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Defeating The Demon that is Dysphoria

by Carter Harper

Being transgender means to identify with a gender that does not correlate with the gender
associated with a person’s sex at birth. (1) As a transgender man, I experience what is known as
‘gender dysphoria. Simply put, dealing with gender dysphoria means that there is a major disconnect in my head between what I look like and who I know I am. Because I am also in pre-medical transition (no top surgery and no hormone therapy), my dysphoria leads to heavy depersonalization and depression. My AFAB (Assigned Female At Birth) body does not match
up with the male gender that I identify with. For myself, I just dress how I want to, wear a binder to help with chest flatness (2), and talk to people who support me to help alleviate the dysphoria and the thoughts it brings in.

While gender dysphoria is not something that all transgender people go through, it is still very
prevalent in this population; especially in youth and adolescents.

There are two problems I want to address when it comes to this topic. The first is that there is a major toll on a trans person’s mental health because of gender dysphoria. Feeling dysphoric can lead to depression and anxiety. 2 in 3 trans youth report Major Depressive Disorder (3) and about 32%-50% of people who experience gender dysphoria attempt
suicide. (4) And, an estimated 26.3% end up resorting to substance abuse as a way to dull or
distract from the pain they feel from these negative impacts on their mental health. (4). Gender
dysphoria is very difficult to go through and if not helped in some way, can lead to very
unfortunate outcomes.

A solution to this problem is that, while there’s no specific “cure” for gender dysphoria, there are
many treatments that transgender people can undergo to ease the symptoms and eventually
maybe get through the dysphoric feelings their bodies may give them. These treatments include
things such as puberty blockers in children to prevent the growth of breasts or facial hair (5) as
well as hormone therapy and sex reassignment surgery for teens and adults (5). Hormone therapy
consists of estrogen for trans women and testosterone for trans men. Sex reassignment surgery
for trans women can remove the testes (orchidectomy), remove the penis (penectomy), construct
a vagina (vaginoplasty), construct a vulva (vulvoplasty), and construct a clitoris (clitoroplasty).
(5) For trans men, sex reassignment surgery can include removal of both breasts (bilateral
mastectomy [commonly referred to as top surgery]), construction of a penis (phalloplasty or
metoidioplasty), construction of a scrotum (scrotoplasty) and testicular implants, and a penile implant. (5) With these treatments, the stress of dysphoria can start to dissipate. Many trans
people say that getting the gender-affirming treatments that they desire is a very freeing process.

These can also be for nonbinary individuals who also desire these treatments, as many consider
nonbinary people aa transgender as well. (5) There are many nonbinary gender identities and
many individuals that do not identify as cisgender (…sense of personal identity and gender
corresponds to their birth sex.)(6) seek out gender-affirming treatments to ease the dysphoria that
comes with identifying outside of their assigned gender at birth.

The second problem I want to address is that getting these treatments can be
costly. The average cost for FTM (Female-To-Male) top surgery alone is between
$3,000-$10,000 (7) for example and there are also therapy visits, and recovery time (which
means time off of work) to take into account. (7) Monthly hormone therapy costs can add up too.
(8) Overall, it can be very hard sometimes for transgender people to get the treatments that they
need and desire for a variety of reasons.

A solution to this second problem is where organizations like the Jim Collins foundation come
in. The Jim Collins Foundation now offers two grants. The General Fund grant offers to cover
100% of the costs for an individual’s surgery while the Krysallis Anne Hembrough Legacy Fund
covers 50% of the surgical costs associated with the surgery. (9) This requires each recipient to
match each dollar of funds received with a dollar of their own money or other money raised by
the recipient. (9) People seeking help from the foundation have to fill out an application in the
cycle they give and wait to see if they qualify! (9) Criteria for these grants include an individual
demonstrating their need for financial assistance and showing that they have already been
working towards the goal of getting their desired treatment. (9) The Jim Collins Foundation is just one of many organizations that assist transgender people in their journey. (10)

I urge all LGBTQ+ people and allies to start or continue to support and donate to the Jim Collins
foundation so that more transgender people who need gender-affirming care can live comfortably in
their own skin and continue to be proud of who they are and how they identify.
You can donate to this foundation at https://jimcollinsfoundation.org/donate/.

Resources:

  1. Transgender definition
    https://www.oed.com/view/Entry/247649?redirectedFrom=transgender#eid
  2. Binders. 2b Care https://2b.care/pages/mission-statement
  3. Transgender Mental Health
    https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/transgender-mental-health#depression
  4. Gender Dysphoria and Suicide
    https://www.therecoveryvillage.com/mental-health/gender-dysphoria/gender-dysphoria-st
    atistics/
  5. Gender Dysphoria – Treatment
    https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/gender-dysphoria/treatment/
  6. Cisgender definition
    https://www.oed.com/view/Entry/35015487?redirectedFrom=cisgender#eid
  7. Top Surgery: Cost, Recovery, and Procedure Details
    https://www.healthline.com/health/transgender/top-surgery#cost
  8. How Much Does Hormone Replacement Therapy Cost?
    https://ht-ca.com/blog/how-much-does-hormone-replacement-therapy-cost/
  9. How to Apply https://jimcollinsfoundation.org/apply/
  10. Trans in the South: Funding Your Transition
    https://southernequality.org/resources/transinthesouth/funding-your-transition/

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