Sometimes Gender Transition is Joyous, So Let’s Talk About Gender Euphoria as Much as We Do Dysphoria

A lot of the time when people discuss gender transition, be it trans people sharing our own stories or non trans people telling stories about us, we tend to understandably focus our narratives on the things that felt wrong that pushed us towards transition. It makes sense that we do this, stories of discomfort with ones own body, discomfort with a lived experience, or discomfort with a sense of self drive a lot of aspects of why many people initially realize transition is something they need to explore. It’s an easily digestible narrative, one which centers a pain being avoided, a situation needing to be fixed, and a situation needing to be put right.

If something hurts, you want to fix it. it’s an easy and simple way to explain why many of us transition. It’s not everyone’s story, but it’s a lot of our stories, and it is very much the narrative that is used most often to present the trans lived experience in media and pop culture today.

I know I myself have fallen into this way of talking about my transition sometimes. When I was first exploring whether gender transition was right for me, the better part of a decade ago now, a lot of what personally drove me were issues with gender dysphoria. I was uncomfortable with my facial hair development, with my Adam’s apple, with my deepening voice, and with changes to my genitals. I was uncomfortable with what my body was becoming, and many of the early years of my transition were about running away from that discomfort, trying to put it neatly back in a box.I wanted to get back to some neutral state, being okay with my body rather than hating it.

Feelings of discomfort were what initially pushed me towards transition, but years later, living my life comfortably as a woman, those are no longer the feelings I think about when I think of my transition. Today, I think a lot less about the negatives I was trying to run from, and more about the feelings of joy and elation that transitioning has brought me. Today, the story of my gender transition is a far more positive one, a story defined by Gender Euphoria.

One of the first memories I have of experiencing Gender Euphoria predates any medical treatments to change my body, and occurred pretty early during my social transition. I was out as Laura full time socially, if not yet at home or work, and I remember for the first time in my life making new friends who had never known me prior to my transition. We met as part of a cosplay meet up, some mutual friends were trying to get a full group to cosplay characters from Kingdom Hearts together, and I made several new friends who only knew me as Laura, She/Her. My existing network of friends had been really great about respecting my name and pronouns, but there was something really freeing and exciting about the knowledge that these new friends, who are still some of my best friends today, couldn’t accidentally use an old name or set of pronouns for me, because they didn’t have those old pieces of information rattling around somewhere in their head. I felt this huge wave of excitement and validation. It felt like one day this might be life, and I might just constantly be gendered and named correctly like it wasn’t a big issue. it was an exciting guiding light, at a time I was still not out full time in other areas of my life.

After having lower surgery a few years back, where I had my penis surgically altered to become a vagina, a lot of the moments that brought me huge amounts of joy were really small, seemingly mundane parts of life. One of the first things I remember being a real moment of skipping around the house excitement was, after a few months of recovery and healing, the first time I left the house in just a t-shirt and a pair of thin leggings. I didn’t have to tuck my genitals awkwardly out of the way, or layer my crotch to smooth their appearance, or wear a skirt or dress to cover my waist up. I didn’t have to spend the day worried my crotch might have a noticeable bulge I hadn’t noticed, and just freely left the house in a comfy, trendy pair of trousers without having to prepare in advance to do so. It was the first time that my new wardrobe started to feel simple and natural, and it was a hugely eye opening moment for me.

On that same note, a few months after lower surgery, I got to go swimming for the first time in years. I used to love swimming, I would take myself on a regular basis and just swim around by myself for hours, enjoying the weightless feeling of the water. I didn’t go swimming for probably sever or eight years after puberty, but transitioning gave me the confidence to return to the water, and none of my love for it had diminished. I spent an entire day swimming back and forth, a huge grin across my face. I loved how I looked in a women’s single piece swim suit, I loved getting back into the water, and I loved that something so taken away from me felt like it had been returned. I loved that my passion wasn’t in any way lessened, and I loved that I felt so free.

Similarly, after I had my tracheal shave, a procedure designed to reduce the size of my Adam’s apple, I left my house for the first time in years without wearing a scarf to hide my neck. For years and years in my early transition, I had worn scarves every single day, no matter how hot or cold, just to cover up my neckline. This was often uncomfortable, unflattering, or inconvenient. I remember getting to finally pick out an outfit with a nice neckline, and because i wasn’t having to wear a scarf, I remember suddenly feeling much more visibly seen, much less hidden away from the world. It was a really reassuring feeling, and one I still happily smile about. That single day, not needing to wear a scarf, felt like shedding a layer of armor off, and finally being less restrained.

I also vividly remember the first time i went to the shops post transition, in a baggy hoodie and tracksuit bottoms, without having shaved, yet still got gendered by staff as female. I don’t know whether it was the changes to my facial shape on hormones, or my speaking voice, or the way I carried myself, but the idea that I could leave the house without having made any effort to perfect my appearance, to play up my femininity and hide the aspects of myself that denote me as trans, was revolutionary. It got more and more common over time, eventually helping me feel confident enough to use women’s bathrooms in public when not dressed up and closely shaven. It was a real boost to my confidence, and felt like a signifier that my female identity was visible enough that people were starting to overlook other factors to acknowledge it. It was a hugely validating experience.

The first time I looked back at old pictures of myself, as recently as my late teens, and didn’t recognize the face I was looking at was a moment of huge pride, joy, and personal excitement. I still regularly look back at old photographs with glee. I’m proud of how far I have come.

Some time after lower surgery, perhaps something like six weeks later, I looked back at an old photograph of my penis, taken shortly before I had surgery, and I honestly didn’t recognize it. It felt alien, foreign, like a hazy memory. The idea that just a few short weeks prior that had been a part of my body seemed impossible, which was a hugely affirming and positive moment in my life. It barely took a few months for my brain to rewrite huge sections of my past, to pretend my prior set of genitals was nothing more than a bad dream, something impossible and strange. The moment I realized that had happened, I knew that surgery had been the right choice for me, and smiled ear to ear.

As a tall woman, at around 6ft tall, for a long time i was sort of afraid to do anything that increased my own height. I was already taller than most women around me, and I worried for a long time that anything leaning into that would just make my trans status more obvious. However, in recent months, I’ve actually found a huge amount of joy in wearing big stompy biker boots that add to my height. I’ve been learning to lean more confidently into fashion styles I’ve always looked at from the outside, trying to own them, and it has given me a brand new love for being tall. I’ll throw on skinny jeans, a leather jacket, big stompy boots, and enjoy being the tallest person in the room.

Growing up, i never really got on well at all with group or team sports. I didn’t enjoy the culture, I didn’t generally mesh well with the kinds of men who played sports competitively, and I just never considered myself a sports person. However, post transition, I ended up getting really into Roller Derby, and joining an all women’s roller derby league that played matches competitively around the country. While I was never a particularly amazing player, I really enjoyed the atmosphere, the good queer femme energy, and the culture around the sport, which made me feel comfortable sticking around and practicing until I improved.

One particularly euphoric moment playing roller derby came when I finally passed my minimum skills assessment, a series of challenges that need to be completed to move up from the newbies practice sessions up to full squad practice with the main team. When a skater graduates up to main practices, they’re assigned a more experienced skater to look after and mentor them, refereed to as a big sister / little sister relationship. As someone who had many siblings growing up, but never got reliably seen in the role of a sister, there was something really uplifting and validating about rocking up to practice every week, having my big sister welcome me as lil sis and ask how i was getting on, and it was a really special relationship that meant a lot to me.

More so even than my first swimming session, probably the most joyous experience I had swimming post transition was with that group of roller derby friends. One night after practice, they invited me to come down to the beach with them, no boys allowed, to go for a middle of the night swim in the ocean. It was freezing, but really felt like a special bonding moment. We all chatted about how practice had gone, sang songs from the little mermaid, and leaped about shrieking in the waves together. It was my first real experience feeling like this group of women I had been training with for months really enjoyed my company outside of practice, and it was a really special night to be a part of.

Lastly, a year or so back, I ended up going to a party where clothing was, to put it simply, fairly optional. For the first time probably ever in my life, I met a bunch of new people I had never met before while topless, and had a really nice night coming to love my chest. My breasts are pretty small, something fairly common for trans women relying on hormones only to promote breast growth, but after a night with them out and nobody misgendering me, I came to really love my breasts, rather than seeing them as too small, and a sign I wasn’t properly female.

While these are just a few quick personal stories off the top of my head, I would love to see more of us share more of our stories of times transition made us ecstatic, excited, happy, joyous, gleeful, and elated.

Transition narratives, by necessity, often focus on the negatives, but I’d love to see more acknowledgement of how much happiness being trans can offer us as people. I know I’m happier post transition, not just less sad, and I know I am not alone in that.

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Categories: LGBT