Gender dysphoria is the feeling of distress that someone feels between what they were assigned at birth and what they internally identify. Usually coming around the time of puberty, where your body is having lots of changes that you might not mentally be okay with having. However, it is prevalent for trans people to know they are trans from the time they are very young. The feeling of gender dysphoria can range from slightly uncomfortable to suicidality.
Gender dysphoria has a counterpart of Gender Euphoria. Gender euphoria is the feeling of happiness or contentment when you can express or live out your gender. Very often, trans people talk about how other people using their correct pronouns cause them to be happy; this would be them experiencing gender euphoria.
Gender Dysphoria or gender euphoria are the primary motivators for someone to transition. Not everyone’s gender dysphoria is the same; some people might only need to change their name or pronouns while others might feel uncomfortable with everything that comes with their natal body. It all depends on the person.
Dysphoria itself usually resonates in 4 main categories: Voice, body, social and genital. The reason that genital and body are in 2 different categories even though the genitals are on the body is that these feelings of dysphoria for those two areas can be very different and how you alleviate dysphoria for those two areas are also very different.
The goal of transitioning is to alleviate gender dysphoria. For some, that means going on HRT (Hormone replacement therapy) or getting surgeries for them to feel more comfortable in their own body.
How bad dysphoria is for someone shows in what they do to alleviate it. When a person chooses to transition, their whole life changes, they might get disowned for being trans or fired at work for being trans. They might lose some or all of their friends and or their significant other. But at the end of the day, we still see people transitioning to feel more comfortable with their bodies.
A lot of other questions can be answered with gender dysphoria as well. It’s a common trope for cis people to ask trans people, “Why can’t you be a feminine boy or a butch girl/tomboy” or “Why can’t you just be a gender non conforming person.” These questions completely forgot how much a transgender person might NEED to transition and how and being perceived as a boy or a girl daily when you feel otherwise can pain you. Transitioning can be a life-saving endeavor for some. “Forty-one percent of the transgender persons in the United States attempt for suicide at least once in their life” however, we know how we can decrease these staggering numbers. “Social support, reduced transphobia, and having any personal identification documents changed to an appropriate sex designation were associated with large relative and absolute reductions in suicide risk, as was completing a medical transition through hormones and surgeries (when needed). Parental support for gender identity was associated with reduced ideation.”
You need to know that you can’t just turn off being transgender. You may choose or choose not to transition; however, you are still transgender if you identify as something different than what you were assigned to at birth. Before you ask intrusive questions, listen instead. So many times you have cis people speak over or on behalf of trans people, acting as they know better than the trans person themselves or what is “truly” the best for them. Anyone willing to go down this path has more than likely thought this out. Transitioning is not a decision made out of the blue. The best thing that you can do as an outsider is to help and support trans people.