25 Things I Do To Make My Body Dysphoria Feel Smaller and Quieter

Before we even begin: I’m not a medically trained professional, nor am I a licensed therapist. Today I’m all curled up in my duvet cover because I haven’t been able to sleep in two days, and maybe if I was a doctor I’d find the little parts of me that aren’t working and fix them so I could get out of bed. Unfortunately I’m just a kid with a binder and a lot of pronouns, and the world seems like a whole lotta sharp edges right now.

If you’ve never had body dysphoria, let me explain a little bit about how it makes me feel and why I have it. Body dysphoria feels like the worst-fitting outfit you’ve ever put together, but you can never take it off. Or sometimes it’s more like a pebble in your shoe, or a belt that digs into your side, or a tiny thing that is just noticeable enough to throw your day off. Some days I wake up and it’s just there. Some days it’s because I tried to fit my not-so-masculine body into my masculine clothes, and the parts that didn’t fit made me want to scream and disappear and puke up all my guts at the same time. It can grow into a scary place where I don’t know if my body belongs to me, and I feel like I’ve been detached from something essential and am about to wash out to sea. Maybe a picture makes me hate and fear the body I don’t have because it’s not the body I wish I had. Maybe I think that the someone I desire won’t desire me because I don’t look like all the handsome cisgendered men they probably grew up loving. Maybe it doesn’t make sense why I feel these things, but I still feel them and they still hurt, darn it.

My gender identity is a very slippery thing. I identify as queer in terms of sexuality and in terms of gender. I use “she”, and I don’t mind when people assume “she” because I have had the experience of girlhood and it’s an intrinsic part of who I am. I also use “they” because that same girlhood is something I found didn’t quite fit the being I became once I learned how to desire and exist and shove a fist at the world. I actually go by Kade, too, something Autostraddle may not know about me. You can call me either – I like being both! Most of the time, my gender is cocky grins and loaded statements and the smell of leather and balsam. I’m usually wearing a binder. The strands of stuff that make me up decided not to give me very much in the tits department, which was a curse until I was thirteen and realized I like it much better that way. The same bits and pieces of DNA decided I’d get child-bearing hips, though, and then added a smack of irony by making me PCOS-rated infertile. Those hips have made me cry in menswear dressing rooms across the Northeast. And if you’ve read my earlier pieces, you know I’m a masculine-presenting survivor who has a soft spot for femmes, and wrestles with all the complicated things that come with it.

On the days like today when I’m struggling under dysphoria and anxiety and a whole range of things that are tied to those words by tight red strings, it’s hard to remember that I am a person who deserves to take care of their wonderful self. Here are some self-care regiments that work for me. They might work for you, too, or you might have your own. I recommend making a list you can tape to your mirror or the inside of your favorite book so you don’t forget in the worst moments. Here are 25 things that might get you started.

1. Watch episodes of The X-Files because bodies can be alien, time-traveling, or capable of transforming themselves at will. Imagine your body as a slimy sacred thing that has come from another corner of the universe to save the world, even if it feels icky at times. Imagine Dana Scully having to examine said body, and then you make out.

2. Meditate until you forget you are inside of a body, or until your body becomes a welcome home.

3. Drink a glass of water and concentrate on what it feels like to have water in your mouth, running down the back of your throat and into your stomach. Make sure the water’s really cold so you can feel it. Pretend the water is someone’s love for you, and you can feel it going all the way in and making things clearer and better.

4. Take deep and long breaths like you’re inhaling smoke.

5. Run hard. Run until you’re sweating profusely, and the pain of your muscles has grown louder than the pain of having a body.

6. Go to a shelter and talk to all the animals.

7. Buy a fish who can listen when you’re not able to go to the shelter. Name it after your celebrity crush.

8. Talk to people who love you so they can remind you that you’re okay, and perfect, and allowed to feel this way. Everything they say is true! Please listen to them even when you tell yourself you don’t deserve to be the things they say you are.

9. Find a candle that smells incredible and burn it next to your bed. That way if you’re not getting out of bed today, you’ve got something really lovely to enjoy.

10. If you can leave your house, try to find a busy place like a park or a street with lots of shopping. Sit down and listen to the people around you. Listen to their little conversations, the things that are important to them or not important to them. If you’re anxious about that, bring a book or a phone so you feel a little more comfortable. When you’ve immersed yourself in other people for a while, you’ll find it a little easier to stand up and walk back into yourself.

11. Call or text or write a letter to your best friend.

12. Listen to the sexiest song you know and think about good things you would do while listening to that song. Or, listen to the happiest song you know and watch youtube videos of other people dancing to it. Make a mix that includes that song and send it to someone you really care about a whole lot. Sometimes sexiness or happiness are the best ways of forgetting dysphoria because you’re reminded, oh! I have a body that can do amazing things to another body, and oh! I have a body that can feel immense joy just from seeing a kitten!

13. Watch every ABCFamily Original Movie on Netflix Instant. They are all there, I swear.

14. Read the book that speaks to you more than any other book. See? You are not ever alone.

15. Cook something delicious. If you don’t feel like eating, bring it to your friend like a little offering. Smell and taste everything while you are cooking. Let your body be a house for the best possible sensations.

16. Use up all that leftover glitter to make crafts. It’s never too early to make valentines, you know.

17. Kiss people.

18. Order takeout! If you can’t afford takeout this month, find the most delicious thing in your fridge and consume it for dinner.

19. Modify your body on your own terms. Dye your hair, bleach your eyebrows, get something pierced. Have your friend come over and do a stick and poke. Or get that money you’ve saved up and go to a tattoo parlor. Temporary tattoos with Disney characters make a great half-sleeve, too.

20. Buy the fancy wine this time. Because why not?

21. Don’t answer calls from people who make you stressed. Don’t answer calls at all, if you want. Turn off your phone and play some music.

22. If you have a bit of spending money, buy yourself a present. You deserve that new harness or that neat little gadget.

23. Bedazzle your binder.

24. This is so important. So important. Put on your favorite outfit. You know the one. The one that makes you feel like one gazillion bucks. The one you want to wear for every webcam selfie. The one you wear when you know you look flawless. Wear that outfit even if you’re not going to leave your house today. Wear it to clean your kichen, or sit on your couch, or hang out with your pet. Take a picture of yourself in that outfit. Post it to tumblr or your facebook or your blog! Your followers and friends think you’re the cutest. You ARE the cutest.

25. Look at this little doodle by Marc Johns.


Special Note: Autostraddle’s “First Person” personal essays do not necessarily reflect the ideals of Autostraddle or its editors, nor do any First Person writers intend to speak on behalf of anyone other than themselves. First Person writers are simply speaking honestly from their own hearts.

Avatar of Kate

Hard-lovin' butch made of tears, sweat, and spit, in that order. Professional lonesome polecat. Kate is living proof that you can take the hillperson out of the mountains, but she's still probably going to run back to the mountains anyway. Kate prefers the trashy to the classy, and the tender to everything else. Full-time writer, part-time lover. Heart got so big and soggy that she had to cut off all her sleeves.

Kate has written 124 articles for us.

119 Comments

  1. Thumb up 13

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    Oh god. Thank you so much. I’m going to print this out and highlight bits and scrawl my own additions and maybe even add some glitter.

    Also, these lines really resonated with me:

    ‘maybe if I was a doctor I’d find the little parts of me that aren’t working and fix them so I could get out of bed. Unfortunately I’m just a kid with a binder and a lot of pronouns, and the world seems like a whole lotta sharp edges right now … Body dysphoria feels like the worst-fitting outfit you’ve ever put together, but you can never take it off.’

    I feel a little better right now and a little less alone. :)

  2. Thumb up 9

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    This made my day. I’ve dealt with a lot of dysphoria (maybe because I am trans) and no matter how much you do or don’t do to your body to help ease the pain there are so many days that you just feel like crap. Thank you so much for these ideas. In the past I’ve just thrown myself into a project or something but at the end of the day the dysphoria returns even worse because I still see myself as a guy :( Other times I don’t notice it at all and when I realize I’ve not been stressing I just feel great.

  3. Thumb up 6

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    So much of this list overlaps with how I deal with dysphoria as well (especially running – I live for that moment when the only thing you can think about is putting one foot in front of the other). What also helps me (your mileage may totally vary):
    1. climbing things (trees, bunk beds) or going to the top of buildings (I dunno, some combination of being able to better focus on the world around me and being far enough away from everyone else that I feel like nobody else can tell how wrong I feel).
    2. people watching (wondering if any of them have ever felt the way I feel, thinking about how every person you see has a life you know nothing about).
    3. random acts of kindness (going to park and picking up trash or sending an email full of love to someone I miss – something that I know makes the rest of the world a better place, even if my head isn’t really ready to see it yet).
    4. really anything that requires me to focus intently on someone else (work, tutoring, video calls, belaying someone while rock climbing – anything that takes up my attention so thoroughly that even though the feelings don’t necessarily improve, I don’t have the option of spiraling into more feelings).

    and of course,
    5. chocolate. I’m still convinced that chocolate makes everything better.

  4. Thumb up 6

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    you are the best, ever. once again you can say it all just like it is kate! i feel so good after reading this. thank you =]

    “Run until you’re sweating profusely, and the pain of your muscles has grown louder than the pain of having a body.”

    -> i know this exactly omg

  5. Thumb up 3

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    Wow, I really needed this. I often get little panic attacks of intense dysphoria while I’m trying to go to sleep, and it just makes everything so hard. Being a senior typically means worrying and stressing about college stuff, but it’s 10x worse when you have to worry about getting your name changed and how that effects everything involved with college. I mean how can you get the strength to put your birth name on an appliction when you know you have to go change it once it’s legally changed. Having to go back and re-do everything is that hardest part sometimes.

  6. Thumb up 12

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    I became a member for the first time today just to be able to thank you for what you wrote.

    “Body dysphoria feels like the worst-fitting outfit you’ve ever put together, but you can never take it off”. I couldn’t have found a better way to express the frustration of being unable to get rid of this skin that clings to you everywhere you go.

    I think your post brings us to #26 on the list: community. Find people who share the same experience and who are disposed to truly understand. So, really, thank you for sharing.

    Also, I meditated every morning for 30 minutes during 3 months, and it radically changed my relation to my body. I used to feel so out of touch with it that I had panic attacks where I could not feel myself – I thought I was disintegrating. I won’t say my mind-body connection is harmonious today, but at least those episodes have disappeared. So I recommend it to everyone.

  7. Thumb up 6

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    I never really knew how to discuss these things about my self for so long. Didn’t have the language, didn’t know if my feelings were valid, and if I should avoid trying to explain things to anyone because I thought maybe this was early 20s identity-crisis, and maybe the fact that I wasn’t so militant about gender pronouns meant that one day this would pass so I should just say nothing. But every time I am forced to use a public restroom or am misgendered, I die a little inside. Actually, perhaps one of the most beautiful days of my life was when this little old lady, probs in her late 60s referred to me as “they” and it just felt..I cannot even begin to translate these feelings and slightly teary eyes into words. But thank you, truly.

  8. Thumb up 10

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    So I’m a femme girl in love with a girl that sometimes doesn’t like me to touch certain places, and its totally cool even if I love all of her body, because its hers, obvs…how do I avoid making her feel more dysphoric/make her feel awesome and in command of her body?

    • Thumb up 6

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      I don’t know if this will help but as a particularly body-sensitive person the only thing that helps me is asking. I love love love when my partner asks if they can touch certain parts of me that are typically problematic. And definitely not in a sexy way but just a simple: “hey can I touch your _____?” And if the answer is no, it’s a no and there’s nothing but therapy that’s going to make that part touchable that day or anytime soon. But the asking works for me. It helps me see (most days) that now I get to choose who does and doesn’t touch my body.

    • Thumb up 10

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      lisa is super right. COMMUNICATION! and let her tell you what she wants. she’ll feel in control and in command if you’re letting her call the shots about her body and what the two of you can and cannot do with it. and if you’re already prioritizing her safety and comfort in this matter, you’re a super amazing catch of a gal who should be spun around and kissed hard.

      for anyone who is dysphoric and not sure how to communicate that to partners, whether they are new or longterm or a one night thing: i find that being the kind of person who lays down REALLY BIG HINTS before we get to the down and dirty helps a lot. aka i’m lining up the conversation with the fact that i’m a top, and i’m a stone top the first time, and i get off on getting them off and what i really really want to do is touch and be touched but not fucked. that gets most of my facts out while we’re still flirting and it’s not as awkward when it does become physical and we already know what the other wants.

    • Thumb up 2

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      It’s definitely important to respect your boo and what body parts she’s not comfortable with, but you can also find out what parts your girl LOVES to be touched and really pay attention to that. Like my chest is a no-go area, but when my gf kisses my neck/ears…*unf*.

      Also checking in over time is important; it might be okay to touch somewhere on one day, but the next her feelings/dysphoria could change and that same area might be off limits. So asking can ensure you don’t accidentally assume something’s okay, and make her uncomfortable.

    • Thumb up 5

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      All of what they said! Communication really is key. The fact that you’re trying to make your partner comfortable means you’re already wonderful. Speaking as someone who has a partner who doesn’t necessarily identify as female (and never, ever, ever lets girls fuck her, ever) I can totally understand how you feel. Never having been in that kind of situation before can be a little confusing and discouraging, but if you do things the right way, you’ll both end up learning and growing from the experience.

      Also, keep in mind that some tops have never even considered the idea of being a bottom before, let alone tried it, and they may never want to. However, they might also just be nervous or discouraged from past experiences and don’t want to make themselves vulnerable in that way. The only way you can really know is to talk about it and keep talking about it so that you’re always on the same page. Good luck! :)

    • Thumb up 5

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      20yrs ago when my partner and I started dating, we didn’t have ANY words to describe the feelings she was feeling about her MOC way of being and the way she sees herself and her body. Although there are more words today (MOC being one of them, for example), I don’t think it makes the struggle any easier really. Anyway…

      I wanted to say that although it is important to “respect your boo” as someone said above, it is also really important to be real and honest with yourself and your sexual needs and desires. My partner is a stone top. I knew that from day one and 90 percent of the time over the past 20yrs, it is exicting and sexaully satisfying. However, there are times when I do get frustrated because there are parts of her body I just don’t know. I will never know. I sometimes I DO WANT to know them. For me. I want to have that feeling of fucking someone the way my partner fucks me. And so that means communicating and sharing and being respectful of both in the relationship even if I never would ever act on the 10 percent of my feelings.

      Finally, I want to say that time does help. I don’t to imply that body dysphoria is a phase…but I mean it to say that I’ve seen my partner only grow in confidence and self love over time as she has aged. She is who she is. And her confidence and self love has been contagious – I’ve watched close family members deepen in their total acceptance of her as this beautiful mix of a masculine-woman-who-is-called-sir-constantly-and-its-all-okay.

  9. Thumb up 2

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    this list is helpful for all of the days and all of the feelings. i literally am going to write it all out longhand in a little journal i just bought (see #22, buy yourself a present. i actually didn’t have spending money but it was only $2 and pretty, so).

  10. Thumb up 4

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    tw: anxiety // even though I don’t get dysphoric, I hope it’s okay that I still think this is an amazing list for other things. I have really bad anxiety problems and when I start to have a panic attack it is the most terrible feeling. I have my own list of stuff that helps calm me down, but it’s always great to figure out new ways and I think some of these might help. so, thank you.

    • Thumb up 15

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      i have really bad anxiety, too! like panic attacks and anxiety attacks and avoiding normal everyday things to be a functioning human being! i am going to write an article soon on being a socially anxious queer and fill it with lists and tips and things like that. much love from a fellow lil anxious queer.

      • Thumb up 0

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        yay for little anxious queers :) and I know that feel. or rather, all of those feels. hah. anyway that sounds like an excellent article and I look forward to reading it!

      • Thumb up 2

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        yes yes yes. i cannot wait for this article from you.

        also, goddamn, i have to say, i so admire the way you’ve put your life out there, with the survivor article and this one and the forthcoming anxiety article and everything.
        and everyone commenting on these articles? i mean, i knew i wasn’t the only queer who felt these things, but knowing that there are so many of you, all right here, who feel these things too…there’s something there. something big. and i just want to thank all of y’all for all of this. it’s a big deal.

  11. Thumb up 1

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    Ok, let’s try that again! What I MEANT to say was #3, 6, 15, 21 and 25 hit all the right bells on the pinball machine. So relate-able, no matter what skin you’re in, no matter what you identify as, and just plain beautifully, poetically said. I’d tell you that you’re a talented, gifted writer, but its not necessary… look at all these readers writing to thank you! Just another thing that looks good on ya. :)

  12. Thumb up 8

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    #8 I always need to talk. It’s just a thing I need to do.
    #14 I finally found an Andrea Gibson book after looking for days throughout SF. It has REALLY helped me.
    #24 A-Campers, you know what outfit I’m talking about!

    To my detriment, however, I do not practice self-care when I should, and I derail myself more often than is healthy. It doesn’t help that the people I see everyday (at home and work) are not supportive either. Kate, thank you for the gentle reminder.

  13. Thumb up 14

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    As a cisgender queer girl who happened to date a trans* man, this made me cry.

    I had conversations with him about his transition and he had much difficulty in explaining to me how it *feels* to have body dysphoria. Even after reading many articles and books and websites and blogs and tumblrs and anything else I could find to try and truly understand what it meant for a soul, a spirit, a being to be in the wrong body – all I could do was hold him.

    I think this made me cry because the beauty of the simple, amazing, wonderful list that you have made stems out of such a deep, deep place within.

    Thank you, Kate, for being such a strong person and sharing such personal stories.

    It is these personal stories that change the world.

    Also, I have a huge crush on you.

  14. Thumb up 11

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    Oh Autostraddle, always so uncannily timely. It’s 4:30 AM and I just spent the last two hours writhing and crying in my bed, I finally get up to smoke a cig and come here to change my mind, and boom – this article!
    I’ve had a lot of unpleasant stuff clogging up my mind lately, body dysphoria and gender shit being a good part of them, and I definitely needed advice/reminders on coping mechanisms that aren’t self-destructive. Maybe if I’d read this just a tiny bit earlier I would’ve tried one of those tricks instead of gulping down the cough syrup upon getting up lol – oh well! I think I’m gonna follow another commenter’s advice and buy a notebook to copy all of this list down in it.

    Also, I now feel inspired to maybe take that first step I’ve been thinking about a lot lately and go legally change my name :) .
    It’s not that much of a big deal since I’ll just change the spelling to the male version and it’ll still sound the same, and I recently realized I’ve even altered my signature to that name for a few years now, but it’s still so scary. But now that I’ve been reminded that I can take care of myself and I have somewhere to go where I’m not alone – here (even if it’s just online), I feel like I can handle it.

    Ok I know I’m going to regret posting this in a few hours so I’ll click submit now before I delete everything.

    • Thumb up 7

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      hey GV, just wanted to say I know what it’s like to stay up late feeling shitty and self-doubting…gender questioning and dysphoria fucking suck and can become this huge shadowy heavy cloud that takes over your life and makes you feel small and stupid, but. Just know this:

      It’s not everything. You are still a good person with good qualities and it doesn’t matter what name or pronouns you go by, what you wear or look like. You are so much more than this.

      It’s not forever. Though things always seem their darkest at 4:30 am and though gender feels like this war and your body and mind are the battlefield and sometimes also the casualties, it doesn’t have to always be like this. Changing your name could help, as could talking to someone, seeking out other gender-questioning folks in your community or online, or even something as simple as buying those men’s briefs you’ve always wanted to wear.

      And you’re not alone. You’re here, aren’t you? That’s a start. And I promise, you’re not the only one who’s felt like this.

  15. Thumb up 4

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    in my own arsenal of dysphoria-fighting tricks:
    -watching My Drunk Kitchen videos
    -attempting to re-enact My Drunk Kitchen recipes, albeit with slightly less drinking
    -DOCTOR WHO (works the same as your X-files-watching, I think) and Firefly (nothing in the verse can stop me)
    -doing arm curls and crunches so I can feel my body, in a positive way
    -hanging out with my roommate’s kitten, and/or looking at pictures of internet kittens
    -cuddling with my boo

  16. Thumb up 20

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    This is why I come to autostraddle. There are few queer/women aligned locations that I feel welcome as a Trans*feminine person and this site is easily the best.

    To find something sympathetic to dysphoric people is good, finding something that is authentic to some of the worst parts of the experience is great and then realizing that the comment stream supports and accepts it…
    Well that’s just magic.

    Thank you.

  17. Thumb up 1

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    KATE I love your articles and follow you on tumblr so I don’t understand why we’re not best friends yet. My struggle with my body has been a long and hard one. It’s a struggle that carries over into every fucking aspect of your life. As someone who has dealt with disordered eating and a veritable smattering of body issues, this article was a necessary read. Thank you <3

  18. Thumb up 2

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    A few thoughts:

    1) I really appreciate articles such as this. I am fresh to the world of dating queers, and a few months ago I was getting intimate for the first time with a lady and couldn’t understand why she didn’t want me to touch her chest. There was no communication other than some general weirdness from her and just a pushing away of the hands. I was pretty upset over the encounter – again, I had nothing to compare it to, and I didn’t understand what I had done wrong. Now I understand that communication from both partners is really important before even stepping into a bedroom.

    2) As someone with other sorts of self esteem problems, I find that I feel so much better about myself after I have a self created orgasm. I know that absolutely wouldn’t work for everyone, but for me it really helps. My list looks something like:
    1. Buffy
    2. Masturbate
    3. Look at illustrations by the amazing Phoebe Wahl (her “Practice Radical Self Love” is my favorite. Google her, you’ll like her too)

  19. Thumb up 1

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    I needed this. Thank you my fellow Kate. Also how did you come across “Kade”? I have been trying to come up with a more gender neutral name to go by for a while. I like Kade, keeps the hard “K” and “a” sounds, which is my favorite part of the name “Kate”

    • Thumb up 9

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      when people used to say to me “what would your masculine name be?” i would very stubbornly say “KATE!” because i feel that masculine and feminine are things i can decide for myself and if i say kate is a masculine name then damn it, it is

      but the thing about being recognized as queer means that sometimes you need indicators, and sometimes you get really sick of explaining your queerness to someone who doubts it because your name is female-associated

      plus renaming the self is kind of beautiful and healing

      i love my given name a whole lot because of the way it feels in my mouth. i wanted something so similar that it could be a subtle way of hiding queerness in difficult situations, aka having a close friend call me kade in front of my parents or someone i’m not out to and have them not notice because it sounds so similar. had to be a “d” because i’ve got a few hard and rough edges to acknowledge, right? you might think about a name like kai, very lovely with its airiness and openness at the end, makes me think of water and things that can easily flow from one space to the other.

      • Thumb up 1

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        “i love my given name a whole lot because of the way it feels in my mouth.” exactly this

        and thanks! Kai is a great suggestion! “Things that can easily flow from one space the other” sounds about right. I also came up with Kato. Although currently that name is associated with the Hunger Games character for me.

  20. Thumb up 5

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    The title of this post caught my attention because I realized I didn’t really understand what body dysphoria was before reading this. This is terribly ironic because I have it. I’ve always had it and I’ve never tried to deal with it because I let it dictate my life everyday. I never realized there was a name for it and a whole lot of research behind it. I never knew how to explain myself to my friends when I felt like my stomach had twisted itself inside out and I just wanted to stay home and never go outside ever again. I never understood how I could feel so proud to dress like a queer one moment and so terribly wrong the next. I never understood that this feeling I get daily has basis in reality, not just in my head, and that I can fight back. Thank you for sharing another amazing and personal post, Kate. This one hit home.

  21. Thumb up 1

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    I think what’s awesome about this post is that it helps everyone; even though Im a femme cis girl it made me aware of things I hadn’t really considered about how other people might feel about their bodies, and reminded me to never assume anything about anyone and approach people with an open mind.

    Also I’ve been overweight my whole life and though its not the same thing, some of my feelings about that and how I deal with them overlap with this.

  22. Thumb up 0

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    You have such a lovely voice and an amazing way of explaining emotionally complicated things. Feeling, like surely so many others here, a crush coming up. Oh dear. I have my puppy to my right and honey toast to my left and feel so much better after reading this. You`re a star, please write more. Also we should make a special on anxiety proof jobs. Maybe a series on how to support yourself working from home in the night or whenever it works so we all don`t have to have shitty day jobs anymore.

  23. Thumb up 1

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    “It can grow into a scary place where I don’t know if my body belongs to me, and I feel like I’ve been detached from something essential and am about to wash out to sea.”

    This is a wonderful description of such an intangible and awful feeling. For me transition and hormone therapy have vastly improved my relationship with my body and helped to alleviate my body dysphoria to a degree, but I still have too frequent days when it consumes me. Thank you for sharing this Kate. And echoing the comments above – thank you Autostraddle and this community for being so welcoming! This post and all of the comments are wonderful on a day when I can really use it.

  24. Thumb up 7

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    This was such a beautiful and positive approach to such an unpleasant experience. I really needed it this morning for a number of reasons.
    I’m a trans girl, and even a year and a half into estrogen every little thing about my body still seems to bother me, and it’s so difficult to explain to most cis- friends, or even some trans* friends, without either failing to get the message across or seeming shallow. I hate the fact that, whenever I say that windy days or bad hair days frighten me because they show off my high hairline and very male-looking forehead, people tell me “your hair looks fine” and get confused when I tell them it’s not about how my hair looks. I hate my stupid heavy chin and prominent brow bone; even if some celebrity has a chin or brow vaguely like that, it’s not hard to see how the constellation of their other features makes it different for them.
    It seems like it’s been getting more intense lately. My therapist thinks, and I tend to agree, that I’m still in the process of mourning the life, body, and girlhood I never had, and in many ways can’t ever have. “Never” is a hard concept for my mind to choke down, but I’m working on it. It still stings the hardest when conversations about healthy cissexual bodies are going on and I have nothing to add to it but pointless whining. It seems like my worst days are also “every cis-woman in the universe: talk about how annoying your period is” day, and I really have no clue or example of how to cope with that, especially since I think such conversations are totally legitimate and desperately need to be had in public spaces in this male-centric society.
    Anyway, whining over. I’m going to take the suggestion to burn a scented candle next to my bed and try to shrug this day off as best I can. Thanks again for writing this!

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      It kills me that I never had a girlhood – a trans girlhood maybe – but not the girlhood I needed and wanted. It’s important to mourn and make peace with yourself. I am doing the same and trying not to focus on the parts of my body glare at me from the mirror when I let myself see them, but instead on the aspects of my body that are feeling more and more right. I also run and dance a lot. There’s something about feeling my body move that helps me to like being in here more.

      BTW, I don’t know about you but I am sick to death of hearing, “But Angelina Jolie has a strong jaw!” If I looked like Angelina Jolie then it would be OK, but I’m just trying to not look like John Voight!

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        Yeah, I’m totally sick of hearing stuff like that. It’s like: there’s this concept of the “whole package,” y’know?

        And it’s awesome that you dance! Every time I try it reminds me how out of synch I am with this stupid meatsack, and I get embarrassed and stop. Sounds like a good idea in general though!

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          I’m sure that I look like an idiot but it feels good and I’m having fun! Just tell people that you’re dancing to the beat of your own accordion…

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    Today is one of those days. Nothing is working out, y’know, and everything’s bothering me – and an email from my teacher to my french class beginning with “salut les filles” is threatening to make me cry because, ugh that’s not right either. And I don’t know exactly what would be right. But this post was so lovely, the start just put this all so perfectly into words. “Body dysphoria feels like the worst-fitting outfit you’ve ever put together, but you can never take it off,” is everything I’ve never been able to describe properly.

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    I’m really glad this voice is getting out there on a website that is generally queer girl oriented, and while this may be the case, clearly from the comments there are a lot of readers that identify as genderqueer/trans*. And considering this particular article is all about gender dysphoria, I was surprised to see the special note at the bottom of the article: ‘Autostraddle’s “First Person” column exists for individual queer ladies to tell their own personal stories and share compelling experiences.’ Really, “ladies”? How about just “individual queers”, so as not to further label the writers and commenters on the articles as something that doesn’t sit well with them?

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    I so wish you and your brilliance had been around when I was a baby gay of 13 years old and absolutely loathing my female body.
    But I’m so grateful you’re around now, and speaking words of excellence like referencing the curse of childbearing hips in relation to “menswear” and the benefits of objectifying sexy songs. My quietly dysphoric usually-femme-presenting self loves this.
    Love all of this. Love you. Thank you.

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    thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you

    but seriously

    thank you

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    Thanks so much for writing this, Kade! This list is so so so helpful. As a masculine-identified super-sensitive, emotional, anxious queer, I can relate to this list big time. Also thanks to other commenters for giving some insight into how to talk to partners about these things, and also for giving perceptions of dysphoria from the point of view of someone who doesn’t experience it. I often have trouble explaining it and think that people think I’m exaggerating or sensationalizing it to make it seem worse than it is, so it helps to hear other people’s thoughts on it. This article has also made me realize that it’s okay to watch five X-Files episodes a day and that I should probably try to breathe a little deeper.

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    A) this/you are fucking awsome
    and (triggor warning) does anyone have any advice for a trans* persome who suffers from an eating disorder which gets tangled in with their gender id and makes everything much worse (sorry for the grammer/spelling im drunk/tired/at a bad point mentally)

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      Therapy. Therapy therapy therapy.

      Additionally- Eat things that taste amazing And fun to cook- make the experience of making the food the center of the meal so you don’t have to think about the eating
      (kale with garlic and oo is my favorite) Cook for someone. Wear your favorite outfit for the meal.

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    -netflix watch instant – cave of forgotten dreams (a documentary about these paintings in these caves in france, it’s fuckin spectacular)

    i’m filing this post away so i have it for later. thanks so much for writing this.

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    Thank you, it’s strange cause I feel all these things and then I have to go to school (I’m not out) and being there makes it feel like none of my queerness is real, something about it doesn’t fit with how my life is everywhere outside of my head.
    Anyway I’m confused about a lot of things a lot of the time and it’s essays like this that are the only thing that can ground me and make it all feel like a real, strong thing.
    And I know how completely incoherent this is, but all I mean is that you have words that are making things feel right for me, and I really can’t thank you enough.

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    oh god- i have to admit i cringed when i saw that you advise people to get a stick and poke tattoo. this is actually pretty dangerous. you open yourself up to infections like staph, mrsa, and there is potential to transmit hepatitis. there is no way to do a clean stick and poke so please please don’t :( i work in a tattoo shop and see way too many disasters so please, please, respect yourself and your body and don’t.

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      oh man, so i have two stick and poke tattoos that i gave myself, and i love them and i’m glad they’re there, and they both came at moments of self-care, but yes! professionals are always telling me that it was an awful move. i think i stuck that in there because they were really integral to my self-healing. it’s funny because i almost suggested smoking or smoking something, but thought “oh but that’s a health concern people might not like” without even thinking about the stick and poke! so thank you for pointing that out! you’re totally right, it can be a stupid/unhealthy move, and i should probably go back in and edit that.

      and yeah, from now on i’m going to actual tattoo artists, even if i’m stubbornly proud of my little stick and pokes. i was going to do a whole bunch based on the second one, but i’ve decided to definitely go to a real artist for them because i reach all the places and also infection.

      i have had mrsa, too! i was so stupid when i had mrsa that i actually went and got a new piercing. while i had mrsa. the doctor almost punched me in the face re: my stupidity. if that gives you an idea of the kind of stupidity i am capable of, hehe :)

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        i have been rolling on the ground because i feel like this comment was a mean comment on my part. so please don’t think i’m mean! a stick and poke on yourself is not illegal, at least in the state i live in, it’s just unsafe. that being said, it’s a choice you made, it’s your body, and it’s another way to claim ownership of your body.

        i don’t want to be the gay police or whatever. so know that nothing that i said was meant to be malicious! <3

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    Kate, this article and the survivor article were the bomb-diggity. Deep, beautiful, powerful stuff. Thankyou so much for your honesty and your wonderfully constructed sentences and for discussing things that are not discussed enough. Thank you for articulating the hard-to-articulate so very well.

    Also, that photo of you in the sweater post is ridic cute!

    Lots of wins for Kate and for Kade. I look forward to reading more of your articles!

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    I absolutely loved this! I’m a somewhat androgynous cis woman who struggled with EDNOS for 10 years. As someone who is both slightly on the queer spectrum and who has a poor body image, this was incredibly helpful. Some days I’m just fine, some days I mourn the boobs I lost when I lost weight, and some days I want to bind everything. Since I also have a chronic stomach condition, I get tired of reading all the “love your body! it can do so many great things!” crap, because mine can’t do a lot of those things. I adore this list because your suggestions can help me appreciate the body I have. Thanks for not being ableist, and generally for being awesome :)

    I do have to second fynnie and say DON’T get stick and poke tattoos!! I understand wanting to decorate yourself and not having the money, but it’s just not worth the risk of infection. Furthermore, you risk having a shitty tattoo on you permanently! A temporary Disney sleeve sounds like a much better option.

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    i’ve been reading through a lot of your articles, just following from one link to the next, and really enjoying your writing. i don’t think i’ve ever experienced body dysphoria, but i have a lot of anxiety over a lot of unrelated issues. all of these things have been incredibly helpful- THANK YOU.

  37. Pingback: This is an appreciation post for Kate from Autostraddle | Garbanzo Guerrilla

  38. Pingback: Five ways to make yourself feel better | Velociriot!

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    I second heartily, can we get more genderqueer, queer, and gender-neutral language on Autostraddle?

    It’s just weird that the website is “girl on girl” culture, when clearly tons of the folks on here date transppl, or are trans, or are genderqueer…I feel like the constant “girl” language tends to erase that queer potential and openness, at least for me.

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    I love making characters in video games, especially Fallout 3 and New Vegas. I get to focus on something other than me, and think about all the million ways to be, even within the narrow stylized confines of video game designer’s minds. I can become a burly woman glowing in the sun or a lean waif rocking an awesome mustache or an awkward boi who everyone calls “he”, and then I can become someone totally different with the click of a button.

    Also, I just found this website today and I love that it doesn’t ignore lesbianism just because we are more than that label. I get super-frustrated when women are expected to erase their womanhood if that is not all they are.

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    Just found this, love this so much. I identify as “dapper femme” and genderqueer, I also don’t correct people who call me “she” but prefer “they” when asked. Thankfully though, I don’t often experience body dysphoria due to gender. I have though recovered from a decade+ long battle with body dysmorphic disorder and eating disorders. BDD is so so hard to explain to people. At my worst points I literally didn’t recognize myself in mirrors, then would cry when I realized that was me because the reflection was actually way better than the image in my head and the image I normally see when I would consciously face a mirror. Even when it wasn’t that extreme, it was a constant feeling of “not right” because I never trusted my eyes and brain to tell me what was true about my body. The worst. This post has a lot of great suggestions. LOVE the meditating, drinking water, and running. Things that connect you to your body without it being about IMAGE.

  42. Pingback: 2 Year Transiversary | queer speak

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    I wonder if one of these 25 things could help me when I have one of my attacks! Here is something I would like share. By the way, I consider myself as gender clueless. Now, as I have been pondering this gender issue and after reading the article ( http://genderbinary.wikidot.com/dynamics-sex-gender ) posted in Chalice Brendale’s answer ( http://gendersociety.com/question/view/137/a-question-about-gender/ ), from birth to around 14 years old, I felt like I was adopted by my parents from somewhere other than the planet earth and not apart of the human species! Then from around 15 years old to around 18 years old, the being from somewhere other than earth feeling faded away. Then from around 17 years old to around 21 years old, the not feeling like a part of the human species faded away. Also, from about the age of 16 to about the age of 22, the feeling like I was adopted faded away. Finally, from about the age of 21 to about 6-8 weeks ago (when I gave up), I have been trying to find out where I fit into society especially in reference to gender!!! Also, I think the context of the fact that I have autism (the high-functioning type [a.k.a. Asperger's Syndrome]). the areas that I have that are high-functioning, they lie in the objective realms of life; the areas that are not high-functioning or they are totally screwed up, they lie in the subjective realms of life. The gender issue and the other things as stated above in my previous comment all are a part of the subjective realms as I mentioned above.

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