What does gender dysphoria feel like? And is there a complementary feeling?

I was looking at the trans-athlete and trans-actuary threads, and it had me wondering: what does it feel like?

Obviously gender dysphoria can feel really, really bad, since it can lead to suicide. But is it like disgust? Shame? Embarrassment? Dread? Fear? Rejection? Foreboding?
Suffocation? What exactly?

Of course, I have heard things like “I feel like I’m a woman trapped in a man’s body” but that doesn’t quite register for me, since I’ve never felt like I was “in a body” at all, at least in the sense of gender. I guess I have felt out-of-shape in front of the mirror before, is it like that?

Do other people feel like a “man inside of a man’s body” or a “woman inside of a woman’s body”? In other words, does gender have a feeling? Or is it something you only feel when it’s off, like hunger or hot/cold?

I really have a hard time telling the degree to which I myself am an outlier, so I’m curious what the AO feels (regardless of their gender/identity/expression/state) about their own genders.

1 Like

FWIW, I can tell that I’m non-cis. I’m not into a lot of ‘guy’ activities. Most of my adult friends have been the women I’m dating. And when writing a story, playing a game, or fantasizing about sex, I choose to be a woman more often than not. But I don’t really feel anything associated with that.

I don’t know if that lack of feeling comes from my own weirdness, or just most people don’t feel anything.

1 Like

It’s very different for everyone. I can speak to my experience.

For most of my adult life, it was just mostly a background feeling that something was wrong. There were experiences that intensified the disgust, so I mostly avoid those as much as I could. I hated my reflection in the mirror, I shaved my entire body multiple times a week, I wouldn’t go shirtless even at the beach. I didn’t even really enjoy my role in sex — it felt good, but it wasn’t enjoyable if that makes any sense.

There were a few times that it was much worse. I was only suicidal from the dysphoria during high school/puberty. It felt like my body was betraying me, watching all the girls get the bodies that I prayed for every night but couldn’t have. I’m honestly surprised I survived high school. I went to college and gained 50 pounds, because I hated my body so much I just stopped taking care of it. I was extremely obese right up to this year, when I’ve lost about 80 pounds and I’m getting near a healthy weight again.

The other time it really manifested itself as depression was when my wife was pregnant and nursing our second child – I was 35 and it just hit me like a load of bricks that I would never get that experience, and it was crushing. I’d laying in bed crying after she finally fell asleep for hours. I never considered suicide during that, but likely only out of a sense of duty because I had my family that needed me.

I would have said to you that otherwise the dysphoria wasn’t strong in my life, but the 8 1/2 months since I started on estrogen have revealed to me how much happiness I denied myself over the years. The background feeling of unease/jealousy is completely gone. Every once in a while I look in a mirror and see the woman I am, and that feeling is amazing. (Too often I don’t see her, but it’s only been 8 1/2 months…) It’s one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life.


Hmm… I also don’t like my reflection, but I sort of solved that by never looking into mirrors. Anyway, thanks a lot for all the details, I really appreciate it. Especially the pregnancy thing.

1 Like

I was going to put this in a PM but may as well put it here.

MH, I recall ages ago on the AO a thread about pregnancy/kids. I made a comment that was intended to be a joke (I don’t even remember what it was. I think it was something about naming kids and that men should shut up about since they didn’t have to go through labor. Something dumb like that.)

Anyway, I recall that it really upset you. I of course had no idea why at the time.

But I want you to know that I understand now how hurtful my words were to you and I’m sorry.

I’m happy for you that you are pursuing life in a way that makes you feel authentic and seen. That’s impressive. And others are growing and learning as a result. :heart:


Not to equate anything. But in high school, this was how I felt towards having a relationship as a gay kid, having seen no real representation of any successful gay relationships on TV. I played out all the scenarios of how I would’ve lived out my life at the time. Including finding a physically appealing girl and perhaps forcing myself to have sex with her once or twice ever to get her pregnant and call it quits, marrying a lesbian and agree to never have sex with each other, and more.
This was all a lot to think about as a high school kid.

1 Like

Thanks! I don’t remember the thread, but depending on when it was I may not have even been able to explain to myself why it upset me so much. There is so much self-denial and self-loathing involved in dysphoria, that’s why I’m so adamant about giving kids a chance to be themselves to avoid the decades of uncertainty that many trans people of my generation or older have endured.


I have wondered if maybe it is especially hard for cis men (which i am) to imagine gender dysphoria because, it seems, society does not really connect our bodies to our essential selves. By this I mean that when we are out of shape, it’s mostly just our bodies that are out of shape. We aren’t going to be socially excluded from anything for it. Maybe men of color have some of that due to their skin color. But compare this to women, who in the common trope are told that they aren’t even “really women” until they have their first period (which I don’t think is a good practice btw.) Somehow their place in society depends on their bodies in this very direct way, which again is not right, but they might at least be able to use that as a starting point to try to imagine gender dysphoria.

Certainly I have a lot of trouble imagining what gender dysphoria would feel like.

As do I, as a gay man.
Though one benefit of being gay is that I have a lot more empathy and trust towards what people say about what they’re feeling. Because while I don’t comprehend what it’s like to be trans, I also know that that’s exactly how straight people feel when I tell them I’m attracted to the same sex.
The allies that are far down the cis-straight spectrum therefore are incredibly precious to me in that respect, as I often wonder if I wasn’t gay, would I have the same empathy and willingness to believe as I do now towards LGBTQ and beyond.

I think most cis people do. It’s part of what makes the anti-trans youth healthcare bills so easy to pass, because even allies don’t understand the gravity of the situation to trans kids. It’s like passing a bill that takes epi-pens away from kids with allergies until they are 18/21. Sure, maybe they’ll survive it, but if they do it will be heavily dependent on luck.

I think you’re right. The closest I can get to personally relating is that when I had cancer for the second time, I had to have my breasts, uterus and ovaries surgically removed and my hormones chemically suppressed.

I grieved the loss of parts of my body. But I never felt like I was losing anything wrt to my gender identity. My point being: Body parts aren’t what makes us male or female. And I can say that with a certainty that I couldn’t before.

1 Like

This doesn’t seem very difficult at all. At least it doesn’t seem difficult to understand that if I had to wear a female meatsuit and go through life as a woman, being what I am, that this would be a big problem in just about every way.
If you can’t see that being a problem, them IMO there’s something else going on.

I’m curious what you mean here. This is basically why I started the thread. It doesn’t seem to me like it would be a problem at all to wear a female/male suit. (though as noted, I’m not cis.)

What do you think it would feel like to you?

I’m not sure I agree with this. Middle School in particular is a hellish time for body positivity. All self confidence is destroyed and replaced with a self consciousness that lasts well into adulthood IMO. That seems to be pervasive for CIS, Trans, LGBQ, & strait. A lot of cis folks have huge problems with their body too. My friend’s wife is on her 8th or 9th plastic surgery. She has gone from being a very lovely woman in our 20’s to looking like her skin draped over a Kardashian body. She now has a huge butt, huge boobs, and a tiny tummy and waste. Her face is stretched super tight from all the Botox. I mean she looks like a caricature of herself.

I can sympathize with that being a problem. I certainly believe that it is a problem. And I can imagine it in so far as it causes suffering, and I can imagine suffering in general.

But I have a lot of trouble really understanding the experience, especially when you take out the aspect of finding a sexual partner.

Maybe to use an example: based only on my imagination from my experience, it seems like in certain ways, it would be easier as a gay man to wake up one morning as a woman, because then your sexual attraction would be accepted by society, particularly if we are living 30 years ago. And (this is where my imagination fails me, I know) what would the big deal really be after that? Now, I know it would be a very big deal. But I know that intellectually, not viscerally. Compare that to my empathy for a gay man who tries to marry a woman. In that case, I can have a visceral understanding of why he would not want to be with somebody who he was not attracted to, even though I’’m not attracted to men myself.

that’s fillers or face lifts.

botox doesn’t stretch anything.

Here’s what will truly blow your mind, if you aren’t already waist deep in the LGBT circle.
Here’s what I have personally encountered:

  1. trans man friend who was married to his wife when he was pre-op, then he came out as trans, went through surgery, and they are still happily married.
  2. straight men who only want to date/have sex with trans women
  3. straight men who only want to date girls, but enjoy sex more with men
  4. trans girl who identified as gay pre-op (as in, was in a male body and was attracted to guys), came out as trans, identified as straight (as in, now in female body and was attracted to guys), and then identified as lesbian.
  5. straight men who enjoy getting pegged by women wearing strap-ons, or taking actual d from men in the presence of their wife.
  6. straight men who enjoy having sex with drag queens, or men in wigs and panties.

the list goes on

I truly think there is someone for everyone. Only because “straight cis people” are really good at pretending to be straight and/or cis, when in reality, I think it’s really because we are missing a LOT of labels.

I think this is definitely true of women. And so I wonder if they might have an easier time imagining gender dysphoria (although no woman has agreed with me.)

Some boys/men feel these pressure too, I’m sure. And you will see (cis) boys and men with different kinds of body image problems who take steroids to get very muscular, or have anorexia, etc. But I think most men do not feel those pressures about their bodies.

I think this is becoming less and less true…

Well it certainly was never true in the gay circle.

But I recently joined instagram and damn that is body dysmorphia trigger to the max. I feel bad for the kids these days.

I agree with this especially. And my impression is that the internet is making it easier for people to find each other.