This is a subject I've been nervous about discussing. Not because it's embarrassing, but because it's very hard to nail down, and something which I quickly realised when I began talking to others is a deeply personal, unique experience for everyone.
When I first began to unpack my own gender identity and my experiences throughout my life, I began to read about 'dysphoria attacks' or 'feeling dysphoric'. I wasn't quite sure I knew what that meant, especially as they weren't turns of phrase common to every non-cis person.
It took me months to begin to figure out just what they were referring to, and that what these awesome people were describing to me or blogging about was, absolutely, something I had experienced.
To explain why this is complicated and not always applicable (and why some non-cis people do NOT use the term at all) I'm going to do something awful and just grab a quote from the wikipedia page on GD.
"...because the term gender dysphoria applies only to the discontent experienced by some persons resulting from gender identity issues."
Discontent is a term I began to hear used to describe it. Or discomfort. Even 'dysphoria attacks'. The way I'd heard them described was different for each person, and I don't want to try and generalise about all the descriptions I heard or experiences that were described to me personally or in blog posts / articles.
Instead, as always, I'm just going to talk about my own experiences. I simply wanted to make more clear than usual that what I'm about to describe is not something you should ever assume is something whoever you're talking to or thinking about experiences. At all. Even if they do have something they'd define as moments of gender dysphoria, it may have nothing at all in common with what I'm about to describe.
I'm going to begin describing something general, which I have felt for essentially all of my life I have clear memories of. Something which would usually (but not always) happen at parties or when out in public. Perhaps it'd be on my way somewhere. Or when walking through a party seeing people and saying hi. Or when in a group conversation. Or talking to someone one on one (though this was much, much more rare).
I would begin to get nervous. I would have no idea why, but I would suddenly begin to feel some variation of extreme self-consciousness. Like I was out of place - an imposter, and someone would discover me sooner or later.
My response to this was to go from being feeling fairly comfortable and acting in something like a normal fashion to putting armour up. I would start acting in what I'd later realise was a very overly-macho fashion. I would attempt to dominate conversations or environments. I would often make jokes, sometimes dismissive and even hurtful ones, with no concern for other peoples' feelings.
My most memorable and unpleasant time doing this was when I began a bad joke which was also a personal attack on a guy... in front of a fairly famous celebrity who we had somehow ended up having beers with. Everyone was deeply embarrassed for me, but I was so nervous and so deep into whatever strange defence mechanism I had thrown up that I had no idea just how stupid and hurtful what I'd said was until much later.
On some level I think I suspected this was just some kind of social anxiety.
It wasn't until a while ago that I began to notice correlations between just when I'd have these moments where I'd bring out this awful, toxically masculine side of myself. It was often related to times where my gender matters, or where I was convinced it was. Where something about the way people were behaving around me reminded me of the gender I presented as, and sent me spirally into fears of being unmasked as an imposter for it. As odd as it may sound, being in a busy place and needing to use a public toilet or similar needlessly-gendered experience might be a perfect trigger for me.
In one on one situations, I sometimes found myself panicking when a male friend would start discussing issues which seemed specifically related to gender. "What do you do when a girl says X to you?" In retrospect, the common threads of this discomfort seem incredibly, mind-blowingly obvious to me. But, y'know... 20/20 hindsight and all that.
I spent so many years reacting to this discomfort by training myself to act in what I had decided was "the way men acted" that I had created this awful, false persona and routinely hurt people and embarrassed myself in the process.
Then came the revelation about my gender identity, and it all came crashing down.
It was a few days after my realisation, and I was out with friends. None of them knew. I began to feel uncomfortable, and realised quickly what the feeling was. It was just one of these waves of social discomfort.
But my old method of coping didn't kick in. How could it? I was aware of it by then, and so I did the only thing I could - I panicked, left the room, and began crying.
And so, in that way, accepting not being cisgendered actually made it tougher for me, at first, to deal with my experiences. Soon, it actually became more common. Just going outside to meet up with friends became pretty terrifying. Just being scared of having an 'attack' for lack of a better term could even trigger one.
At its worst, I once found myself walking through a large bar, looking for my friends, and breaking down so completely that when I finally saw one of them, I ran for the exit instead, making sure they didn't see me, and walked home from the city on a busy Friday night, hiding my face as best I could so nobody could see I was crying.
Picking an HRT start date helped a bit. Actually starting HRT helped even more. I still get moments of discomfort now, but now very, very rarely anything close to as destructive and distressing as it was in the past.
The funny thing is, I don't mind presenting as 'male' any more. Well, wearing gender-ambiguous clothing, anyway. I tell people how I identify now, and make no secret of it. Though I won't continue to dress "masculine" forever, and I don't do it all the time now, how I feel about doing it now is very, very different to how I felt about it ten months ago:
When I do it now I'm acting, and I know it.