I can usually only make inferences about things that are happening to me, and guess a rough estimate of trans people who might be suffering from the same thing. Sometimes, I´m pretty sure that I can´t be the only one and that maybe it is quite common, but at the same time my background makes it impossible to draw hasty conclusions.
Phobias are one of those things. There are a lot of definitions for phobias on the net, but they all boil down to pretty much the same, like this one from Oxford: “An extreme or irrational fear of or aversion to something“. Although the root cause of dysphoria might not be the same, in the end it feels very similar, and is often handled in similar ways.
In addition to suffering from your usual top and bottom dysphoria (even though back then I could never have guessed it was called that way), I also had an aversion to other things, such as long hair. Towards the time that I was coming out and was afraid of being seen as female by other people, my blonde long hair would make me cringe and sometimes panic.
Even though I had it all cut off, I still project this fear around me: when I see the long hair of other people lying around – and specifically when it´s touching me – I want to get as far away from it as possible and wash all the sites of my skin that came in contact with it. It´s in this way that dyphoria seems to cause specific phobias for me, and that´s just one.
I could give you an endless list of the small things that remind me of my body and the things I wish I could get rid of now. Some of them are symbolic, but frequently I see them in sounds and in textures as well. The result is that I (sometimes obsessively) try not to have any of those in my environment or try to avoid all confrontation with them.
Exposure is the best way to handle phobia, but the complicated connection with gender dysphoria makes me wonder about that. After all, is it good for a person with dysphoria to be confronted with the things they would rather deny? If exposure were the solution, there definitely would be fewer people with dysphoria, maybe there´d be no trans people at all.
I´m curious whether any thought has been given to this in other research. As with most transgender mental health topics, I don´t think most symptoms can be explained in isolation from each other. Contrarily, in some transgender individuals, the symptoms (phobias, anxiety) go away when they´ve physically transitioned.