Many trans people talk about dysphoria as if it is some mysterious thing, that cannot possibly be comprehended by others. Having experienced gender dysphoria, I actually think it is a very ordinary thing. It is the discrepancy between how one would like the world to be and how the world is. You want your body to be one way, and it is a different way. You want to be treated in one way and you are treated in a different way. You want to be seen in one way, and you are seen a different way. This is really a universal experience, shared by all human beings. I find it helpful to see that, it helps to create empathy and compassion, rather than separation and isolation.
It then follows that anything that increases the gap between how you would like the world to be and how it is will increase dysphoria and anything that decreases that gap will decrease dysphoria. Frequently, people report that when they come to a point of identifying as transgender rather than questioning, their dysphoria increases rather than decreases. This is not surprising because they have increased the gap between how they would like the world to be and how the world is. Now being seen as your birth sex hurts more, because you have solidified your idea of being otherwise. The pain of being misgendered increases greatly after taking steps to transition because you have committed to the idea of the world seeing you as the gender you identify with, and they don’t. The more rigid these ideas, the more suffering that there is.
When faced with the challenge of the world being different than you would like it to be, there are two things that you can do to reduce that gap. One is to change the world so that it is more to your liking and the other is to accept the world as it is. It is like the classic serenity prayer:
“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.”
When it comes to gender, there are things you can change it is true, you can change your hormones, you can have surgery, you can change your name, you can change the way you behave in the world. However, you cannot completely change your sex, you cannot control the perceptions of others. Not accepting those two facts, will lead to endless suffering.
I remember having dysphoria that was so severe. It was very important to me that everyone perceive me as female. Whenever this failed in some way I would create some rationalization for why it happened. Sometimes that wasn’t possible, and I would go into a tailspin. I even moved to a place where people were less trans aware in order to attempt to be perceived as female. That didn’t work either. I wanted the world to be other that it was. I still had body dysphoria after surgery because I wanted my body to be other than it was. The only way out, was the path of acceptance. That was what helped to let go of dysphoria, not changing my body, not attempting to convince everyone I was born female, not attempting to convince myself that I was female in every way.
You can change your body or not, but without the acceptance, the dysphoria will not go away. If you are dependent on other’s perceiving you a certain way, that won’t work either, because you do not control the perceptions of others. This acceptance is essential for any path through this maze, whether transitioning or not, going on hormones or not, having surgeries or not. So why not start with that first? I know for myself, if I had practiced this acceptance first, I would have not needed to change my body. I am not sure what is true for you, but I do know we all need to confront the fact the world is other than we would like it to be.