I read this really dope piece on managing body dysphoria the other day.
In an earlier post, I touched on the topic of my own issues and struggles with dysphoria and expressing my sexuality and gender identity. When I was younger, these problems were definitely more pronounced, but as of late, I feel like I’m coming into myself.
The article gave nine strategies for dealing with those familiar feelings of dysphoria and after reading them, I thought about the ways that I had been practicing some of them without really realizing it.
- Prioritizing Emotional Self-Care
Creating a good emotional environment for myself has been years in the making. Carefully curating the company I keep, figuring out the things I like to do to occupy my time, and generally making myself a priority.
If I don’t want to go out, I don’t.
If I don’t feel like going to the gym one day, I don’t.
If I’m ever in my feelings about something and I want to drown my sorrows in a dozen donuts, I do.
- Asserting My Identity
I know my mother hates the way I dress, but frankly, I really don’t give a damn.
Even as a kid, I wanted to dress more masculine but not having complete control over my wardrobe made it difficult for me to do so.
As a teenager, my mother would sometimes prompt me to throw on some make up or do something with my hair or wear a dress.
I’ve neither worn make up, combed my hair, or worn a dress in years and I couldn’t be happier.
- Expressing Sexuality
I’ve never been one to talk about my sex life. It’s just not my aesthetic. But being grown and independent has done a lot for my sex life. Finally being at a place where I can do what I want, when I want has worked wonders for my confidence.
- Providing for Health and Wellness
Did I mention I’ve been in the gym? I’ve loved lifting weights for as long as I can remember. I power lifted in high school and my mother, who likes to run marathons in her spare time, taught me the importance of exercising regularly from a young age. But when I got to college, I didn’t exercise as regularly as I did back in high school. There was a student gym on campus but that many people in any size space all sweating and breathing heavy in tandem made my social anxiety flare like it never flared before, so I just avoided it. Not being in the gym or making time to exercise, in general, really took a tole on my mental health. Not only did I physically just feel like shit, I became well acquainted with depression and anxiety and battled suicidal thoughts. The body that I inhabited didn’t feel like mine.
But now I can afford a private gym membership and all is right with the world. Having a regular workout routine gives me a sense of purpose and also helps me feel more in tune and in control of my body.
- Building Community
Since I’ve stepped into this blogging world and, as a result, increased my usage of social media, I’ve found a lot of folks having the same conversations and thoughts as myself. I’ve found people who I look to for inspiration, knowledge and guidance. Growing up in Mississippi, you can imagine there isn’t much to pull from in my immediate environment, so the internet has really become a second home for me.
- Making Cultural Connections
Gender is a social construct. As we develop our sense of gender, we shape ourselves in relation to our cultures. But oftentimes, people of color and others find themselves in a social context that does not represent the cultures that they identify with.
I think there is now an emergence in “LGBT culture,” specifically as it pertains to black folks. The yaaassss-es and the shade-s and the tea-s and the queens: all this new vernacular is a product of black folks in the LGBT community. And of course, mainstream media has done its best to co-opt these terms and erase their origins, but when you do your research, all roads point back to black LGBT community.
Challenging the Binary
My very existence is a challenge to the binary. Even as a kid, I hated doing “girly shit.” In many ways, I suffered from ideas of toxic masculinity passed on to me by the men in my life. (Did I mention I was the only girl of my grandmother’s six grandkids?)
Of course, time has taught me that femininity doesn’t imply weakness in the same way that acting masculinity doesn’t imply dominance. In fact, this is exactly the type of thinking that reinforces the binary.
But when you know better, you do better. For the most part, I’ve come to terms with the idea of gender neutrality and not conforming to traditional ideas of masculinity and femininity and it’s something that I actively practice every single day.