The Comfort of Seeing Old Dysphoria

I looked through my old pictures the other day. I think the original reason was to look at the hairline of male folks in my family to get some ideas of what to expect, but I came across old photos of myself that hit me in a way I wasn’t expecting.

I looked at those old pictures of me as a teenager, awkwardly trying to negotiate (implicitly) the contradiction between my assigned gender and my feelings, and I felt so much relief. Before now, I have been going on my memory of what that implicit dysphoria felt like, and of course, the null hypothecis  comes in with its insistence that transness requires a p value of < 0.001 or something like that. I remember feeling uncomfortable about my gender, feeling like I wasn’t a girl like my peers, being more comfortable in androgynous presentation (except for the awkward questions from others), but I felt that I couldn’t trust those things.

But when I saw those old photos of myself, especially from before I decided to be more socially appropriate and girl up, I thought this time, “there’s a boy staring out at me.” I’m not so big on the “always was a [target gender],” for a number of reasons (not the least of which being that I’m a tad sick of the main narrative of transness being folks who always knew, even at 3 years or 4 years old, although it certainly is a narrative that’s easier for cis people to understand). Looking at those pictures, I saw the weird feelings about gender, the desperation to do the right thing, to finally try hard enough to be a girl like I was supposed to be.

Seeing those pictures, and seeing the dysphoria looking at me through 16 year old me’s eyes, gave me a feeling that I had correctly identified myself. It assured me that this wasn’t something that I somehow cooked up in the last year, that I hadn’t falsely found kindred experience in the stories of other trans people. In other words, “I see you, 16 year old Jon, and I finally found you in the last year.”

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