A person's gender identity is different to their sexual orientation - which is related to who they are sexually attracted to.
Gender dysphoria is the discomfort or distress that happens when a person’s true gender identity doesn’t match the sex they were assigned at birth.
It can be a confusing and upsetting time, particularly if you don’t know anyone else who feels the same way.
The important thing to remember is that you’re not alone and there are many people who have and are experiencing what you are going through.
TENI (Transgender Equality Network Ireland) offers help and support to transgender people. This is their advice if you are dealing with gender dysphoria:
1. Express your feelings
If you’re still learning to accept your true gender identity and are finding the process challenging, don’t bottle up your feelings. Great art comes from pure emotion so channel your thoughts into painting, writing, a musical project or something else that you’ve always wanted to do.
2. Talk to someone who understands
Find someone who is going through a similar experience or a person who has already been through it. If this is not possible, there are plenty of Youtubers and Instagram users who have shared their stories and can provide great advice and comfort during what can be an isolating time.
3. Embrace your identity
Once you know who you truly are, you need to embrace your gender identity. When your friends and family see you fully committing to life as you truly are, it will help them realise that this is the best thing for you.
4. Wear what makes you happy
Expressing your gender identity through your clothing choices is a great step to becoming your authentic self. For many people, it’s all they need to do to feel good and for others, it’s the first step on the physical transformation towards their real self.
5. Practice positive affirmations
It would be naive to think that other people won’t have an opinion on what your gender identity and while some will be kind and accepting, others might not be.
It’s important to guard your heart against any negativity which is why you should start each day with four or five affirmations that work for you. For example, ‘I am strong. I am loved. I trust the timing of my life. Everything is working out exactly as it should.’
6. Build coping strategies
As well as affirmations, it’s good to have other coping strategies ready to see you through any days where you feel overwhelmed or anxious.
Keep a journal of your thoughts and emotions. Use makeup and clothing to minimise the things you don’t like about your physical appearance and to enhance what you like.
7. Look after yourself
Your most important job is to look after your mental and emotional health. Do little things every day to make yourself feel good – exercise, a bath, a fun TV show. If things begin to feel dark, find a counsellor or therapist who specialises in gender identity to help you work through your feelings.
8. Be proud of who you are
Affirming your gender identity doesn’t change your personality – the only difference is now you finally can feel comfortable in your own skin. If your family and friends make you feel ashamed, don’t be afraid to create some distance between you.
Hopefully, in time, they will see that even though you’ve changed on the outside, you’re still the same person they know and love on the inside.
9. Think about the future
Although it’s understandable to be a little nervous about the future, it’s also okay to be excited about it. Make plans, research, or take small steps towards your long-term social, medical and/or legal transition goals.
10. Make time for fun
Now that you know who you are and can embrace your true identity, it’s time to start having fun! As well as staying connected to your old friends, find like-minded people who can help you navigate this new world and become a part of a while new community.