Elliot Page, in a shirtless photo, celebrates the end of the ‘joy’ and ‘dysphoria’ he feels in his trans body. Here’s what it means.

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Elliot Page talks about gender dysphoria and its relationship to body image. (Photo: Instagram)

In a heartwarming Instagram post, Elliot Page opened up about his ongoing journey as a transgender person, both his gender dysphoria and the “happiness” he's felt since announcing his transition in December 2020 By touching

“Dysphoria used to be especially rampant in the summer,” Page wrote in a May 10 post, which featured a shirtless image showing the chest scars left over from top surgery, a gender-affirming mastectomy. There was a process.

“It feels so good to bask in the sun now, I never thought I could experience it, the joy I feel in my body,” the post continued. “I am so grateful for what Gender Confirmation Care has allowed me to do and I forward to sharing more about my journey soon.”

Page's post sparked comments from many trans people about the emotional and psychological impact of gender dysphoria on their body image — as well as the freedom they say they feel after receiving gender-affirming care, a spectrum of health services which may sometimes include surgery and hormone therapy,

Such conversations are helpful, experts say, because gender dysphoria is a deeply personal and often misunderstood experience. Awareness, they add, can help us better understand gender and ongoing conversations around gender.

Dysphoria: what is it?

is defined by American Psychiatric AssociationGender dysphoria is “psychological distress that results from an incongruity between the assigned at birth,” based on external genitalia, “and one's gender identity,” meaning the psychological meaning of one's gender.

It is not to be confused with body dysmorphia, an excessive preoccupation with an imaginary flaw or defect. In contrast, say California-based gender psychologists Natalie Zhikhareva (“Dr. Z”), a trans person experiencing dysphoria will look at a part of their body – their chest, for example – and see only what is there.

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“They look clearly at their chest and express disconnection with what they see while acknowledging its existence,” she explains to Yahoo Life, defining gender dysphoria as “emotional distress that occurs at birth.” time due to the dissonance felt between the assigned gender and their authentic gender.”

That experience can appear at any , adds Dr. Michele Forcier, a professor of pediatrics at the Alpert School of Medicine, Brown University, had trans patients dealing with dysphoria as far back as the late 70s. However, it is seen more in new patients in the clinical setting “before or around the time of puberty”.

For some, she says, “it can manifest as anxiety, depression and result in self-harm or suicide and other mental health problems.” For others, she says, “it can manifest as an eating disorder—overeating to hide the body or undereating to restrict breasts, muscles, hips, etc.”

How does dysphoria affect body image?

“If you feel gender dysphoria, you're almost always bound to experience a disconnect with your secondary sexual characteristics,” says Zikhareva, “how society genders your body,” leading to struggle in relationships and leading to a spirit of fighting “, intimate encounters and friendship.”

As a result, she explains, “You can never feel complete, grounded, and comfortable, and I would also say Confirmation in itself, if body dysphoria is strongly present.”

This is why many (but not all) of those who experience gender dysphoria find treatment through gender-affirming care, a spectrum of health services that sometimes includes trans women (those born biologically male). and trans men (those born biologically female) to achieve a more masculine or feminine appearance; or hormone therapy, a wide range of treatments (via estrogen for trans women or testosterone for trans men) to help align a person's physical body with their gender identity.

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For many people, such care is an important step towards living a full life, as supported by Leading Health Organization Like American Psychiatric Association, American Nurses Association And World Medical Association, And while these interventions “are not necessary,” Zikhareva says, many transgender people will decide to go this route because their dysphoria is so severe that it will feel like the only option.

That's why “many people who decide gender transition is for them feel like they're living it for the first time in their lives,” she says, noting that it's expressed through the page's latest posts. Done was the feeling.

Understanding the psychological benefits of transitioning, she adds, can make a big difference in cultivating compassion and empathy for trans people.

“I hear people often say, ‘Why can't you just learn to love your body?' referring to trans and nonbinary people,” Zhikhareva says. “And it saddens me that they are so quick to project their own beliefs, when they themselves have always accepted their gender and don't know how painful incongruity feels.”

This is why “access to gender-affirming care should not be a matter of debate and should be accessible to those who need it,” she says, pointing to the onslaught of anti-LGBTQ policies and legislation in states. Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Tennessee, Utah And West Virginia that limits or prohibits gender-affirming care for youth.

“Right now, there's a lot of misinformation,” she concludes, “and I think we neglect to listen to people who have gone through gender transition, and their accounts of how not only have their relationships with their bodies improved have happened, but rather their overall condition.

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