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Minus18 volunteer August shares his tips for affirming your gender via small (and totally gratifying!) small acts.

You may have heard the phrase 'gender dysphoria' (or just dysphoria) being thrown around, and you might be curious about what it means – or you might have experienced it and just want to know a bit more about it. Defining dysphoria can be very complicated as everyone experiences it differently.

Dysphoria is often part of what drives people to socially or medically transition; to feel more at home in their own body. Sometimes dysphoria is accompanied by discomfort or anxiety, which is why alleviating it can feel so good.

Transitioning, whether it be socially, medically, legally or surgically can be a very long-term and costly process, meaning that not everyone has the time or resources to enact long-term change. Sometimes enacting small rituals to affirm your gender can help to alleviate dysphoria. For example, dressing a certain way or even just talking to a supportive friend.

Personally, one of the small ways I alleviate dysphoria is by wearing men’s sneakers, because it increases my confidence by so much. It’s all in the little things!

In picking the brains of every trans person I know, I came up with a quick list of some things that work for them. Note though, that not all of them will work for you – and that’s totally okay! This is just a starting point for some inspiration! In the end, gender is a deeply personal thing and how you express it is entirely up to you.

Changing the way you present body hair

Either shaving it or letting it go, changing the way you groom is often a very easy way to present more masculine or feminine.

Changing haircuts

Keeping on the hair topic, haircuts can be one of the biggest steps in a trans person’s life. Getting a more affirming haircut is one of the best feelings in the world. Don’t be afraid to do something scary, your hair will always grow back!

Indulging in gendered things

The example I was given was around using men’s body wash to feel more masculine while showering, but this concept can apply to literally anything.

Buying gendered clothes, body products and shopping in binary stores is one easy way to do this. I also found that reading magazines and articles written for a male audience was weirdly affirming. I had always read things that my female friends did, meaning they were written to a female audience exclusively.

Working out

Not only helpful to achieve the ‘end product’ that you want (if you want it!), the process of working out releases heaps of feel-good endorphins to make you feel more energised.

One response I received said that working out in a large gym was easier as the more people are there, the less they will care about you individually. I’ve found that building up how often I walk places instead of drive or take public transport is the easiest way to get some more exercise into my day.

Personal style

This one is always a super important one! Wearing clothes you like and that affirm your gender is very good for the soul. Don’t be afraid to experiment with what you do and don’t like!

One thing I found in experimenting with personal style is that it really is the little things. Is painting your nails a relaxing thing to do and makes you feel good? Do it. Cuffing jeans? Makes me look taller than I am. Oversized hoodies? A staple in every wardrobe and hides everything. Find small things you like and build it up from there.

Surrounding yourself with supportive and affirming people

I know for some this might seem easier said than done, but in reality it definitely does not have to be. I found some of my biggest supporters of me being trans were friends I had met online. There is a whole community of LGBTQI+ people out there, and I found that they can teach you a lot and give a lot of good advice!

Plus, Minus18 host amazing events primed for making friends.

This is definitely not an exhaustive list, and everyone has things that help alleviate dysphoria so through time and experimentation you definitely will find the things that work for you. Dysphoria is a complex thing to experience, and every little bit helps!

References:

¹ https://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/01/health/transgender-population.html

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