A square peg in a round hole

by Mary Turner
HIV/AIDS Medical Columnist

Black and white. Good and evil. Easy and hard. Male and female.

Our predominant culture is filled with semantic dichotomies. Our brains have been trained to automatically slide toward the path of least resistance, a path that tries to turn everything into an either/or situation.

For individuals who experience gender dysphoria, incongruence between the sex they were assigned at birth and the identity they experience, the pressure to fit into a rigid binary identification system can cause tremendous stress and suffering.

From birth, we are bombarded with the expectations of the world around us. We leave the hospital dressed cutely in pink or blue depending on what our diapers hide. Generally, our toys and games are pre-planned for us. Our level of activity is rewarded or punished based on our sex. We learn what is expected of us early in life.

For persons who are transgender, these expectations can lead to high levels of stress, anxiety and even depression. Home should be a safe place but it often isn’t safe for a boy who isn’t “manly” enough to suit his dad or for a girl who prefers contact sports to dolls.

Life can be rough for any of us who buck the norm and choose to do what we want with our lives. However, those of us who are straight cisgender cannot fathom the added burden for those knowing who they are and what others see doesn’t match.

Stress is our body’s perception that something in our environment is threatening or beyond our ability to handle. Mild stress is a positive thing that motivates us to get up and do things. Moderate to high levels of stress can begin to make us sick and wear us down.

Transgender people often live with chronic levels of stress throughout their lives. They often must choose between conforming to the expectations of their families, friends and community or being honest about themselves without an adequate support system.

Even with a supportive family, individuals can find themselves the target of school bullies, teachers and administrators included. The resulting stress can cause a host of symptoms and ailments including headaches, muscle aches, upset stomach, anxiety, restlessness, difficulty sleeping, eating too much or too little.

Many will self-medicate with tobacco, alcohol or other substances.

The best thing about wherever you are in life is that it won’t last forever. Find someone who loves you unconditionally. Take control of whatever you can in your life. This is the best tactic to reduce stress. Focus on improving your strengths and reducing your weaknesses. Love yourself and remember that all people live somewhere on a continuum for every trait we have.

Don’t let anyone reduce you to an object that fits in a particular space. There must be room for each of us as individuals.

Copyright The Gayly – November 18, 2017 @ 6:55 a.m. CST.