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On this episode of In The Know: The Truth Is, the ACLU’s Deputy Director of Transgender Justice, Chase Strangio (@chasestrangio), sits down with Chella Man (@chellaman) and Aaron Rose Philip (@aaron___philip) to discuss the importance of gender euphoria when it comes to transgender people embracing their identity.
Before discussing gender euphoria, the hosts and Strangio feel it’s important to define gender dysphoria, in order to understand the journey that leads to gender euphoria. To Strangio, gender dysphoria can be defined as “the disconnect, and the distress associated with it, between how you understand yourself and how you were assigned at birth.”
Strangio continues, explaining that gender dysphoria is a “deep, metaphysical sort of understanding that we have this fracture or disruption between how we understand ourselves and how we are both perceived by ourselves and by the world.” That fracture, according to Strangio, creates so much possibility, in addition to the pain that it causes.
Strangio grew up in the ‘80s and ‘90s, before the Internet era, so he “had no idea what transness was,” and didn’t know what gender dysphoria was. “There was this sense of displacement from self that was such a salient part of my childhood, but I had no place to put it,” he says. “For me, I didn’t even have words to put to so many of my childhood experiences, and as a result, barely remember much of my childhood.” Strangio uses this disconnect as inspiration to look ahead, trying to find ways to give young people “the sense that they can exist and name themselves and dream about what they can be in the future.”
One of Strangio’s strongest examples of experiencing gender euphoria was having top surgery. “I can recall that single day and say that that changed the course of my life in every respect,” says Strangio. While the hosts and Strangio have experienced powerful feelings of gender euphoria, for cisgender people, gender euphoria can be a hard concept to understand.
“Cis people don’t understand that we are actually experiencing a huge amount of joy, of celebration, of love for ourselves and our community and our history,” Strangio explains. “We hear statistics all the time that are sobering, and true, about the experiences of anxiety, depression and suicidality in our communities. Those are a product of transphobia, the product of systemic discrimination and oppression. They are not inherent to being trans.”
Strangio explains that he feels gender euphoria often now, and being able to wake up and look at himself and know that he doesn’t need to spend the day “trying to hide” is a constant source of euphoria for him. That being said, Strangio understands that struggle is part of the trans narrative and experience, and that the trans community should embrace the power that comes with that struggle, as long as the struggle narrative is balanced with positive, joyful stories.
“We should be able to exist in our power, and to exist in our joy,” he says. “Narrative and cultural narrative is the most powerful limitation on even law and policy, because at the end of the day the people making laws are human beings who are also consuming these cultural products.”
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