Body Image Issue or Gender Dysphoria?

[Content warning: Gender dysphoria and eating disorders; Disclaimer: I am not a therapist, and I am not an expert. This is MY PERSONAL experience, and I do not claim to speak for others at all.]

I came to the realization that I was genderqueer a lot later in life than most people do today. Don’t get me wrong, it was not really a surprise; I just never considered that what I was feeling was really gender dysphoria and not a body image issue.

I’ve never had an eating disorder, but I have always had body issues. I was always the chubby kid, and a fat adult. As a kid, I was horrified when I started growing breasts, but at the time, I thought I had no real choice in the matter. I delayed wearing bras as long as I could get away with it. I remember crying when I realized I’d be wearing one every day for the rest of my life. It was like being sentenced to a prison of fabric and wire.

Back then, I didn’t know what being trans or gay (or bisexual, in my case) meant. I didn’t even know those words. I didn’t know that it was possible to be trans or genderqueer or anything else. I just thought I was weird and alone.

When I did became aware of trans people, it was always people transitioning from male to female. I didn’t realize that there were people who were bodily female and wanted to be bodily male. Those people were never on talk shows (at least, not when I was a kid, or that I ever saw), so again, it didn’t ever occur to me that was what I was feeling.

I just knew my body was wrong, and I thought it was because I was fat. I hated my body. I hated the rolls, the floppy breasts, the saddlebags. I couldn’t stand to sleep on my stomach, or touch it, because I hated it so much. It got even worse when I started gaining a lot of weight due to my medication. I got horrific stretch marks because I gained weight so fast (I looked like I had been clawed to ribbons by some animal). My self-esteem hit rock bottom.

But before then, I presented as more masculine, with a short haircut and baggy clothes to hide the curves. I was into martial arts and frequently got mistaken for a boy. That didn’t bother me at all. I thought I was modest because I didn’t want to display my curves, but it really was being uncomfortable with actually having those curves. When I gained my weight, I went even more for the baggy clothes, but I was forced to grow my hair out, because I thought I looked ridiculous with a short haircut and such a round, fat face. I kind of gave up being boyish because I just couldn’t pull it off any more.

That was when I finally found belly dance and a lot of body acceptance. I lost a lot of the weight. But it uncovered the feeling that my body was still wrong. I was thinner than I had ever been, weighed less than I had in high school, but when I looked down at my body it still made me want to cry. But I wasn’t anorexic or bulimic. I knew that, and it wasn’t the little bit of extra weight I was still carrying around that bothered me.

It was then I realized that I didn’t want breasts. I didn’t want to be bodily female. While I am not a trans man (I feel genderqueer fits me best, but androgyne comes very close to how I feel), I no longer want to present as female every day. Some days I’m okay with it, but I want to be able to slide between the genders, presenting how I feel that day.

It was interesting to me that my body issue with being overweight masked the gender dysphoria I felt on being born with a female body. This is something that, perhaps, others should be aware of. People with eating disorders, or other body image issues, just might be masking other symptoms, other issues with their bodies. While I am no expert on eating disorders, this may be something to consider if you or anyone you know suffers from one.

Of course, I’m not saying that everyone who has an ED is suffering from gender dysphoria. I’m saying that my gender dysphoria was covered up by a body image issue that I thought had to do with weight, and that others might benefit from knowing that I went through this as well.


2 thoughts on “Body Image Issue or Gender Dysphoria?

  1. I have had many similar feelings–I could really relate to the whole “oh god I have boobs” thing. I am also in treatment for an eating disorder, and along with that dealing with a deep-seated self-loathing that was body-oriented. Your comments made me sit back and truly consider the concept of gender dysphoria for myself. I am glad to have that opportunity, and that we are living in a time when those thoughts can be (somewhat) openly discussed, and that I truly don’t feel any shame or embarrassment about having the thought. Ultimately, I identify as female. Even taking sexual preference out of it (I think a lot of people assume that if you identify as female you must also be attracted to men), even if I were in a relationship with a woman, I would still want to identify as female. My self-loathing is a result of wrong messages and established core beliefs that are false, and unfortunately foisted upon a huge number of women in this schizophrenic young-and-thin-valuing culture. My work is to learn to embrace my true self and live with self-love. I think that is the work for all of us, and being honest with ourselves (truly honest, not just repeating the lies we’ve been given) helps us to find the path to identity and thus to self-acceptance. I honor all of us working to find the way back to ourselves.


    • Thank you for your comment, Sue. Yep, we are all on a different path, all trying to find out who we really are. I still have problems identifying as either male or female. When asked, I’ll say female because that’s how I look, but on the inside, I’m squirming about it. Yet, I get the same feelings when asked if I
      identify as a man. No, I’m not a man. I don’t want to be a man. I, too, had a lot of self-loathing that I’m still working through, and I’m sorry you’re having to go through it too. It sucks. I’ve never looked like the “ideal” woman, and it hit me hard when I realized I would NEVER look like the “ideal” woman. It’s very freeing to suddenly not care that I’m not going to look that way, because I’m not really a woman, either. That I can look however I want, because I am being true to myself. ❤


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