Anonymous Messages, Transgender

Dysphoria explained by a friend

I often offer my blog as a place to share things. My friend Tempnumen thought that more might relate to what they write about dysphoria, so I have published their thoughts for more views.

Here is their message to you:

My mind wouldn’t shut off, and it wandered over into the “Why don’t cisgender people understand gender dysphoria?” section of my brain. I thought maybe we just haven’t found a way to explain dysphoria well enough, which probably isn’t the case, but the optimist in me was like, it can’t hurt to try, so here it is (at least how it is for me):

You can save or share this with people you trust if you need it to help explain dysphoria to others. However, if you post it on a public site, please use my internet name, Tempnumen, instead because I live in a dangerous community and can easily be doxxed.

Trigger Warning: (suffering, implied suicide)

Dysphoria is excruciating, but it is not like the pain of being struck, cut, or burned. It is slower, subtler, more agonizing, and much deadlier. It’s a desperate pain like suffocation. It’s like your body is a puzzle protruding into reality with holes that you desperately need to fill to feel whole, alive, and seen. However, none of the pieces available fit, and you can never quite acquire the pieces that actually fit without help, so you drown in slow motion.

Your life withers away without a body to express your true self both to yourself and to others. You feel completely and utterly alone even in conversation with others because you know deep down that they never actually see you. They just talk to a facade without ever getting to know who lies behind it, which makes every interaction feel completely and utterly empty of connection. Even you see only the facade every time you look in the mirror, causing you to wince in pain as you struggle to contain the urge to shatter the offending image.

You wonder, without ever having seen your true face, what it could possibly be, but no matter how skilled you get at dreaming to hide from the pain, you can never quite picture it. Instead, you just barely manage to cobble together an amalgamation of every character you’ve ever identified with only to create an abomination akin to Frankenstein’s monster, and even that only quenches the thirst, as well as a single drop of water, quenches a desert. Meanwhile, there is also a direct disconnect between the body and the brain. Every time the brain tries to be present in the body, it receives a shock of trauma like the wiring is so incompatible that it just short circuits.

All of this pain builds inside of you over time, spiking occasionally as specific triggers send it soaring briefly to unbearable peaks. The peaks settle after a while, but the background trauma continues to grow, squeezing tighter around your being like a noose until you find yourself desperately gasping for life. You realize that you are trapped in a living death, and you hunger for life like the lungs hunger for air in its absence. The hunger is always for life, for the feeling of being fully present in reality, but for some, the pain and desperation grow so great that they would accept death to escape it. Add violence, discrimination, and hate to this already volatile mixture, and it increases the pain and desperation one-hundred-fold.


2 thoughts on “Dysphoria explained by a friend”

  1. I believe (totally my own perception) the reason so many CIS folks don’t understand dysphoria is simply because they have no basis for empathizing or sympathizing. It’s the old thing about walking a mile in someone else’s shoes. This can’t happen. While some people simply don’t care to understand, I think those that do care are at the disadvantage of not having experienced this feeling.

    I also believe it is important to work at removing blame from the equation. We who have experienced gender dysphoria need to stop blaming people who are unable to comprehend our experience just as they need to stop blaming us for not fulfilling their expectations of who we “should be.” Yes, this is unbridled optimism, but the only way people will be able to understand one another better, whether we are talking about understanding gender, sexuality, disability, heritage, etc. is to stop blaming.

    Love and Peace,


    “Well-behaved women rarely make history.”

    [cid:8ffa825f-7805-4dab-a166-2f5852b6fb21] Betsy Packard (she/her)

    MFA Program: Creative Writing – Poetry (2022) Department of English, University of Kentucky

    Graduate Certificate program in Gender and Women’s Studies University of Kentucky (2023) ________________________________


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