Beyond the Binary: Question Twenty-Two

July 5, 2013 § 2 Comments

Last question(s) before the weekend – panel bios here.


Question Twenty-Two:

This is probably logically following on from the question about separating dysmorphia from Morscerta, and I know I’ve spoken to CN along these lines on Twitter already, but…
How do you go about dealing with issues in relation to body image, diet, and exercise? Do any such issues go beyond the obvious issues relating to gender dysphoria?


Has anyone written about the difficulties of separating body dysmorphic disorder from gender identity disorder if you have both?



Nat: I don’t have much insight to add here as the majority of the physical discomfort I had for my body was resolved by treatment of my gender dysphoria. I think I’m very lucky in this respect as I’m certain that long term dysphoria, both social and physical, and misgendering are unlikely to have a positive effect on body image.

Regarding diet and exercise, I mainly focus on trying to keep myself from being underweight due to help problems while still eating healthily. This seems to override any lingering body image issues I might have.

The DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) itself might offer more insight into this as the brand new edition, the DSM-5, has radically redefined ‘Gender Identity Disorder’ so that it’s now been replaced by the much more progressive and nonbinary-inclusive ‘Gender Dysphoria’ classification.

Thanks to the changes in the DSM-5, Gender Dysphoria can now be defined in terms of feelings towards “some alternative gender different from one’s assigned gender” or can defined solely due to feelings of incongruence from ones assigned gender and the associated primary and/or secondary sexual characteristics. So this may (or may not) be a helpful way to distinguish this from Body Dysmorphic Disorder (which I understand has much less significant changes).

I understand that the changes in the new edition of the DSM are such that nonbinary people, including agender and neuter people, are much more likely to be given recognition of having gender dysphoria and access to transgender healthcare (especially given the similar changes to the WPATH Standards Of Care) and less likely to diagnosed with additional disorders to account for the lack of binary identification previously required to access the now obsolete ‘Gender Identity Disorder’ label.

However if you feel that your BDD (self?) diagnosis is accurate then I have little personal experience or insight to offer I’m afraid (see my answer to the question on body image, diet and exercise).



GrrlAlex: I like to keep myself slim as it helps me feel more female identified and since weight would go on my waist its better to keep thin.  I remove body-hair from my arms and legs and do some exercises to help tone my legs to a better female shape.



Hel: I’m afraid this is something I don’t feel able to comment on helpfully, except to say that I agree it can be very hard to untangle where various feelings about one’s body may have come from.



Jennie: Losing my muscle (to the point where I can barely walk at all) has made me pretty body dysmorphic, but it’s complicated as it also ties into the loss of my ability to physically express my masculinity, so yes, these things can be linked. I hate the way my body has become soft and weak in large part because it looks more feminine. There’s nothing I can do about it, though.



CN: It must be admitted that I’ve been googling ‘Morscerta’ to no avail, but hopefully I’m getting the correct read on this question. I think first I’d say that, though some people will obviously cross over, and lines of diagnoses are rarely all that strict, it’s important to remember that bodily dysphoria relating to sex/gender doesn’t appear to be the same as body dysmorphic disorder – they don’t present in the same way, and they can’t be treated in the same way. I just want to put that out there because I know that many people have tried to challenge or soothe my dysphoria as though it were me ‘just’ have body image problems: “oh, but you’re so beautiful/lovely/thin” etc. (which would also be a bullshit way of approaching BDD, for the record). I’m afraid I haven’t been able to find any pieces on the intersection of BDD and being trans that aren’t either grossly transphobic or questions for resources themselves – if someone knows of any could you please leave a link in the comments? I don’t have BDD, so this may be useless – but I did write a piece awhile ago about body image/beauty myth issues (which have affected me a great deal) – here if it helps.

For me, my biggest issue is not being able to be on hormones, and trying to work around/with the dysphoria that that induces. I can’t do anything about the lack of facial hair, alas, but I do work out quite intensely/try to eat a protein rich diet to up my muscle mass and lower my body fat. As many people have pointed out, bodies can be harder to ‘sex’ when hormonally-influenced patterns of fat distribution are disrupted – either through low or high amounts of body fat. I find having any kind of curves extremely distressing, so the likelihood that I would be able to gain enough weight to get to that level of high body fat is (forgive the pun) slim – and, to be brutally honest, it would damage my career prospects (again – total bullshit, but I can’t pretend that I’m not aware of that). I definitely get misgendered less when my face is thinner. But there is always this fear that, in trying to take care of my body/mental health in this way, I’m just playing into some really toxic discourses around size and gender – I know that I love a whole range of body shapes on other people (and why not?), but is that ‘okay for others but not for me?’ part of my dysphoria or part of the fatphobic message I’ve grown up with? I guess the best I can do is to keep trying to unpack received cultural messages, educate myself and challenge my own perceptions.

§ 2 Responses to Beyond the Binary: Question Twenty-Two

  • […] How does dysphoria interact with other body image issues? How do you manage it? […]

  • Going through puberty, I was petrified. I couldn’t look at myself naked because I was so afraid to develop (breasts) and very afraid of getting my period. To cope, I would take showers in the dark with a swim suit on. Yes, that’s right, a swim suit and do this at 5:30 am for years probably starting around 7th grade til college. I don’t know how I got the courage to shower naked or see myself naked for the first time after going through puberty but magically it just seemed to happen one day. Also, I was petrified of getting my period. When I first got it, I tried to deny it and pretend I didn’t have it and wear black pants so you could see anything…twasn’t really working well….so then, after a few days I created a system where I’d grab a pad, a brown paper bag, and close my eyes whenever I’d change my pad and put it in a brown paper bag so that nobody or myself could see. Just like with the showers, I eventually was able to come to easier terms with this and now don’t have to use brown paper bags. Ironically, after I lost my virginity, I was able to use tampons and dispose of them in a regular fashion, with my eyes open.

    Wearing men’s clothes. Ever since high school I tend to shop in the men’s section just because I seem to like their “styles” better and feel more comfortable in their clothes. I remember one time in high school, I was wearing a shirt and some girl told me that I was wearing the same shirt of a boy in school.

    I tell people that I boycott purses and high heels…I carry a duct tape wallet that I made myself with tennis shoes. I’ve worn a dress with men’s swim suit trunks. I’ve worn a nut cup before to see what that feels like. I tend to be tomboy in nature. some traditional
    female hobbies, I hardly do or am not known for doing those things such as cooking, sewing, shopping, etc. My mind is more so mentally like a male ( but like a female as well) in the “traditional” sense of gender roles and identities….for instance, I’m better at math than I am at language. However, I don’t wish to be identified with my 23rd chromosomes. I wish to be identified as a soul, a spirit, or an individual with a human body…not a male or a female with a soul. This tends to be the way of society in many aspects beyond gender. They notice the physical body and hardly ever really see the soul inside of it. I sometimes say that humans are like “Christmas” or “birthday” presents. Many people look at the wrapping or judge a present by how beautifully it is wrapped (wrapping = the physical body) rather than opening up the present to see the real beauty of the gift inside (the human soul) for what it really is. I wish more people would realize this concept and not value a person’s worth on the skins of their physical body rather than the actual soul, their essence or who they really are as individuals.
    Just like artwork, I look at strangers as a blank canvas. I know nothing about them, so why paint myself a picture of a stranger that I’ve never met with the usual stereotypes based on their skins. In order to avoid discriminating/ stereotyping/ assuming who they are, I try to wait to get to know the person before I paint a picture…who knows if the picture is ever finished however. Perhaps, it’s never finished like the Mona Lisa, because souls infinitely never stop growing and changing over time…
    Adria Sorensen

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

What’s this?

You are currently reading Beyond the Binary: Question Twenty-Two at a gentleman and a scholar.


%d bloggers like this: