The emotional and physical discomfort associated with gender dysphoria can be nearly impossible to describe to someone who has never experienced it. This particular type of dysphoria is often defined as a condition where an individual experiences discomfort or distress because their gender identity doesn't match the gender they were assigned at birth. But what does gender dysphoria really feel like? What does it look like?
We asked people to illustrate their dysphoria in whatever form they preferred. Here are some of the art submissions we received:
"For me, my assigned gender has always been a box I was put into without my permission."
"There are a lot of things my body does really well — it's just that it had the wrong set of building blocks when it was developing its look."
"To me, dysphoria comes mostly from people's gazes and words."
"As I'm walking people tend to stare at me and I feel like I'm ass-naked walking on a sidewalk to nowhere with disapproving eyes watching me, judging me the whole way."
"I'm not supposed to be wearing lipstick or eyeliner while having cute little hairs on my chin and lips."
"Looking in the mirror, on the days I'm brave enough to do it, can shatter my exquisitely constructed sense of myself."
"It's almost as if I have these water balloons stuck on me and I can't take them off."
"I hear the ringing in my ears, my head won’t stop buzzing, and my face burns with embarrassment because of how round my face is or because how short I am or because my hips are wider than a boy’s."
"My dysphoria is binding every day just so I can focus on my schoolwork because I can't look down at my paper without seeing my breasts."
"I don't feel that there is a 'right' way for any body to be, and I value the ways that bodies are queer, unreadable, and unruly."
"These are some drawings that I did around the year or so that I was deciding on, preparing for, and recovering from top surgery. I identify as non-binary and genderqueer, so for me, deciding on a medical intervention for my dysphoria did not feel as simple as the most common narratives you hear for trans people — 'the body I was born to have' or 'the way I see myself inside' or anything like that. I don't feel that there is a 'right' way for any body to be, and I value the ways that bodies are queer, unreadable, and unruly. So it helped me a lot to sort through my feelings without words, just trying to exist in my body, pay attention, and make some art."
"A loose self-portrait displaying my wish to rid of my dysphoria: social, physical, and mental."
"It's paranoia, depression, anxiety, envy, disgust, anger; it's all of the emotions no one likes to feel."
"These pieces show just how much of a difference wearing a binder does for me. It lets me feel a little less caged in."
"This piece showcases someone trapped by the wishes of others, the confines of society, and the internal and ever present struggle to be happy. This piece has helped me to share one of the most hidden parts of myself, a piece I've kept caged in aid of others' comfort. But my happiness and health are now front and center and here I am. I hope that this helps speak to others who feel as I do. My chest surrounds a lot of dysphoria for me, and I am trying to find ways to be comfortable in my skin. These pieces show just how much of a difference wearing a binder does for me. It lets me feel a little less caged in."