I found this post on reddit from /u/PTthrowaway0 interesting it because it has a lot of parallels to my own feelings growing up, though a different outcome. Note when he says “dsymorphia” I’m not sure he means dysphoria or dysmorphia so I left it as is in the quote.
I am a straight guy and had issues with self confidence and masculinity growing up. Had issues of dsymorphia and gender identity that messed with my head constantly and I instinctively kept quiet. I can confidently say my issues surrounding this have have been a central aspect of my life for as long as I can remember. These started before I had any wider understanding of gender politics as a whole. This got incredibly worse once puberty started, a confusing time for any teenager. I also had minor depression and anxiety that I now link to self confidence and masculinity issues. Then I would feed into each other I’d become depressed and not like myself and wish I was a girl. Then I’d feel bad about myself for thinking this and my self confidence and self development would stay low. Why work on yourself when you don’t feel like the right person sometimes? Anxiety would make life too much at times and sexist elements of escapism would come in. Girls don’t have to worry about people liking them, people take care of you, so much less pressure.
And then boom porn. Puberty made the dsymorphia worse, better suppress sexual energy with obscene amounts of masturbation and porn! Except slowly my preferences changed to highlight dsymorphic thoughts rather than suppress them by just jerking off. The availability of porn and the idea of a community existing , even if I didn’t heavily interact with it was a huge problem it normalized it all. In hindsight I was addicted and the dsymorphia was a huge weight and drain on my life. I never told anyone in my family and only one friend when I was in my late teens. What kept me from going deeper into it was a good home life and amazing friends. Not because they supported me in dealing with it, but because I didn’t let them into it and I had a normal interactions not constantly centered around gender and identity. I lived in a moderately conservative household, I know they would have supported me no matter what I said, but they weren’t gung-ho social progressives. I never really seriously considered myself trans, I understood it was mostly a fetish but when it got bad it bled deeply into how I saw myself, and didn’t like the huge negative impact it had on my confidence. But I had developed a cycle of reinforcing it that I couldn’t break.
An aggravating sidenote is that I understood that this all was unhealthy for me as I lived it. In a short talk with a college therapist I laid out how I understood it was linked to my depressive cycles and I didn’t think it was healthy. Their response was to push acceptance and support groups. My desire to keep it private and me understanding it wasn’t a constant identity but rather insecurity made me not go. Reflecting on this moment makes me so worried that all the professional avenues for support simply make it worse for confused people.
What changed was I went off to college felt like a new person for a while got a girlfriend and it all went to the back of my mind. Amazing freshman year stellar confidence all the issues go to the back of my mind. It was like it was all over, huge weekly impact on my life was lifted from me. But then my relationship started going south in ways that hurt my sexual confidence. Just like that self image deteriorated and escapism came back while I was insecure and I indulged in the cycle again as the relationship died. Breakup happened, which was good, and despite a minor good period of confidence bad-hookups wrecked my sexual confidence again. The whole escapism aspect of it was so key in hindsight, feeling bad at being a guy and that it would be easier being a girl was huge. From bottoming out there I took it upon myself to face my insecurities and understand why I fed them and let them persist.
It took me until I was 21 to finally understand what I was doing to myself. What saved me was realizing that my depressive cycles led me to this escapism and dsymorphia, that I fueled my own dsymorphia with porn that reinforced it, building stable sexual confidence through comfortable confidence boosting hook-ups, and realizing it was a fetish built on insecurity and not an identity. Productive conversations with an amazing therapist that helped me unpack it all really cemented the progress I made. In the end I had to decide to be better. Cutting out behavior that reinforced it while building self confidence through exercise and a healthy relationship has led me to the clearest and happiest era of my life so far.
I found this post interesting because I saw a lot of parallels to my own story. He developed a fantasy that living as girl would be easier because he could escape from the pressures of being a man. This fantasy was connected to his self-confidence. Whether the fantasy is realistic or not, the pressures on young men to perform are very real. His fantasies got stronger during periods he was having difficulty with relationships and life and diminished during periods he was having success. The fantasies became sexualized at puberty, but existed prior to puberty.
However, he found a therapist who helped him to unpack everything, stopped engaging in behavior that reinforced his fantasies, and promoted healthy behavior like exercise and building relationships.
I think this was what I really needed at the time I was struggling with my gender, and I think there are people that could benefit from this approach. This man is still young and what will happen in the future is unknown. I suspect the fantasies might come back again for him, but ideally they can be managed in the same way if that comes up.