Managing the Self-Esteem Crisis of Dysphoria

My ex has always lived with a deep crisis of self-esteem. Before we lived together he once covered an entire poster board with statements about how much he hated himself and hid it under his bed. I found it on accident while looking for something I’d left at his apartment.

His self-esteem crisis only deepened when he came out as transgender (though he often says otherwise to people who didn’t have to experience the hellish fallout of that revelation).

Here’s a fail-proof recipe for a self-esteem crisis:

  • I am x
  • Yet I am terrible at being x

This is not only cognitive dissonance, which is never any good for anybody, but it’s a cognitive dissonance that leaves the sufferer with no way to succeed at, or even escape the shame of, just being.

I have experience with this as I had a fucked-up childhood. However, I learned to get past it at a very young age. My ex used to ask me how to have better self-esteem, as mine is remarkably good.

He started out feeling that he was a man and that he didn’t make a good man (he wasn’t good enough at sports, he disappointed his dad, the usual stuff).

Then he moved into feeling that he was a woman and now fights a constant feeling that he doesn’t make a good woman (he doesn’t look right, he isn’t accepted by everyone, and so forth).

In light of this dilemma, it’s a wonder more people don’t land on “nonbinary” and stay there, where it would seem they could not fail. The pernicious reach of patriarchy, I guess: everyone must conform to male supremacy or join the sexay ranks of female submissiveness.

Below are the two choices of a person in my ex’s position.

The solution to the first is to learn to love thyself. This has always been the psychology field’s solution to all self-esteem crises, save transgenderism which somehow seems to make itself the exception to every rule.

The solution to the second is a literally insurmountable (point 7), sometimes irreversible (point 2) list of tedious (point 3) actions that must be performed by the sufferer forever. Is it any wonder that solution hasn’t improved outcomes for dysphoria sufferers?

The Old Dilemma The New Dilemma
  • I am a man
  • I am bad at being a man
  • I am a woman
  • I am bad at being a woman
The Assessment
  • Recognize dysphoria as a mistake in thinking, as with anorexia
  • Recognize dysphoria as an indication of a mistake in the body
The Proposed Solution
  • Learn to accept both the mind and body, however “mismatched” they may seem
  • Reject the body
  • “Correct” the body with hormones and/or surgery, developing a lifelong dependence on medical intervention
  • Take on new habits of grooming, makeup and dress that must be continuously maintained
  • Create a new paradigm of thought by revising the definitions of woman, female, lesbian, penis, etc; creating a contrived explanation of sex as a spectrum/as unknowable; redefining the dynamics of sexual orientation as based on “gender” rather than sex, etc
  • Blame/correct/silence everyone with an interest in biological sex differences or who otherwise threaten the new paradigm: random general dissenters, women seeking privacy, radical feminists and others who study class-based oppression, lesbians, conservatives, children, sex educators, journalists, desisters and detransitioners, scientists/ researchers
  • Confront all evidence of sex differences with an ever growing catalog of exceptions (some women are 6′ tall, some have adam’s apples/large hands/broad shoulders, some are infertile, some don’t menstruate, some have high testosterone, some have penises, some have traditionally male careers and hobbies, some rape, etc)
  • Attempt to alter the speech of all other people to reflect the paradigm
  • Revise/erase/hide your past, change your name, alter your legal records, live with constant inconvenience/fear of exposure
This isn’t easy, but is it really worse –> …than this?