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LGBT

We Asked People To Illustrate Their Gender Dysphoria

"Looking in the mirror, on the days I'm brave enough to do it, can shatter my exquisitely constructed sense of myself."

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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."

Cael

"I'm not particularly good at drawing, so I included an example of some of the needlework I do. I find it much easier to get across what I want using threads.

"For me, my assigned gender has always been a box I was put into without my permission. It's restricting, and suffocating, and for most of my life it completely obscured who I was, like a cloud of pink that hides my inner colors from the world. It often feels like I'll never really be able to break out of the box, so instead I do my best to change its colors and make the box a place I can survive in.

"Some days are better than others, and I'm getting better and better at pushing the pink back, but it's always trying to reclaim lost ground. It's still all some people will ever be able to see when they look at me."

—Cael

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"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."

Felixkattenvoer.tumblr.com

"'Being trapped in the wrong body' was never a phrase that really stuck with me because I think that sets my body in the wrong light. 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.

"I sympathize with my body because not only me, but everyone around me, keeps drilling on it because of a few little mistakes it has made — even if it tries really hard to correct those mistakes. Let's just all give my body a break. Don't act like every single one of you doesn't have something about your body you don't like. Mine just happens to be a little more contradictory to what I am."

—Felix

"To me, dysphoria comes mostly from people's gazes and words."

Pimeälex / Via yami-pimeartsies.tumblr.com

"To me, dysphoria comes mostly from people's gazes and words. They see me as a 'girl' and call me as such — even in the most innocent way — simply because they don't know. Being called that, because of my body shape, feels like being trapped into a tight envelope made out of 'girl' stereotypes and expectations. A 'girl suit' that is slowly choking me. The more they call me girl, the more the 'girl suit' takes over, covering my real self, my real colors."

—Pimeälex

"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."

Wriply Bennet

"Dysphoria isn't just one thing for me, it's a combination of things I think are happening and the things that are actually happening, and they build throughout the day.

"I'd be getting ready to leave the house for work or some recreational fun with friends or errands, and while getting ready I catch a hard edge on my face in my reflection and I automatically imagine what people see as I walk down the street...and I just want to lay down and drink. But I've made a commitment, so I have to leave the house. 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. That builds to the point where I'm light-headed and dizzy and I can't tell if I'm asleep or awake shrouded in a dark haze.

"Once I reach my destination, whether that's a store or a bar or the pharmacy, and they ask for ID (and my ID still has my birth name and the wrong gender on it) I can see the change in their expression, hear it in their voice, or see the surprise in their eyes. Feels like my ID just mutters off a bunch of manly, masculine nonsense, and my heart drops into my diaphragm, and I'm just like...DAMN, CLOCKED!!!

"It's enough to drive you mad, but there are folks who bring you back down and remind you that you're more than your dysphoria and this too shall pass."

—Wriply

"I'm not supposed to be wearing lipstick or eyeliner while having cute little hairs on my chin and lips."

caramelofields.tumblr.com

"When seeing my dysphoria run through my body I try my hardest to detach myself from social conditioning. I'm not supposed to be wearing lipstick or eyeliner while having cute little hairs on my chin and lips. I must be quiet. I must be a magical femme who does all the emotional labor. My masculinity and I can only meet in privacy.

"My emotional labor ends up being split between femme labor and surviving a white-cis-hetero world while being a brown non-binary trans person. That's a lot. The binary is a lot. My masculinity is as feminine as it can get. I can't and won't dare separate my masculinity away from my femininity ... It's difficult to water myself when everything outside of myself, I can't control. Only thing I can control is my self-care.

"So what do I do!? I hold onto some lavender that I gently put on my palms. I whisper affirmations and inhale the lavender. I let my body experience the emotions it needs to feel better, to grow, nurture itself. I wear my emotions while simultaneously making myself as visible as possible externally. I won't dare be invisible when I continue to exist under these painful circumstances. I will celebrate my sadness by crying more, by loving myself more radically. I won't dare let anyone condition and normalize their phobias and gender roles onto me. I will dare exist as a magical Trans Non-Binary femmeboi. I will dare question the binary."

—Car-oh

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"Looking in the mirror, on the days I'm brave enough to do it, can shatter my exquisitely constructed sense of myself."

wileyreading.com

"I wake up in the morning and run my hands over my body. It never feels exactly the way it should. Looking in the mirror, on the days I'm brave enough to do it, can shatter my exquisitely constructed sense of myself.

"My clothes are never, ever right. Showering is the most jarring part of my day — when I soap my thighs and chest and do my damnedest to hold on to the mental picture I have of who I really am and not the baggy, chubby, soft version of myself I feel under the running water."

—Wiley Reading

"It's almost as if I have these water balloons stuck on me and I can't take them off."

chari-artist.tumblr.com

"I am usually fairly self-conscious about my raw appearance, but I had an urge to illustrate how I feel about my body from my inner perspective, and it became an honest portrait of myself. A mixture of what I look like and how I feel. When I think of my chest as it currently is, I feel incredibly awkward. It's almost as if I have these water balloons stuck on me and I can't take them off. I hope someday I can resolve that...but until then, it is a thing I find myself occasionally struggling with. Some days are better than others."

—Anonymous

"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."

andromedaichi.tumblr.com

"Dysphoria for me is feeling like a tangled mess. Everything is tangled, and I feel disgusting in my skin. 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. I feel like crying, and I hate myself and the body I was born with. I keep reminding myself how feminine I sound or how no one will ever use my preferred pronouns because of my appearance. I wish I had been born into a different body. I wish I didn’t feel so tangled."

—Anonymous

"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."

Provided to BuzzFeed

"My dysphoria is not feeling like a man because the only affirmations I get are at school. 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. Dysphoria, for me, is feeling invalid because the questioning never goes away because the idea that I am not a man is beaten into me daily with purposeful misgendering and verbal assaults."

—Jameson

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"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."

—Jesse Harold

"A loose self-portrait displaying my wish to rid of my dysphoria: social, physical, and mental."

gardenstar.tumblr.com

"A loose self-portrait displaying my wish to rid of my dysphoria: social, physical, and mental."

—Jay Atlas Alexander

"It's paranoia, depression, anxiety, envy, disgust, anger; it's all of the emotions no one likes to feel."

Jonny Caius Rose

"Gender dysphoria is sadness. It's paranoia, depression, anxiety, envy, disgust, anger; it's all of the emotions no one likes to feel. Gender dysphoria is changing 10 times before leaving the house and still not feeling comfortable in your own skin. Gender dysphoria is not wanting to get out of bed. Gender dysphoria is feeling hopeless and lost.

"There is nothing beautiful about gender dysphoria, it is the ugliest and saddest I've ever felt and I would never wish these feelings upon even my most hated enemies."

—Jonny

"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."

—Giselle KC-West

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"I feel like I’m floating above my body, detached from it."

rosssketches.tumblr.com

"My mind copes with dysphoria in strange ways. I am a transmasculine person, and I almost always feel disconnected from my body, like I don’t have one or like I’m not even in my body. Because my brain doesn’t seem to recognize my body as my own, I don’t feel intense dysphoria about what seems 'wrong' about it.

"In my drawing, the cloud around my head represents my soul, or my consciousness, floating above my body. This is how I feel just about every day; throughout school, during my free time, and even when I’m doing things that I enjoy. I feel like I’m floating above my body, detached from it.

"The red marks on my body are my struggle with dermatillomania, or skin-picking. Every day, I cave in to the feeling that I need to pick and rub my skin. Through some research, I found out that these types of disorders are often associated with body dysphoria and dysmorphia. The marks in my drawing are in the exact places that they are on my real body. I included them to show that dysphoria is so much more than just feeling uncomfortable — it can have a major impact on a person’s everyday life."

—Anonymous

"I feel like every day, every minute I have to struggle and I feel like all of these things are dragging me down, threatening my mental health."

lizdrawsgals.tumblr.com

"Everything reminding me of my body is like a very big punch on my face, whether it's things I notice on me (body features, voice, etc.) or things that I notice I don't have but cis women do. I feel like every day, every minute I have to struggle, and I feel like all of these things are dragging me down, threatening my mental health. Yet, at the same time, I have to put on a mask and pretend everything's all right, so nobody knows what's happening under the surface."

—Liz

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