Trauma and Gender


The word trauma can be used to describe any type of injury, ranging from mild to severe. When I talk about trauma in this context, though, I´m using it in relation to psychological injury resulting from a traumatic event. The traumatic event is witnessed or directly suffered by the person in question, perceived as life threatening, and very difficult to overcome.

Once you mix trauma with feelings of gender dysphoria, things can get extremely confusing. Particularly if characterized by physical and/or sexual violence, a traumatic event has the potential of diminishing individual sense of identity, sense of security, self acceptance, and trust in ones own judgement. Recovering from said event takes time, focus, and a lot of energy.

Because of these things, people who go through trauma may not start discovering what they are really about until later in life. They might think that their confusion about gender is partly due to their backgrounds; and hope to overcome it by working through their issues – which is also the way in which others might perceive it.

When however gender dysphoria fails to fade along with the other trouble, and switching gender roles diminishes symptoms thought to be instigated by trauma, chances are dysphoria and trauma are living side by side. One does not explain the other; rather, both types of anxiety come together in a rather discouraging double barreled gun.

Having both dysphoria and traumatic memory makes for a bumpy ride, in which it´s important to observe which part of the trauma plays into gender and which part of gender plays into the trauma. Dysphoria could end up magnifying some feelings of body shame, while insecurities might end up magnifying the urge to put on a gendered act or mask.

If we understand how each part of the equation plays into the other, it might be easier to see ourselves as human beings who happen to have multiple dimensions, rather than beings who are stuck within these two dimensions. After all, you´re not just trauma and you´re not just dysphoria, either. You´re the whole coin, baby. Roll with it.


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