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Gender Dysphoria Does Not Excuse Treating People Badly

Gender Dysphoria Does Not Excuse Treating People Badly

Mirror selfie of a man in a black dress in front of words that read "Objects in mirror are dewier than they appear"

Content warning: This piece discusses misogyny, 4chan, broken relationships, and toxic masculinity.

When I talk about gender dysphoria, I am inevitably going to discuss some shitty things I did because of it.

I was really misogynistic for a long time — and I don’t mean the “I’m not like the other girls” type of internalized misogyny (although there was a good amount of that too), but the “all women are weak, manipulative, overemotional, irrational bitches” kind of blatant prejudice that is often found anywhere that toxic masculinity is allowed free reign. I spent the majority of my after-school time on 4chan, if that gives you any idea of how bad it actually was.

I cut off my relationship with my mother, not only because she wasn’t accepting of my identity at first, but because I thought it was “too feminine” to be too close to my mom. I objectified women a lot and treated my first two girlfriends terribly. I distanced myself from making any art and deemed anyone who enjoyed creative things to be “frivolous” and “self-indulgent.” I was purposefully cruel towards people and refused to be empathetic on purpose — whenever I felt like crying during movies, for example, I would quickly excuse myself, go to the bathroom, and slap myself, hard, until any feelings I had at all went away.

In college, I drank too much too often, forced myself to lift weights that were too heavy for me, and refused to do any favors for my friends because I “didn’t want to be taken advantage of.” I got involved in a forty-minute Mexican standoff with some dude, with both of us refusing to go inside a store, all because I wouldn’t let him open the door for me. One of my relationships soured and died because I turned everything into a competition of “who could be the better man.”

Stories such as these will inevitably be brought up when I talk about my past, but they’re not stories I’m proud of. I by no means think that it was okay for me to be that way  just because I was constantly dysphoric.

Femme invisibility

My physical appearance and how I like to present myself have rendered the effects of my dysphoria nearly invisible. I can tell you — indeed, I have been telling you — just how much self-loathing I had, about the nights when I curled up and wished that my life would just end because I would never be happy with my too-high voice and body frame that made all mens’ clothes look like drag costumes on me, or the numerous times I’ve sat across from cis therapists, trying and failing to explain what I was going through because they couldn’t comprehend the idea of a “girly girl” having so much dysphoria. I can tell you about the time that the brother of someone I was seriously dating got me alone and told me that I needed to get electroshock therapy to make me “properly feminine”, once and for all. I can tell you about the time an older family friend told me that I was a “freak” who “would party my way through college and then get pregnant” due to my gender issues.

Those things fucked me up majorly. Since crying, journaling, and talking to literally anybody about what I was going through was “too weak and girly”, I instead kept it inside and refused to show any emotions. To this day, I still feel an involuntary burst of pride whenever someone tells me I dealt with a tough situation unemotionally, and it may take years for that to stop being a natural response.

However, none of the above excuse my behavior

I acted this way as a response to gender dysphoria, but that doesn’t make any of my actions okay. It’s not okay to devalue women because I don’t want to be one. It’s not okay to deny love to the one person who has been there for me unconditionally since I was born. It’s not okay to take advantage of my friends, or to cheat on my significant others, or to shit on people who have the courage to express their emotions.

It’s understandable but not excusable for me to have reacted to my environment by becoming this deeply hateful, borderline-alt-right-misogynistic piece of trash. My shitty behavior was still shitty, and I cringe today when I think of all the people I negatively impacted because I felt that I wasn’t masculine enough.

Let me say it again for those in the back: Gender dysphoria is not an excuse to give into toxic masculinity and treat the people around you poorly.

If you’re going through some of the shit I did and you recognize yourself in my actions above, I have two things to say.

One is that I’m sorry. The truth is that the world can be quite dogmatic in a lot of ways, and people always judge based off of looks. I’m sorry if you’ve been invalidated in the past, or if your dysphoria was written off because you seemed comfortable with a stereotypically feminine presentation. You’re not a fake, and you’re not “taking up too much space” or “desperate for attention” because your dysphoria isn’t obvious. If you ever feel the need to rant, my inbox is always open.

Two is that your feelings are valid, but you need to nip that toxic behavior in the bud, right now. One thing I never had growing up that I desperately wish I had was someone who had gone through the same things I had, who got me, to pull me aside and give me some real talk. Here’s the truth — your shitty actions do not make you more manly or more valid as a guy. All you are doing is pushing the people who care about you away and sinking deeper into a hole of self-denial and self-loathing.

Oh, and being misogynistic doesn’t opt you out of others’ misogyny, either.

The best way to climb out of the hole, I’ve found, is to be secure in your masculinity. This is difficult and different for everybody, but I’ve found that simply the act of coming out and reinforcing my pronouns have made me more secure as a man than I’ve ever been in my life. These days, I’m constantly in contact with my mom, I put effort into my relationships, and I don’t see women as “lesser-than” simply because I don’t want to be one. [2]

It’s understandable that one would lash out due to dysphoria, but that does not excuse toxic behavior. I share my stories to spread awareness, not to promote toxic masculinity. Please don’t use my examples from the past as justifications to treat people badly. ♚


[1] I’ve apologized to the vast majority of them, but … still feels bad, man. You know that feeling of shame you get when you remember something really embarrassing that happened years ago? It’s like that, but even more cutting, because I now fully realize how many people I hurt because I was too stuck in my own insecurities to care.

[2] Unlearning misogyny, both internalized and not, was a really long, ongoing process. I will be publishing a separate article about this.

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