Will I Always Have to Live With My Partner’s Gender Dysphoria?

U.A. Nigro

Dysphoria can be as unpredictable as a hurricane and just as scary when it blows through my house. It exists always, but usually it sits at a four on a scale from one to ten, which is a livable number. However when she is triggered, it shoots right up to a ten. It makes me feel so helpless and alone. All I want to do at that point is make it all go away because it kills me to see her in such pain. My wife can get through days and days without having a dysphoria break down. Then, the moment that I begin to forget it exists in our lives, is when it rears its ugly head again.

Cisgender people have asked me to describe dysphoria to them in the past. I found that a very difficult question to answer. Unless you have spoken to someone who suffers from it or witnessed someone go through it, you can never really understand it. Our daughters can tell when my wife is having a hard time dealing with it because they live with her. I have tried to explain it to my mother in law a million times, and I still have gotten nowhere with her. I tell her every time she deadnames my wife, that she triggers her dysphoria and it hurts her immensely. Yet she still does it.

I am married to a beautiful, smart, strong, and talented woman, who I love to brag about. However, that same woman can become paralyzed in an instant. When dysphoria strikes, I usually ask her what I can do to help. If she is trying to get herself together to leave the house, I always ask what is bothering her and can we fix it. Sometimes it’s as simple as an outfit change and other times it can be hair or nails. Some bouts of dysphoria are so bad, she just needs to be left alone to cry it out. Occasionally I just need to let her talk while I try to be a good listener.


So the question currently floating around in my head is; will we have to deal with dysphoria forever? Will I be eighty years old still trying to convince her that the way she sees herself is skewed by the dysphoria? My hope is that after my wife has surgery that this will dissipate some, but that sounds like a pipe dream. There are no guarantees that surgery of any kind will make dysphoria go away. If we fix one thing that gives her massive dysphoria, will other things then become a problem? Hopefully it will help to lessen the dysphoria and become barely noticeable.

I think that my wife is gorgeous. I've had people who have known us forever tell me that they think that she is gorgeous. Men and women alike, hit on her when we are out in public. Our children and I tell her all the time how amazing she looks, but the dysphoria always seems to win. My hope is that someday she will believe all the wonderful things that people say to her. That from the inside out, she will feel beautiful and with the help of surgery, she will feel whole. When she closes her eyes I want the image that she sees of herself to match the one she sees in the mirror. Remember to be patient and loving when your partner’s dysphoria is bad. Communicate as well as listen. Encourage exploration of clothes, accessories, and new looks. Try to put yourself in their shoes and be empathetic.

Comments (3)
No. 1-3

What a shock it must have been to hear her say that. Disappointing, to say the least. I'm sorry you had that experience. My 17yr daughter "came out" 2 years ago and we were able to get great medical care from HCMC's (Minneapolis) gender clinic. Her dysphoria is always in the background and my side of the family, who claim to fully support her, just don't get it. They think it is something she can just turn off if she tried. Very sad.


Short answer, probably. In truth, it never really goes away. It's greatly reduced to a whisper in the background and there are times that it can be forgotten. But then something will trigger a response. Now I've functioned pretty well in my quarter century since transition but a new doctor or medical procedure can trigger it. These areas trigger old bad memories and a time of vulnerability in my life. The other day a woman I've know for 6 years and thought was a friend (does not know I'm trans) went off on a rant about a transwoman working for the TSA screening woman (according to her son, who works for the TSA) at the local airport. Told her I'd be more concerned about a lesbian and tried to be an advocate, but the vitriol of her comments shook me to my core.

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