Dear Dysphoria and Dysmorphia,
The two of you are a most fiendish pair. Conspiring and working in conjunction to make me, and the hundreds of thousands of transgender women like me, feel worthless, ashamed and isolated for decades and likely even centuries. You leave a trail of ruin in your path, many times a trail that leads some to end their own lives. Your place in this world is only to tear down and destroy.
Let me start with Dysmorphia. You are a savage beast that preys on the minds of women, transgender or not, and by yourself are a massively destructive force. You mask the view that we women have of our own bodies. You convince us to ignore all that is beautiful and wonderful about our physical self. You stand over our shoulders, pointing out every possible curve, bump, or blemish that could be perceived as negative. You manipulate us into focusing on those characteristics of our bodies. You convince us that each of those characteristics is wrong, that they’re ugly, that they make us decidedly less attractive, that drastic action must be taken to rid our bodies of those so-called flaws.
Dysmorphia, the control you hold on our minds is powerful. Despite the encouraging words and affirmations of our loved-ones we still are drawn into your voice and your lies. We allow you (remember that I’ve said we “Allow” you) to take over our self-image and you become the narrative that we mistakenly trust in when we look at our bodies. Even when women decide to be strong, you fight back in cruel and unfair ways. You’ve destroyed the lives of countless women and even taken some of their lives completely. You are despicable and I truly despise you. But then, enough about you for now, let’s talk about your co-conspirator, dysphoria.
Dysphoria, you are possibly more horrendous than Dysmorphia. While Dysmorphia is un-discerning in their targets, you prey exclusively on the some of the most vulnerable women. You chose to attack the minds and hearts of those truly unfortunate women who find that their body has all the characteristics our society would classify as male. You hunt us down, you find us, you bind yourself into our existence and you stay with us.
Dysphoria, in this evil game of devastation that you two play, you are surely the more persistent and more present animal. When you dig your way into the mind of a transgender woman, you become that constant, ever-near voice in our heads reminding us that our entire body is completely “wrong”. Somehow you manipulate us into seeing that it’s a man’s body that we inhabit, yet how can that be when we are the owners of those bodies and we are women? Simply stated, you spend every waking minute convincing us that we are less than true women. That we are not really men, but we are not worthy of calling ourselves female either. That the way in which our bodies formed throughout our lives somehow defines who we are in our spirit and in our soul.
Where Dysmorphia works to twist and distort our view of our bodies, your goal is to relentlessly remind us and exaggerate the importance of the reality of our bodies. Your messages of dissonance and distress, the constant background music to our lives, seek but one objective. They strive to rob us of our happiness, to be the dark cloud that blankets any possible joyous event in our lives. Indeed your very name, dysphoria is the antonym to the word euphoria. Your narrative is one that convinces transgender women that our bodies must become something different in order for us to be real, to be authentic, to be valid. For that, you are a truly sinister and contemptible monster.
But I’ll turn my attention now to the women out there, in particular my transgender sisters. I have good news in all of this. We have the true power in this struggle. Dysmorphia and Dysphoria will always exist, but we’ve been duped into believing that they are stronger than they are. They’ve convinced us that we must submit to their narratives of self-loathing and hatred. But as I stated earlier, it is us that have allowed them to take over our self-image and as such, we have to power to no longer let that to take place.
Clearly, as women, we’ve become so conditioned to believe in the thoughts, the anxieties and the discomfort in ourselves that these forces seek to cultivate. Our own society plays upon us to help reinforce the views in our own minds that tell us we are inadequate, invalid, and unworthy. Society has in its own right, connived with these two detestable energies to drive us to obsess about what we need to change in our bodies rather than encouraging us to see and value all that is wonderful about our bodies.
It is long since time that we as women, transgender or not, take back control of the story line. It’s time that we begin to appreciate and love our bodies for what they are, not curse them for what they are not. Acknowledge that those feelings of inadequacy, discontent, and disgust that we may feel do not originate from our bodies. Rather they are the work of these dark forces buried deep in our brains. So we must work against those forces, not against our bodies.
When dysmorphia digs its snarly claws into your thoughts and entices you to focus on those things it says are flaws, instead we can choose to find the things about our bodies that we love the most and focus on those. To go further, we become truly powerful in our battle against dysmorphia when we can say, “Those are not flaws, those are wonderful aspects of my body, and it is my body and I love it.”
For the transgender sisters out there, when dysphoria wraps it’s clutches around your mind and tells you that your body is wrong and that you are less than a woman, instead you can chose to say “No, I am a woman, this is my body, and therefore it is a woman’s body”. Know that you are not any less valid because your body doesn’t fit society’s perceptions of the characteristics of what a woman’s body should be. No woman in this world achieves that image.
While, like me, you may work to change characteristics of your body to be more consistent with other women around you, don’t let that become your sole focus or obsession. There is so much that makes you amazing, so much that makes you great, so much that makes you a truly valuable woman beyond the physical aspects of your body. Don’t be fooled into believing that you do not have a right to call yourself female. Do not be swayed into viewing yourself as not complete or inadequate in any way because of your body’s physical appearance. You are strong, you are wonderful, you are incredible. Know it, own it, and make it visible to the world every day.
Finally, to the evil pair of dysmorphia and dysphoria, consider yourselves on notice. We women are taking back our minds, our spirits and our bodies. You are no longer in control. We’ve seen through your smokescreen and we know that at your core you are truly weak and cowardly. We no longer believe that we must submit to your twisted views of our reality. We are in control, we are proud, we are powerful, we are women.
Alyssa Jean Miller