5 tips for working through gender dysphoria, because you deserve to live freely

Photo by Jonathan Chau on Instagram

Gender dysphoria is an unnecessary evil. But due to our culture’s viewpoint on gender, it exists. For transgender and non-binary (TGNB) people, it can seep its way into our daily life, altering our moods and our perception of ourselves. It takes a toll on our mental health, forcing us to overthink our identities and the way we present ourselves. While the hard confines of gender are slowly changing in society, TGNB people need to continue to live authentically for ourselves, our own personal needs. There is no one or easy way to combat gender dysphoria. And while we are not mental health professionals (and we are not claiming to be), here's some advice on how to make life a little easier when living with this not talked about enough issue because you deserve to live freely.

1. Confide in someone

Finding someone to trust is extremely important. We all need a friend, family member, or significant other that validates our feelings. Your thoughts and emotions are vital and having someone to support you when you’re unpacking them is necessary. It never easy to go through transformative times alone. If you feel more comfortable in group settings, joining or creating a support group can be an amazing idea. It doesn’t have to be anything “professional” per se. Even having  an informal group of people, also dealing with gender dysphoria, with whom you can comfortably discuss your experiences and exchange words of encouragement can be helpful.

2. Make small changes

Things aren’t going to drastically change, and you shouldn’t expect it to. If you were told to follow strict gender roles most of your life, it can be hard to suddenly detach yourself from them. Make sure you’re comfortable with what you’re doing. If you have never worn makeup before, a full face might be overwhelming at first. Start with something simple: a glowing blush on your cheeks or nice lip color

Clothing-wise, maybe it’s changing the type of undergarments you wear first before changing what people can physically see. Do what feels right to you and take baby steps if you have to.

3. Do things for yourself

Naturally, we want to please others, but we should please ourselves as well. While it is harder to do than say, doing things with yourself in mind, first, can be one of the most liberating feelings. If you aren’t mentally ready to do something, you are not obligated to do it. 

By not putting pressure yourself to abide by others, your mind can be cleared of influences that are telling that you can't wear a specific garment or act a certain way. Change your mindset first and your outward gender expression will follow through when you’re ready.

4. Be open to experimenting

No one is going to know what works for them without trial and inevitable error. Be open to letting yourself try new things and if they don’t work out, don’t be too hard on yourself. Having the confidence to make changes in your life comes first – that includes allowing yourself to fail. And if you don't love doing things in public for the first time, why not try it at home or somewhere you feel most at peace? Once you’re comfortable by yourself, experiment when you’re with friends, and eventually work up to being able to experiment by yourself.

5. Follow other TGNB people

 Everyone wants to be seen and heard. It’s important to feel like you’re represented regardless of your identities. While mainstream culture is still not giving us proper representation, there are plenty of TGNB you can be actively following through social media. If the ivory tower isn’t going to give proper characters or spokespeople, you have to give ourselves the recognition we deserve. 

Follow people that you feel look like you and act like you, or what you would like to be in the future. Some of our personal faves include Indya Moore from the critically acclaimed television show Pose (which you totally should watch if you aren’t), writer-activist-fashion-icon Alok Vaid-Menon, and Chella Man, an artist, fashion designer, and overall creative.

Gender dysphoria is something that sticks with you for a long time — maybe even forever. And while that’s sucks, you still deserve to live your best life. Don’t live in fear. Take your time, mentally prepare yourself, and be your authentic self. 🍒