Not the most high-level of blog posts, but I wanted to make sure I wrote about this.
Tonight I had a very strong, difficult period of gender dysphoria in a way I haven't had in months. Or, to put it more accurately - in a way I never have before.
First, I need to re-cap a bit that I've covered (in slightly less detail) before...
I used to get frequent moments of discomfort, usually in public, but they weren't something I could pin down. It didn't fit the bill of anxiety or depression, but it was closest to anxiety. I didn't know why I felt so anxious so quickly, and I didn't know how to cope with them. My old coping mechanism when I was still trying to present and perform 'male', was to amp that up. I'd get macho and I'd try to dominate the social space around me, usually resulting in me acting like a massive twat.
Once I accepted that I was not a cis male after all, I began to realise what I was feeling was gender dysphoria. Once I had accepted that, it became easier to figure out what was triggering it (as it turns out, almost anything) and what I could do to feel better (as it turns out, almost nothing).
Once I saw doctors and had a date to begin HRT set, I began to feel a bit better. Not much better, but I could count on these moments of dysphoria maybe every day or two, rather than numerous times a day.
Once I began HRT, these moments very quickly began to vanish. Not entirely, but they became manageable. Even when I was still being taken for male, somehow knowing I was transitioning and knowing that at best I was just 'playing' at being male, like an acting gig, made it okay.
They would still sometimes happen, usually when far from a 'safe' space. (Home, a close friend's place, even the rare instance of a bar that I felt comfortable at - usually ones with unisex bathrooms. No, seriously, it's amazing how stressful just worrying about using bathrooms in public places can be.)
But they began to happen less and less.
Until tonight, when I had one of my worst few hours of dysphoria. But it felt different to what I felt before, to the extent that I didn't realise what was going on. Partly, I guess, because it'd been a while. If I'd realised what was going on I'd have told my friends - I was with a few that I trust completely. But I didn't, so it wasn't until I was finally at my doorstep that I broke down crying and began to unpack the whole night.
This gnawing fear had begun, that I looked masculine. Too masculine. That people were perceiving me as male.
I'm lucky. I've had difficulty passing as 'male' well enough to even have people accept my old photo ID for a good few months now (although that brings its own problems). With makeup on, I feel comfortable that I look feminine. At least, feminine 'enough' to make me comfortable. In fact, even without makeup on I'm increasingly comfortable with how I look.
Normally, when I get these moments of body/mental image dissonance (I often use the term 'residual self-image' from The Matrix to explain how my mind flicks back to thinking I look like I used to a year ago) I look in a mirror.
Or I stare down at my body to remind myself that I am increasingly feminine & curvy.
Or I take a selfie.
But tonight, nothing seemed to help. Maybe not helped by the darkness and the crowds, but little I could would settle my brain down.
The funny thing is that I am not enormously distressed by being mis-gendered. Even when I'm presenting how I was tonight, which is women's clothing with a punk/butch kind of style, being mis-gendered still happens and at worst I sigh a bit or find it a mild inconvenience.
But when I get it in my head that I look too masculine - that I have the wrong body - it can be hard to shake. And tonight, nothing I did would shake that.
My biggest concern about that is how bad I was tonight. How I didn't even really fully figure out the level of dysphoria I was feeling. How it happened somewhere that I'm normally comfortable (wandering around places I like with friends I am close to).
And how travelling away from any 'safe' places (emotionally) would make this more and more difficult for me. What would I do if this happened overseas? Or even interstate?
It's hard not to experience these kind of things and end up feeling very, very fragile and helpless.