Do I need dysphoria to be transgender?


Do I need dysphoria to be transgender? At present I just want to look more like the opposite gender (I know gender is a spectrum–I’m just talking about boy/girl here) and have physical attributes that the other gender has. But I don’t have dysphoria, at least how I define it as. I’m somewhat comfortable living as I do now–but I’d like to explore the ‘other side’, so to speak.
 
Sean
 

Hi Sean,
First of all, thanks for reaching out to AlterHéros with your question.
You certainly do not need dysphoria to be transgender. The idea that someone has to be experiencing dysphoria in order to be transgender comes largely from a lot of misunderstandings about trans people and society’s attempts to control how people experience and express gender.
Wanting to explore another gender, or a gender that feels like the opposite from your current one, can be a way to figure out a lot of things in terms of what feels right for you, which things feel like they ‘fit’ or not, and how you feel when you are ‘doing gender’ in a particular way. It can be interesting (and sometimes really fun!) to experiment to see what makes you feel most comfortable.
Often one of the more accessible ways for people to explore gender is through things like clothing choices, makeup, etc. However, you may also choose to use a different name and/or different pronouns as part of exploring what works best for you (though you certainly do not have to use a different name or different pronouns by any means). You might also choose to wear things that are specifically related to ‘doing gender’ such as a binder, breast forms, packer, gaff, etc. (examples here: https://www.gendergear.ca).
If you do choose to explore another gender, there’s a chance that doing so might bring up some feelings of dysphoria even if you aren’t currently experiencing such feelings. That doesn’t mean that you’re ‘wrong’ in your explorations, or that you’re ‘wrong’ about your gender, it just sometimes happens as people are figuring out gender things for themselves. That isn’t meant to at all discourage you from trying to see what feels most comfortable, but rather just as a sort of ‘heads up’ so that you can be prepared in case it does come up for you.
If you plan to ‘explore the other side,’ in a way that’s noticeable to other people (for example, based on how you dress, using different pronouns, etc.), it’s a good idea to be prepared for a wide range of possible reactions. Hopefully people will be supportive and respectful, but there is also a chance they may not all be. If possible, it’s a good idea to try and find at least one person (ideally a few people) whom you feel you can trust in terms of sharing with them your thoughts and feelings as you figure out gender things. If there is an LGBTQ youth organization where you live, and you can safely go there, that may also be a helpful option in terms of resources.
If at some point you choose to try more ‘medical options’ related to gender (like taking hormones or having some kind of surgery), it’s important to be aware that doctors, psychiatrists, etc. who authorize and provide those kinds of interventions are often looking for experiences of dysphoria as one of the signs that someone is ‘really transgender.’ That still does not make it true that you need to have dysphoria to be transgender, but it is something that the mainstream medical system believes, so if at any point you do choose to pursue such options, you may want to carefully consider how you decide to express your experiences of dysphoria (or lack thereof) to healthcare providers.
Ultimately, however, you are the only one who gets to say about your gender. There is no ‘requirement’ to be experiencing dysphoria in order to be transgender. If you aren’t currently experiencing dysphoria, then so much the better, and hopefully that means your gender explorations can be more about curiosity and creativity and finding what works for you. Good luck.
Feel free to writeback if you have any other questions and comments.
Noah, Neuro/Diversities project coordinator

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