chasing euphoria

we don’t talk enough about gender euphoria. so that’s what we’re doing this week <3

TRANSCRIPT

Callie: [00:00:00] Big shout out to Rob for becoming a new patron this week. Thank you, friend. Love you lots. My name is Callie Wright and this is Queersplaining. There’s an accepted narrative about trans life. At some point, we figure out we’re miserable with our bodies and our gender socialization then we transition. Then we’re happy.

I feel like if you’re listening to this show, you probably know better, but that is kind of the perception, right? The trans experience is so often defined for us in terms of our misery and our journey running away from misery. And to be sure that is a common trans experience. Those things do happen, but it’s not the only trans experience.

And even when it is, it’s still more complicated than that, right? For one, you certainly don’t need to experience dysphoria to be trans. And even if you do, it doesn’t have to be the singular defining thing about your transness. Some folks know they’re trans because of their gender euphoria and some folks know from just this sort of innate sense of incongruity that can’t really be described as dysphoria.

It’s complicated, which makes sense, right? We’re humans, we’re complex creatures. All that being said, my journey personally has been mostly defined by running away from dysphoria. The euphoria I felt came specifically from escaping dysphoria into something that felt better. And there’s some nuance to explore here.

Basically the status quo for me was miserable. It felt amazing to move away from the status quo. So dysphoria was the defining characteristic of my personal experience, but I’ve noticed that changing lately, I’ve talked before about how getting bottom surgery seemed to clear away a lot of muck for me. When I wasn’t bogged down by dysphoria, I was able to see things more clearly.

I was able to think about what I really wanted as opposed to what I don’t want. And those things are similar. Of course they’re related, but I think the framing really does make a difference. I’m at the point in my life where the status quo was fine. At the current moment, if nothing changes about my body or my presentation, I imagine myself being happy with that, but I also imagine things changing and it feels good.

It’s kind of an anticipatory euphoria. I want bigger boobs, but I want them because I think they would be fun to have not because I’m miserable with what I have now. I found myself wanting to feel a bit femme and dainty the other day. And wow, that’s a new thing. The last time I painted my nails, it actually felt kind of dysphoric.

It’s been probably two years or so since I had any sort of like stereotypically femme desires, I stopped wearing dresses. I stopped wearing makeup. Got a super gay, butch looking haircut. And then I stopped painting my nails because that’s what felt right to me, but kind of out of nowhere where the other day I found myself really wanting to paint my nails, doing this, always made me feel kind of dainty .and feminine

And I really enjoyed that feeling. For awhile. So today I sat in the kitchen and painted my nails. Yeah. I got this deep maroon red nail Polish put on some Star Trek, and I just lost myself in the process of getting the coverage right. And the last time I tried this, it didn’t feel good. I got rid of the nail polish almost immediately, but this time I absolutely loved it.

I felt soft and feminine. And I really loved that feeling. And I haven’t loved that feeling in a long time. I even found myself thinking about voice training again. And I know I literally did an episode a few months ago about being happy with my voice, but it’s like the same deal, right? Like I have no dysphoria with my voice if it never changed.

I don’t think that would be a problem. But the idea of changing it and making it softer, it gives me that same sort of anticipatory euphoria. It feels like it would be a fun and affirming adventure. Sure. But it feels optional. It feels like something I want, rather than something I need. At the beginning of my journey.

I kind of felt like the fellowship of the ring. Like, Holy shit, I’m not sure I want to do this, but I need to, because my world is absolutely going to fall the fuck apart if I don’t. But now I feel kind of like Finn and Jake at the beginning of adventure time, like I could chill in my sweet Treehouse eating bacon pancakes.

Forever. And it would be great and I’d stay happy, but I could also choose to go undertake this adventure and it would be really fun. And I might grow a little in the process. I feel like I’ve reached the point where the whole spectrum of gender stuff is available to me. I can pick and choose what’s fun instead of having to pick the thing that makes me less miserable.

God, that’s a freeing feeling. And so that’s what we’re talking about today. I reached out to some friends who have found their gender journey defined by euphoria, more so than dysphoria. And we don’t talk about this enough. So here we go. First, you’re going to hear from my friend, Eli.

Eli: [00:05:15] There’s this game called dream daddy. It’s a dating sim and in it, you can create your character and you basically are a single dad who has moved into a neighborhood. And like you meet all the hot dads in your area and then you can woo them. And it’s very charming. But, so my first play through of it, I wooed in one, the, the hot golf daddy.

And so for my second play through, I’m like, okay, my first play through, I just kind of let them create a character for me for a second play through. I’m like, you know what, for giggles for fun, let’s just create. An avatar that’s like me, but masculine and dream daddy is actually interesting in that you can pick a chest that’s a bound chest. 

Callie: [00:06:04] Interesting. 

Eli: [00:06:05] Yeah. They’re like explicitly inclusive. So I was like, okay, I guess I could make this character look like what I would look like if I were more masculine presenting and I created the character and I’m like, well, shit, I really like how he looks. I was like, if it that, and what was nice about the game too, is that you can be chubby.

Like it’s not overly idealized bodies. Like you can, there’s a vast spectrum. And because I basically have the ability to create. A body and a person that would actually be a realistic version of me. If I binded or bound. And, you know what I never thought about the past tense of that word. 

Callie: [00:06:46] I was just about to say, yeah, I think that’s the first time I’ve heard that.

Eli: [00:06:50] Yeah. I’m not sure what it is in this context, but anyway, like, you know, with a binder on to avoid the tents issue there and, you know, with a different haircut, different look and, and so it actually did realistically look like me, but like masculine and I’m like, Oh, well maybe. Okay. And like, I liked how I looked and I liked how that body looked and how it moved.

And even though it was like a cartoon, you know? yeah. And I inhabited it and I’m like hit on guys in this game. And I was like, okay, like, I’m cool with this because it was very hard for me to imagine myself as a more masculine presenting type because of the kind of body that I have. And the kind of face that I have.

And so on, maybe had is the word now that I’ve been on T long enough, but yeah, yeah, no, I look different now, but 

like, yeah, like I just couldn’t imagine it, you know? And so I thought, Oh, I’ll just look like silly. I’ll look like I had just put on a fake mustache or something like sure. I would look ridiculous, which is hilarious because.

Every other person I’ve known, who’s trans who like, Oh, what if I looked silly? And I’m like, no, you’ll look great. Like, don’t worry about it. But like for myself, I was never going to be that kind to myself. Right. Never. But yeah, it was, it was being able to visualize and conceptualize looking like that.

And it felt really good. You know,

Callie: [00:08:20] I’ve had experiences like that too, but I just, I keep thinking back to the experiences that I had, where I would do something feminine and. For me, it was so much about like, I have to do this, so I don’t feel terrible anymore. Not like I want to do this because it will be fun and because it will feel good.

but because it will be a relief of this awful, terrible feeling. And I’m wondering, do you have experiences like that to kind of compare and contrast the two feelings? 

Eli: [00:08:51] So my dysphoria is sort of an odd beast. Because it’s, it’s mitigated like almost everything I’ve experienced through the experience of, having complex, posttraumatic stress disorder and the way I was raised, which was basically you don’t live for yourself.

Being happy is selfish. You have to conform to strict, narrow ideals that everyone has put out for you. Basically. I never expected to be happy and just always assumed life was low grade misery. And so it was very hard for me to recognize dysphoria as a separate feeling from all the other sort of baked in.

I must follow what everybody tells me misery. So distinct gender dysphoria. It’s very hard for me to pinpoint those moments. Which is why the experience of euphoria has been so meaningful to me to understand and hear about and sort of experience because without it, I wouldn’t have known that I could be happier in this phase because to me, and it just a generalized sense of life dysphoria.

gender and everything else just was sort of baked into my life. I assumed life was just sort of low key unhappy, well, lady either nobody’s happy or they’re all happy. There’s something wrong with me. And that’s why I’m not happy. And also happiness as not being a worthwhile goal. Like I was sort of thought it was selfish, you know, especially for afab people like, you know, You know, boys could go playing Nintendo if they wanted girls had to help in the kitchen or whatever.

Callie: [00:10:32] What other sorts of like, playful, like playing around with gender? Have you done? 

Eli: [00:10:38] I mean, even like when I was younger, I used to mess around with quote unquote dressing as a boy, or like. Seeing if I could pass as a boy. And I, the reason why I see it as euphoria rather than dysphoria is because I enjoyed it, but it never made me feel less miserable because my misery was related to so many other things that I am still sort of dealing with.

But yeah, like when I was in high school, I had this hoodie and if I put the hood up and sort of square of my shoulders, like I would get young man. You know, like people would think I was a young man and I to be like, huh, or like one time for school, we had to do this project. And I was in a group with all girls.

And most of the characters that we had to do were male. And I, we, we sort of randomly assigned ourselves characters and all my characters ended up being dudes. And so to differentiate with them, I came up with like different ways of makeup and like different clothes that I stole, like off my dad or brother or whatever, for this project.

And then like I created, three distinct male characters that I was basically doing. Like a form of drag, but I didn’t even realize it. I was just like, I got to do this for this school project. Well, I got to make these characters look different. So one guy will have beard shadow. One guy will have a mustache.

One guy will be clean shaven, but with big eyebrows, like I came up with this whole thing. 

Callie: [00:12:05] And that was, that was kind of like a socially acceptable way to play with that. Right. Cause I’m sure it works. People probably were just like, Oh, that’s kinda weird, but like, Yeah. And that’s something that you like caught a bunch of shit for, right?

Eli: [00:12:18] No. I mean, when I was at my parents’ house, like my strict Muslim family, they didn’t think two things about it. My body was covered. That’s all they cared about. You know, 

like I even integrated covering my hair until all of these characters. You know, like, but you know, I just managed to like, it just they’re like, Oh, you know, we know this person, they love getting into things.

They’re overly enthusiastic and they’re weird. 

Callie: [00:12:43] Yeah. You just play into that, like, yup. Yup. That’s exactly what’s happening.

Eli: [00:12:47] I am Weird. I really want to get a good grade. 

Callie: [00:12:50] I wonder how that makes you relate to other trans folks. Like I was scrolling through Facebook and like taking note of like what my trans friends were talking about and gender.

And I was like, part of me almost feels guilty, which I know is not a super healthy feeling to feel, but I just think like something has snapped in me. And this is all of the sudden fun. It’s like a joyful adventure. And while I’m happy about that, it also makes me feel a little bit less connected to the other people in my life.

And I’m wondering if that resonates with you or if you’ve ever had thoughts along those lines or anything like 

Eli: [00:13:29] that? I mean, it’s why I didn’t think I was trans because I knew a lot of people with really dysphoria and me even thinking that I could maybe be trans, almost seemed disrespectful. Like, you know, they have all this pain and all this turmoil related specifically to gender.

And I have a lot of pain and turmoil, but it’s. At the time I thought of it as undifferentiated. Like I just must be a miserable person, but like I understand it now in a more of a trauma lens, it just started to inform my understanding of like myself and how it felt, which was, you know, everything was kind of blurred and grade and unhappy and dissociated, in such a general way that it would have been almost impossible for me earlier in life to sort of tease out what thread of that with gender dysphoria.

So, you know it, yeah, it does. make me feel a little bit guilty sometimes? Like nowadays I try to think of it. Yeah. Less. Oh, I’m not qualified to be trans because I’m not in pain and more think of it as, wow. I wish my friends didn’t have to go through this pain and I’m going to try to build a world where they don’t have to feel this much pain.

But, you know, there are parts of me that sometimes they’ll think back and go, well, are we actually trans though? Have we suffered? 

Callie: [00:14:48] Right.

Eli: [00:14:48] Enough?

Callie: [00:14:59] Next up is my new friend, Danielle.

Danielle: [00:15:07] The first thing that comes to mind is just probably the first time that I really tried on feminine clothes for the purposes of exploring my gender identity, which was fairly recent, late 2018 or so, because I was deep in the closet to myself, my whole life up until then. There were, you know, I think most trans people, we look back and we see all the signs we missed as we were growing up.

But the thing that, that, that triggered it for me was just a silly little conversation I was having with somebody and it was a group conversation. And ended up talking about emotional vulnerability. There was like, Oh man, I can’t even remember now. Anyway, I related some experience of mine and one of the other people in the group said, Oh, you know, that’s interesting because that’s typically something you see with women growing up and.

I was like, Oh, okay. That’s interesting. And I don’t know why. Cause you know, it’s not like all women act a certain way. A lot of blah, we all know that, but it was just that little thing that put the thought in my head and it wouldn’t leave. And I decided that it was worth exploring because at this point I knew about trans people.

I had. Actually been helping a friend of mine through their transition process, like driving them to doctor’s appointments and stuff like that, emotional support, et cetera. And, but you know, that didn’t do it for me cause I just thought, Oh, that’s their journey that has nothing to do with me. And, but for some reason that little conversation just put the thought in my head.

And then I was like, Hey, let’s try to figure this out because I. Kind of think it might make me happier. So I’m actually married. I’ve been married for, let’s see, 10 years now actually, been through a lot together, obviously. 

Callie: [00:17:24] Right. 

Danielle: [00:17:25] So. I was talking to my wife about all this, because we have that kind of relationship where we’re open and supportive of each other, which is wonderful.

I’m I’m incredibly lucky. My wife is the most level-headed chill accepting person that I’ve ever met. So I talked to her, I was like, you know, I’ve been thinking, and I wonder if I might be trans. And I, I can’t remember anything she said in response, but just, she was like, it general attitude was, Oh, okay.

Well, what do you want to do about that? And do you want to try on some of my clothes and see how that feels? And I was like, Yeah, I do. That sounds like a good idea. So I think it was her idea originally that the clothes 

thing. And so how did that feel? 

It felt amazing, but I also had that, that, that, you know, that, that shame, the, you know, this is wrong.

I shouldn’t be doing this sort of shame. I grew up in a fairly. Strict religion. and that has affected my whole life. And I still hold on to a lot of shame. I think I still have the picture on my phone cause we took a picture because at least for long enough to take a picture, I felt incredible. That just, wow, this is really at the very least something I need to explore further.

If not. Just, this is absolutely right. Let’s, you know, full steam ahead on this thing. 

Callie: [00:19:22] Do you remember what the outfit looked like? 

Danielle: [00:19:24] There’s this cute dress. My wife has, that is it’s bright red and it has these little black bicycles kind of in a polka dot pattern all over it. It’s super cute. and I think that was basically it.

I think I had some black top of some kind on under it and, you know, tried to shave away as much stubble as possible. Cause I had a really impressive neck beard, 

Callie: [00:19:53] Same. Oh my God, same.

Danielle: [00:19:58] Yep. But just that kind of dual experience of euphoria and dysphoria where you’re like. This feels great, but also I’m looking in the mirror and I can see everything that’s quote, unquote wrong..

Callie: [00:20:15] Right? 

Danielle: [00:20:16] Yeah. but I wanted to, like, I intentionally, I wanted to stay more focused on what felt good rather than what felt bad, just.

I mean, who wants to feel bad? 

Callie: [00:20:30] Right. Was that something that was innate? Like, that was just what came naturally to you? Or was that like part of a deliberate thought process that you had, like the, the idea of wanting to focus on what makes you feel good as opposed to what makes you feel bad? 

Danielle: [00:20:44] I think, I don’t know.

Semi deliberate. I think that that is an attitude that I have, but I also somehow feel like it was a choice I made, I don’t know exactly when in the process I made that choice. But, so to answer your question, I don’t know. 

Callie: [00:21:04] That’s totally really fair.

In talk to me about that idea of choice, because it’s, it’s interesting conversation that we have around queerness and transness more generally is that, you know, the validity of queer and trans identity. And, and our mainstream discourse tends to be very much tied to how innate those things are, are to who we are like.

like if I had chosen to be trans, that would be less worthy. You have respect than if, you know, there was a gene that was flipped on somewhere that like, Oh, I was just helplessly born this way. And so that happens to be respected. Talk to me about that, because you said that on some level, you think you.

You made a choice in your, your attitude, your approach towards that? 

Danielle: [00:21:58] Yeah. 

Callie: [00:21:59] Talk to me more about that. Tell me a little bit more about like what you were thinking about. 

Danielle: [00:22:03] I think at least in my case, it’s like everything in life, it’s a little complicated and you know, kind of a combination of both of those ideas, because like, it’s not as if I don’t experience dysphoria, like.

In my mind, dysphoria and euphoria are really closely linked. And sometimes the one is just the absence of the other either, you know, in either direction. but I, I guess I have this desire to feel like I’m in control of my own life, you know? and so it’s important to me that my. Transition while it is something I do feel like I have to do in order to be, to be myself and truly seek happiness.

It’s still a choice I’m making in order to do that. I feel like if I really wanted to, if social pressures, you know, were such that I had to choose to live life in a male gender role, you know, I could get by, I could exist. I probably would not be happy about it. I think that my overall mental health would be worse than it is, but I could do it if I had to maybe, but it’s important to me to feel like I chose, like I’m choosing every step along the way.

It’s just a matter of. You know, controlling my own destiny, that sort of thing. I have been lucky so far in that I, everything I’ve done up until now, at least I’ve been able to do as a choice I make, because I wanted, I haven’t had a lot of gatekeeping, got hormones through informed consent. that’s the only.

Medical thing I’ve gone through. 

Callie: [00:24:11] So this framing of things in terms of like I’m making active choices for myself, instead of just being led by these like terrible feelings that I can’t control. I wonder if, and I’m asking, because this has been my experience in some ways, has it made it difficult for you to relate to other trans folks who don’t have that experience?

Danielle: [00:24:37] Yes, it is. It has been a struggle for me sometimes because it’s a, yeah. Now it’s imposter syndrome all over again. I’m like, not that anyone in the trans community has gate kept me. but just you read all the stories that people have and you’re like, well, you know, I don’t exactly relate to all of these.

Like I, at this point, I know I am trans. And I think that, you know, that that dominant narrative, the, the born in the wrong body, miserable, transition, happy that narrative. I, I suspect that that was a factor in what kept me not realizing that I was trans for so long.

Callie: [00:25:31] And we have to strike such a delicate balance here, right? Because I don’t want to tell people they can’t, or shouldn’t define themselves based on their challenges and their pain. Those things absolutely can and do, define who we are. And I’d never take that away from anyone. I just wish that wasn’t the default assumption about trans folks. I wish that wasn’t the only story we knew. I wish I could go to my therapist and be like, yes, I want boobs for gender reasons. They would make me feel good and happy, but I’m not suffering horribly without them. I shouldn’t have to suffer to get access to the things that make me feel good.

I’m afraid if I told my therapist that I’d never get a letter and without a letter I’m afraid, I’d never be able to find a surgeon who would do the surgery, we’re getting there with hormones. Thankfully, there’s a lot of doctors who will just ask you to sign some paperwork, saying you understand what they do and they’ll prescribe them for you.

And I’d love it to see the end of that gatekeeping in other places too. Mostly. I just want us to feel free to express our joy. I want us to feel free to pursue the things we like love and that make us feel good and happy, and we should be able to pursue those things. Even if we are not currently miserable.

Thank you to Eli and Danielle for sharing their stories with us. And thank you friend for listening. If you want help, keep this thing going and helped me Celes and Wedge. Keep the lights on. Please consider heading over to patreon.com/queersplaining and making a per episode donation to help support the show.

You can also give us a shout out on social media. That’s a big help too. It is all appreciated. Before I go, I want you to know that if you’re lost, you’re hurting, you’re scared to feel like no one cares and no one understands. You need to know there’s a community out here that loves you, cares for you.

Knows that you’re capable full of amazing things, and that you are worthy of love. If you’re struggling, please, don’t be afraid to reach out. Until next time friend. My name is Callie Wright and this is Queersplaining.


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