is this ‘gender dysphoria’ thing anyway? Wikipedia says it’s ‘discontent with the biological sex the person was born with.’ However, ‘dysphoria’ is a bad mood, and gender has fuck-all to do with biological sex anyway. And what is ‘biological sex’? It’s a bunch of symptoms (breasts, ovaries, oestrogen, clitoris vs lots of hair, testes, testosterone, penis) that are often found together and have been generalised to a population where they are not universal.

I prefer to call it ‘body dissonance.’ Where the body one has clashes with the body one’s brain insists one has. Or it could be sex dissonance, which specifically focusses on sexual characteristics (primary and secondary).

I can’t speak for all trans people, and as an agendered/neutrois person myself, my experience may be different to most; but then again, it may not. I think this dissonance manifests differently for different people, which makes sense because of the fantastic variety of ways that humanity manifests.

For me, it’s a skulking rat creeping around the corners of my life. I fold my arms, and my brain tells me I’m feeling sensations that I should experience differently – and that hurts. I pull on a pair of jeans, and the way they fit is wrong – and that hurts. I’m always conscious of my body, I can’t forget it, I can’t escape it. I walk in such a way as to consciously minimise the sexed cues of my body. I choose clothes so that sexed cues become ambiguous. I may not have gender, but I have a sexed body and I present to minimise that. Primary sexual characteristics aren’t so bad, although I can’t forget them, – I don’t know whether this permanent awareness of one’s genitalia is a symptom of dissonance, but I doubt it because it causes me no pain – because they occupy the least accessible part of my clothing. The secondary ones are the bad ones, because they’re the cues that everyone looks to to determine sex and therefore gender.

I’m aware of people’s eyes on me, scouring my body for the sexed cues they want to see. I’m aware of it even when it’s not happening. And my own eyes are on me, looking for the same things – and I always find them. Every time I see them, my brain does a double-take. What the hell is going on there, body? Why did you order that to be done? DAMN YOU YOU BURN MY EYES! The secondary sexual characteristics are the eyesore skyscraper in a picturesque city, that you can see from everywhere and that hurts every time you look at it. When you look, it seems to flash – it becomes more obvious, and you just know the eyes of the world are on it and judging every single thing associated with the city, which makes your pain worse.

And then when I’m alone, the rat creeps into my mind and begins knawing at me. They’re there. You’ll never get rid of them. This is your body, JKBC, get used to it. -But it’s not my body! My body is not like this.- Yes it is. Look in the mirror. That’s you. -It’s not!- It is. And you’re saying they’re wrong, but what’re you going to do about it? Take a chainsaw to your own skin? -If that’s what it takes!– Don’t be such an idiot. They’re a part of you. -No they’re not. They appeared. I don’t know why. I mean, biologically I do, but they aren’t there! They can’t be!- They are. And they mark you as sexed to the world. And you can’t get rid of them.

More generally, this dissonance just hurts. There’s not really a malevolent little rat skulking around my world going ta-DAH! Secondary Sexual Characteristics! every few seconds. There’s a malevolent little body, malevolent little gonads, malevolent little hormones doing that every second. I don’t even have to look. The feeling in my throat and chest tells me. This darkness behind these eyes is livid with it. There is no escape from the pain and its cause, only momentary, fleeting distraction.

And the weird thing is, I love my body. I am utterly confident in it. I give it what it needs and it gives me what I need in a mutually beneficial relationship. But the damn thing doesn’t have the right shape, and my underlying concept of my body does. The body I love and the body I have are somewhat different.

  1. Meeresbande says:

    This is a great article, we really like it! We feel a lot of the same things and you have described it very well.

    Is it OK if we use this quote in a non-for-profit Zine we are making?
    “And what is ‘biological sex’? It’s a bunch of symptoms (breasts, ovaries, oestrogen, clitoris vs lots of hair, testes, testosterone, penis) that are often found together and have been generalised to a population where they are not universal.”
    Of course we will credit you and everything.

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