1. Discovering Gender Euphoria

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    [Image shows the title card for this post in a circle against a blurry brown background with a notepad, some paper, headphones and a rainbow reflection]

    Two years ago, while contemplating my initial transition, when I still referred to myself as a trans man, and working through a number of questions and doubts regarding my coming out as non-binary and quitting testosterone, I wrote an emotional, self-analytical piece about gender dysphoria and what happens to my brain and body when I experience it. It only makes sense to follow-up with a post about a complete opposite feeling. The sudden joy of realizing that one is where they should be regarding their (non)gendered self, a feeling of wholesomeness and self-accomplishment that makes you smile back at the person in the mirror and tell them - “This is whom I wanted you to be”. Let’s pause and breathe with ease, and talk about gender euphoria.

    In its basics, euphoria can be described as the opposite of dysphoria, a feeling of well-being or elation (according to Merriam-Webster, my go-to word bible). And gender euphoria is exactly that. It is a feeling of belonging, feeling good about the way you fit (or don’t) within whatever your culture and society describe as gendered aspects. It can be that amazing feeling of being recognized in your gender for the first time. “I pass!” your inside-voice screams, while you delicately smile at the person who has no idea that they may have just validated your existence for the first time in your life by using the correct pronoun or salutation. In can also be your permanent state of fabulous queerness, without even a hint of feeling sad or blue nor experiencing any confusion relating to who you may be in this diverse world that humans keep trying to condense into a simple “choose one” scenario.

    Contrary to its counterpart, gender euphoria doesn’t get to be categorized as a medical condition, unless it crosses the cultural taboo of sexuality. When you’re ecstatic about what you embody in bed regarding masculinity or femininity, better look out, out-dated Western medicine will be there to quickly judge and label you as a fetishist. Except for Sweden. They seem to have a more nuanced view on euphoric sexuality. In the past you may have been seen as autoandrophilic or autogynephilic if you were trans, but fortunately research shows that this happens to cis people too. So it seems that a lot of us are facing the same issue (whether framed in a binary view on gender or not), and we also seem to have the capacity to experience a pleasant state of mind when embodying and expressing our genders in a certain (and very much individualistic!) way.

    When this idea came to me, I was on my way to work on the subway. I recently, just over six months earlier, moved to the US and specifically to New York city, a place I wanted to live ever since i visited it for the first time in 2012. Up until that point Warsaw, in Poland, where I resided for almost a decade with a short two-year break in Bratislava, Slovakia, was the only big city I was committed to. But New York changed everything. Including me. That change was, of course, also linked to a sudden and, although expected, surprising lifestyle shift. I am no longer expected to work between 10 to 16 hours a day. I also don’t manage a team anymore, but rather reside in a very comfortable semi-independent position, within a group supervised by someone else. Things are good. Which is also probably why my mind wonders off to pleasant areas.

    It was Tuesday morning. The G train, typically for its 8:17 schedule, was taking its time to cross Brooklyn. Not what I could call the most exciting New York experience. The host of a podcast I’ve been listening to laughed in a charming way. I let out a slight yawn and smirked, thinking about a joke she had just made. Curious whether we were approaching the last stop, I took a look through the window. The train was still in the tunnel and my eyes were catching short glimpses of dimmed lights outside. I focused on my reflection.

    It felt as if time has stopped. In what was nothing more than a blurry outline of my bald head and thick glasses, I saw everything my life was building up to this point. In an instant, my mind flashed back to ten years earlier, taking me through every single sleepless night, every hour spent on thinking whether I had the strength to get through the intense gatekeeping of the Polish medical system. Countless minutes of trying to figure out if what I knew was the truth about me, had been something that my therapist and her supervisor actually saw. I still don’t know if they really did. Probably. I am here, aren’t I?

    “I am here. And I am real” I whispered under my breathe in a noisy subway car where one can hardly hear their own thoughts, let alone someone else talking to themselves. I looked around. My beard brushed up against my scarf gently. No one was paying attention.

    I felt my phone vibrate in my front pocket. The train was pulling into the station, reception was back.

    A stranger on a dating app was asking me how my day had been.

    “Pretty good” I typed back trying to find my way up the stairs to get to my next train. “Nothing special, honestly”.

    Just a regular, uneventful day.

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