So often, when we see pop culture portrayals of trans people’s lives, hear stories shared by trans people about their transitions, or accounts by the media about trans people and their transitions, those stores focus on misery and discomfort.
It makes sense why this happens. For many transgender people, a big part of what initially pushes us to realise we need to come out is experiencing Gender Dysphoria, an unpleasant feeling of disconnect between our gender assigned at birth, and our own knowledge of our lived experience. Maybe you hit puberty and start growing facial hair, or your voice drops, or you start growing breasts, and suddenly you feel uncomfortable, like the changes happening to your body are alien, are transforming you into someone you don’t want to be. All those quietly held thoughts about not being your birth assigned gender you might have grown up with suddenly have a focal point, your body is changing and you don’t like what it’s becoming.
Not every trans person experiences dysphoria, and it’s certainly not required to be valid as a trans person, but there’s a reason it gets talked about so often, and it is used as part of diagnostic criteria. It’s quite often what kicks a person from spending years thinking “It sure would be nice to be a different gender to the one I was assigned at birth” into actually deciding to make a change in who they want to live as. Gender Dysphoria is a catalyst, it lights a fire under many, and underscores the aspects of themselves they’re unhappy living with.
Transgender people all around the world today, to greater or lesser degrees, are still fighting for legal recognition of their gender status, legal protections, rights, and their safety. When it comes to explaining why you need the right to live the way you do, explaining that you feel uncomfortable with yourself, that you need to alleviate a pain deeply lodged in you, that’s easy to explain quickly and easily. Everyone has been hurt emotionally in their lives, and it’s easy to understand why you would want to take steps to avoid that discomfort.
Beyond that even, the media plays a part in that framing of the trans narrative. If you want people to feel sympathy for the trans community, explain we’re escaping dysphoria. If you want to demonise the community, tell people our dysphoria is a delusion, and shouldn’t be indulged. It can be spun differently depending who’s trying to spin it, which makes it a powerful aspect of the way trans stories are so often portrayed.
I know I myself as a trans person fall into this trap sometimes when discussing my own transition. When I wrote my memoir a few years ago, sure it touched on some positives and joyful moments, but that certainly wasn’t the focus. I wrote a lot about not fitting in growing up, about struggling to be accepted when I came out, and I wrote about the challenges I am facing in the world today. It made sense to share those parts of my story with the world, but it also got me thinking about how prevalent that narrative can be when discussing trans stories.
Over the couple of years since then, I have thought a lot about the importance of celebrating the fact that stories of transition are not all just about doom and gloom, as much as it may sometimes feel that way. I’ve experienced countless moments of elation, pride, confidence, freedom, and ecstasy as a direct result of my coming out as a trans woman the better part of a decade ago, and I know I am not alone. When I talk to my trans, non binary, agender, gender fluid, and intersex friends, I have heard countless wonderful stories about the ways that coming to terms with gender brought unimaginable happiness and love into lives.
When I said earlier that Gender Dysphoria isn’t a required part of being trans, I meant it. When I say that, sometimes people ask me how someone would know they were trans, if not for feeling uncomfortable with their body and the way they were born. And to that, I say the answer is simple. If you try presenting yourself as something other than your birth assigned gender, and it makes you feel euphoric, that’s just as valid a reason to transition as escaping dysphoria. Gender Euphoria is an equally valid reason to transition.
I’m not going to pretend that the world isn’t sometimes a bit miserable for non cisgender people. I’m not going to pretend a lot of us didn’t have a rough road to get where we are now. But, this book isn’t about that. This book is about Gender Euphoria. This book is about people doing small actions and grand gestures that made them feel radiantly themselves, and wonderfully at peace. This book is about stories of Transition as Euphoria.
Over the next 70,000 words or so, you’ll read several essays about my own experiences with Gender Euphoria throughout the past decade, but you’ll also read essays from a vast array of non cisgender writers of different orientations, backgrounds, and with a varied selection of experiences to share. Every author hand picked to contribute an essay to this anthology was selected above hundreds of other writers, because I felt they had a uniquely joyful story to tell, and was excited to help them tell that story to the world. From an Agender Dominatrix getting called Daddy, to an arab trans man getting his first tattoos in spite of cultural taboo, a non binary intersex writer not having to choose between puberties to a trans woman embracing her inner fighter, this book will take you on a journey through how coming to terms with who you are can be about more than avoiding someone you don’t want to be.
So, thank you for picking up this book. I hope you feel as overjoyed reading it as I have felt having the privilege to put it together.