“Have you ever thought of how it feels to have been placed into the wrong body?”, “do you know how uncomfortable it feels when one realises that the gender one is assigned at birth and the gender one identifies with, don’t really match up?” This uncomfortable feeling that one’s body doesn’t align with the way one feels is nothing but gender dysphoria.
Gender Dysphoria is a marked incongruence between one’s experienced/expressed gender and assigned gender. These feelings need to last at least a period of six months or more for it to be diagnosed as Gender Dysphoria. Sometimes, despite one’s best efforts, feelings of dysphoria reach a crisis point affecting one’s daily chores, making even simple tasks seem impossible. Hence it is important for us to learn some strategies to support those suffering from gender dysphoria.
Tasneem, Integrative Psychotherapist at Seraniti, describes seven helpful measures to provide a helping hand to ones suffering from gender dysphoria:
1. Treat them with compassion and understanding: Encourage them to talk to someone about their feelings, preferably to their loved ones who will understand. Allow them to be more expressive and vocalise their needs and desires rather than keeping them bottled up and getting frustrated. Although embracing one’s choice of gender can be really tough, providing them with more compassion and understanding would ease their struggle in a profound way.
2. Encourage them to be more expressive: Encouraging them to cultivate healthy hobbies as drawing, painting, writing, and the like, can serve as an outlet of their internal feelings. These negative emotions, if repressed, can lead to passive- aggressive behaviour which could in turn serve as a cause for stress and depression in the long run.
3. Avoid demoralising them: Try to protect them from people who intend to hurt them and demoralise them for their own good. Instead, encourage them to connect with people who understand and affirm the way they feel. Let them embrace their uniqueness and be comfortable in their body. In short, they should be encouraged to be themselves and do what makes them happy.
4. Let them assert their identity: Even if they might not display their preferred identity in public, help them find some way to channel their dysphoric feelings into external expression. It could be anything that is not prominently evident to others, but of personal significance for them.
5. Be a part of a support group: Interacting with people going through similar issues can give them an outlet for their dysphoria and help them overcome feelings of isolation, as they can identify themselves with others in such groups. The realisation that they are not alone or at least not the only one feeling this way, can boost their self-confidence
6. Validate their identity: After all, what a transperson needs from you is validation. Dysphoria can be painful and traumatic at times, hence, don’t interrogate, argue or invalidate their pain and look forward to offer them some support. The support of a loved one can make all the difference.
7. Seek out professional help: If you find your loved one engaging in harmful or unhealthy behaviours, it is time to seek professional help. A mental health professional or a trans-competent therapist can understand and accept them for what they are, by providing them with non-judgemental acceptance which would help them release their emotions.
Although dysphoria can be painful and traumatic, support rendered by a loved one can help relieve the burden to some extent. If you come across someone living this struggle, consider treating them with compassion and respect. Though you may not take away their pain and discomfort, your mere support can make a big difference in their lives.