You’ve probably heard of gender dysphoria, which is when someone’s gender identity doesn’t match the sex they were assigned at birth. But you may not be aware of the converse, gender euphoria. Where dysphoria is the feeling that something is terribly wrong, euphoria is the feeling that something is very right.
There’s a lot of discussion about the dysphoria many trans people experience, but there’s a lot less about their euphoria: it often seems that we only hear about the sad stuff. I think that’s partly because so much of the discussion about us focuses on trauma and tragedy – something that’s inevitable if the narrative is centred on legal protections such as protection from hate crimes or the horrifically long waiting times trans people endure for basic healthcare. Of course we’re going to talk about the awful things many trans people experience.
But I also think part of it is that what can seem really profound to you might seem really trivial to someone else – and when there are bad actors looking for anything to take out of context, screenshot and share with their fellow bigots, you become very wary of what you’ll post.
So other people only get part of the picture: the sad part. But the reality is that there’s a great deal of happiness too, and sometimes that happiness comes from the tiniest of things.
For example, the other day I wore a nice dress.
It had spaghetti straps.
That’s the story.
Exciting? No. Profound? Maybe not to you. But it’s not so much about the dress as what wearing it represented.
Sitting with your shoulders visible isn’t going to be a big deal for a lot of women, but it is for me: since I came out clothes have been primarily about hiding my body, not making bits of it visible. I love dresses and wear lots, but if you’re looking for someone showing skin you’d have more luck with an Egyptian mummy.
So something as simple as wearing something spaghetti-strapped or having legs that aren’t covered in 10,000-denier tights may not be a big deal for others, but it is quite a big deal for me – especially when it brings compliments from friends, not angry mobs with burning torches. It’s a sign of growing confidence and of self-acceptance.
It’s also a sign of physical progress, because the dress fits in a way it wouldn’t have before I started transition. So there’s a euphoria there from having a tangible indication of your progress: when hormones work their magic ever so slowly, sometimes it’s nice to notice a milestone.
I said earlier that the things I experience as gender euphoria may seem really trivial to other people. And that’s because they often are. They’re mundane things. Normal things. Things most people take for granted.
But for me, they’re not mundane, not normal, not things I can take for granted. It sometimes feels like I’m an ingenue in the big city, constantly open-mouthed in surprise at the things the locals don’t even notice. “You mean you just, like, put on a dress, and go out, and nobody scowls at you? Ever?”
They’re often little things. But they’re little victories too.