153) “How did you know you were trans?” Part 7 – ‘Gender Dysphoria Isn’t What You Think’

It is amazing to me, looking back, that it took 8 months after all these experiences, before I actually realized that I am trans.  And, not to dwell on it, but those 8 months were…kinda…sorta…very dysfunctional.  Why, is hard to explain.  But, my axle was misaligned, AND I knew it.  And I didn’t know what to do about it.

(And I have to acknowledge, my one experience of reaching out went…poorly. These things make a big difference, especially when you need support/acceptance the most. I have to also acknowledge that things turned around in that friendship, and it’s been a lovely growth experience together. But at first, it was hard, is the truth.)

So of course, the same unconscious processes kicked in, and I went through a whole other loop of dissociation and…I’m a little embarrassed to say this, self-harm.  Of course, it “makes no sense” why these things happen to a person when their life, in all basic respects, is going just fine, and they know full well that “self-harm” isn’t exactly The Best Life Strategy.  So like…wtf??

(I would like to write about the psychology of self-harm someday.  But…it’s a lot to tackle, personally speaking.  I’m not there yet.)

***Don’t worry, things stop sucking now***

Early winter, 2023. I’m doing what I typically am doing — reading, writing, researching things. 

An article title catches my eye online — “Gender Dysphoria Is Not What You Think”.  It’s written by someone named Cassie LaBelle, whose profile pic is this charming cartoon-character who seems smart and quirky and instantly likeable, like someone who would be hilarious to have lunch with. 

* * * * *

If there is a multiverse, then there are many other Realities in which I never read this article. And I wonder what happens to me as a result.

Because in THIS universe, I did read this article.

And that was it.

I realized, with 100% clarity, that I wasn’t “exploring the feminine Divine” or some bullshit. I was, in fact, a trans woman.

This Blew My Fucking Mind. 

But I couldn’t deny it.  You know how “Occam’s Razor” suggests that the simplest, yet sufficiently comprehensive theory is likely the closest to the truth?  Well, Cassie’s explanation of gender dysphoria is THE lens through which my entire life clarified.  

Cassie explains how, if a child has gender dysphoria, but aren’t aware of it as such, because, for example, they grow up in an environment that doesn’t support gender diversity, then obviously, they are not going to be able to understand why they struggle in the ways that they do.

Instead, with their axle misaligned, the stress that this adds, pops up in all sorts of different ways, exacerbating whatever other things that person is likely to struggle with.  It lowers their overall resilience to life’s slings and arrows; it magnifies their need to use “coping strategies”; it taxes their body/mind with extra stress; it reduces their ability to pay attention; it makes everything more difficult, from relationships to school/career to basic health.

In other words, “gender dysphoria” MIGHT BE the invisible “third variable” that is amplifying the difficulties in many people’s lives! And yet, because they don’t know, they can’t fix it. So instead, they “adapt” as best they can. Cassie brilliantly described what that felt like for her. And it was a window into my own soul.

For me, personally, once I had the explicit understanding, “I am trans,” then I had no real choice in the matter. I mean, sure, you always have a choice — you can choose to internally schism, repress the shit out of your True Self and live in self-destructive denial for even longer. (I had to admit to myself, that strategy had been kinda sub-optimal.)

Or you can embrace yourself.

* * * * *

I can say now, 100% open heartedly, that I know what life feels like when you love yourself.  It’s gentler. Richer. There’s more loveliness in the little moments.  It’s easier to savour the present. There’s less attachment to “the shit”.  You realize that “Joy” is actually a thing people feel, and not just a religious invention to make you think you need to believe in God. Your future starts to feel real, like it actually matters.

I make mistakes still of course, just as much as before probably, but when I do, I don’t feel like a dumb-ass; I feel towards myself the same way I would feel towards a little 6 year-old who is REALLY trying their best to Do The Thing, but then, they spill it or knock it over, or get frustrated and start crying. 

There’s no way I would say to that kid, “C’mon you little fucker; that was shit; do better!”

It’s just so obvious that I would get down on their level, give them a hug, tell them it’s okay, everybody makes mistakes and that’s how we learn!  And then, I’d allow them the time they needed, until they were ready to try again. 

Now, from a place of self-love, it is incomprehensible why we DON’T treat ourselves the same way! When you are not coming from a place dominated by your Inner Critic anymore, it’s astonishing, and very sad, to look at how harsh you used to be with yourself. 

But the great thing is, then you stop.  You give your little ‘inner child’ a hug, and reassure them. And wait with them until they’re ready to try again. 

* * * * *

The End of My Transition Story

It was Cassie’s essay, as I said, that helped me finally, explicitly understand myself as a trans girl.  The Pretty Girl song, the walking experiment, all that stuff from before, had prepared the way.  But Cassie’s essay was when, literally “my life flashed before my eyes”, and a billion, zillion, trillion memories of confusion, finally made sense.

I went and looked in the mirror.

I am trans.  I am a trans…girl. 


I am a….girl???


I am a girl!! 


“Well, THAT’s the weirdest fucking thing you’ve told yourself!” some deeply conditioned part of me said.

But I could see now that this voice wasn’t “me”; it was just Shame, doing its thing.  So…I stayed there, looking in the mirror, and put my hand on my heart, giving that Shame-part some acknowledgement; “I see you, Shame-part.  And it’s ok.  I know you’re trying to protect me.  But I’m ok now. And you’re safe. We’ve got this.”

(This is how therapy helps.)

And that was the final end of my “egg”.  It hatched, right then and there.

  2 comments for “153) “How did you know you were trans?” Part 7 – ‘Gender Dysphoria Isn’t What You Think’

  1. Marcia Zed
    June 19, 2023 at 2:07 am

    Amazing!!! And thank you for sharing. As there may be so many other people in a state of unawareness and this may help them. So so happy you are where you are and embracing your true self.

    • claradolderman
      June 19, 2023 at 4:24 am

      Thank you, Marcia! I really appreciate that so much. And yes, no doubt there are tons of people out there with unacknowledged dysphoria who could benefit from Cassie’s essay and all the insights that have flowed from it. I know already from trans-threads on Reddit and such, that I am by no means the only trans person whose ‘egg cracked’ in no small part because of Cassie. So, yes, share this anywhere and everywhere!! 🙂 🙂

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