Gender dysphoria is a state of distress that a lot of trans, nonbinary, and genderqueer/genderfluid individuals experience. The distress comes in physical, social, emotional, and other aspects of a person’s expression. I am AMAB (assigned male at birth) and had no desire to change my body. However, my dysphoria came in how I styled and language that I used to describe myself. I had identified as an openly gay man since I was just 17, using he/him/his as my pronouns. Within identifying as a gay man I opened myself up to embracing and expressing my feminine energy, something that a lot of gay men get a lot of condemnation about. Within the gay community there is so much femphobia. Many gay men use degrading language to describe and talk down to other gay men that express their femininity, saying the are “too gay” or blaming them for why gay men continue to be ridiculed by heterosexuality. It honestly pissed me off because people with these thoughts and beliefs fail to realize how they are playing right into the heteronormative and patriarchal systems that continue to uphold traditional masculinity and heterosexuality as a norm while demonizing in other forms of expression in sexuality, gender, and gender expression. 

It took me years to finally understand that I was experiencing gender dysphoria myself. For me it wasn’t about my body. It was about how I express myself, how I referred to myself and how others referred to me. Despite the hetero-masculine attitudes that roam within the gay community, I embraced my femininity. I began to use clothes, accessories, and makeup to play with my gender expression. One of favorite ways to do this was to visit thrift stores (I love thrift shopping) and find various blouses, sweaters, and other garments that are traditionally labeled “women”. I’ve always used makeup like mascara and eyeliner, but I started to play more with foundation, concealers, and eye pallets. I found that I really loved bright vibrant colors and almost anything with floral print. I started painting my nails more bold and vibrant colors and growing them out. I even made the decision to grow my hair out. This was incredibly freeing for me and it helped in combatting the gender dysphoria that I was experiencing. 

My change in gender expression led me to think more about my gender identity. Personally, I had no problems with the use of he/him/his but I also felt that she/her/hers worked for me as well. When I would be engaged with so many friends in a lively conversation, they would blurt out “girrrrl!” or refer to me with one of the traditional female pronouns. Or I would be ordering through a drive thru or engaged in a call with customer service and almost always be referred to as “ma’am”. In all cases, I would instantly get an apology and they would correct themselves. However, I felt I didn’t need an apology. Of course, I don’t blame them because I was still understanding my own identity and hadn’t quite come to terms with how to express my gender identity or the language that I was most comfortable using. It was about a year or so ago, that I began to learn more about nonbinary. I was able to connect with nonbinary individuals via social media mostly. I would spend hours upon hours exploring their various pages, blogs, and whatever content I could find. Everyone had defined themselves under nonbinary in their own way and style. I was excited because I gained so much knowledge and awareness of myself as a nonbinary and found various ways that I could express myself and language and terms that I could use. I came to the conclusion that they/them or other gender-neutral pronouns were what I was most comfortable with in expressing myself. 

Gender dysphoria causes many individuals to feel a strong disconnection in how they dress, style, or view their bodies, and language used to describe them. This distress and disconnection can lead to depression, dissociation of self, self-image and esteem issues, and other various feelings. It’s honestly isn’t tied to any gender or sexuality. It’s important to note there is no universal way to experience dysphoria and everyone can experience it differently. Also, individuals experiencing gender dysphoria may choose to deal with in in various ways through physical changes (surgical or not), pronouns and language, including name changes, clothes and styling, and any other ways that feels right to the individual. If you are a person experiencing this dysphoria, know there are multiple ways you can engage in exploration to help you express and define your gender and gender expression as you see fit. There is no wrong or right way to be you in whatever way you choose to be. The journey is scary, but I promise you it’s worth it.  

**If you are an individual experiencing gender dysphoria, I am offering a FREE virtual service here where I can assist you in helping you find your style in expressing yourself and gender how you see fit.**

WARNING: POST INCLUDES DISCUSSION OF DEPRESSION AND SUICIDE.

I knew all my life that I was gay and had an attraction for men. I remember distinctly in kindergarten have this HUGE crush on a first grader. He was tall and had the cutest smile. Since then I had a crush on a guy in every grade. At first, I didn’t think much of it or even what to call it. However, I knew that I liked guys and just didn’t like girls. It was around the 3rd grade that I began to pick up that I may was gay…and where my personal turmoil started. 

I remember having a teacher who actually discussed sexuality, involving both heterosexuality and homosexuality. It wasn’t in a disrespectful or heteronormative way but for me it raised a great awareness about myself. I had a name for it. Gay. Homosexuality. That’s who I was. From that time, I fought hard to change. I was raised Christian and attended Catholic school. I was taught and believed that my feelings were a sin and that I was going to hell. I prayed to God to please take it away. I wanted to be normal. I didn’t want to be an embarrassment to myself or my family. It took me into such deep depression and dark places mentally. I hated myself and often didn’t not want to be here. I can remember on at least two occasions where I did try to end my life. The world didn’t love me. God (I felt) didn’t love me. I didn’t love me. And I didn’t think anyone ever would. I wanted my existence to be over. 

Fast forward to my junior year of high school. I was still heavily depressed at this time, but it was very clear for myself that I was gay. I was tired of fighting it. I had tried dating girls. I tried being “one of the guys”. I tried being bisexual. But there was no running from it. So, I came out which was a…I can’t explain it. It was a freeing yet difficult time for me. Freeing as in I didn’t have to hide who I was but difficult in I didn’t have family and some friends support or love anymore. It wasn’t until college where I got access to therapy and established a great group of friends from all sexualities, genders, and other identities that I began to love myself and love my gayness. It’s amazing how those four years for me provided me so much needed insight and freedom that I have been longing for all those years before. 

In my 20s (I’m 30 now) I went through what many would call gay adolescence. I had spent most of my adolescence hating myself while others were opening and actively learning more about themselves, an experience that many LGBTQIA individuals can relate to in some way. For me this included understanding more about my gender expressions and identity. It’s not that I didn’t like being a “man” or that I wanted to be a “woman”…I just never felt connected to the two or felt that they accurately reflected my gender. I wanted to embrace more of my feminine energy that was in me while not neglecting my masculine energy. Now in the gay community, this certainly made dating hard with the whole “no fems, no fats” thing. But as I got older, I just stopped giving a damn. I had already had experience trying to hide who I was resulting in mental chaos and depression. I didn’t want to travel down that road again. 

These past few years have been quite a journey for me. In 2017, I decided to embark upon my entrepreneurial quest to form and build my online boutique, Pass Da Suga. The idea came from a matter of understanding my own expression of style using fashion and accessories and would eventually come to have a lot to do with how I personally identify. My gender expression and ultimately my gender identity, cannot be defined within the binary of male or female. It was one of the reasons why I decided to start my boutique and offering styling services as a genderqueer stylist. I don’t believe clothes have a gender and I have always loved using fashion and style to express myself. It was just last year that I finally realized that my gender identity was not man or woman but nonbinary. In all honesty, it has been something that I can say I’ve always been all my life. However, because of my new career endeavors and experiences in the last decade that taught me more about myself, how to love myself, how to express myself without boundaries or fear. I found myself. Again.

Mx. Leeander Alexander. Black Nonbinary Queer. Preferred pronouns they/them.