Have you ever felt so happy with the way you are presenting your gender identity to the world that it made you want to sing? Then you have experienced something called gender euphoria.
“Gender euphoria is being able to experience your authentic self openly and fearlessly,” Jerrica Kirkley, MD, chief medical officer of Plume Health, tells LIVESTRONG.com.
Here’s everything you need to know about gender euphoria, including what it means, what it looks like, and how it can benefit mental and physical health.
“Many people know that gender dysphoria is the feeling of discomfort or distress when there is a disconnect between a person’s gender identity and the physical body,” says Elyse Pine, MD, pediatric endocrinologist at Chase’s Gender JOY. Brexton Health Care.
But gender euphoria plays just as much a role in transgender people’s lives as dysphoria.
Here is the definition of gender euphoria: “It is the positive feeling that occurs when a person feels recognized and seen in their authentic gender, or feels an alignment between gender identity and the body,” says Dr. Pine.
What gender euphoria means to each person depends on who is experiencing it. Noah Cherry, a hairdresser and barber at Bernie and Brother Barber Co., who is transgender, helps her clients find exhilaration by helping them get closer to a gender expression that brings them joy.
“For me, gender euphoria means the excitement, the freedom, the experience of being myself without apologizing and being seen as myself,” says Cherry. “In that euphoric moment, I know that my best self exists even on the most difficult days.”
He adds: “When I turn the chair and I see a smile [a client’s] make a difference in their journey, I know that even if they have had many bad days, at least today they feel their more authentic self “.
Why is gender euphoria important?
For those who identify with their assigned gender at birth, it may be difficult to understand why gender euphoria is so important. In fact, there are many cisgender people who may never have experienced gender euphoria for themselves.
Cherry takes a compassionate approach to explaining gender euphoria to those who may not understand how a transgender person’s life can change.
“I usually ask them to think of a time when they felt their most authentic self. In that moment, did they really love each other? Did they feel comfortable in their own skin?” says Cherry.
“The idea is to remember the feeling of a rush in the sense of self and understand that many trans people never have that feeling and work so hard every day to achieve it.”
And gender euphoria can do more than just affect how a transgender person feels about themselves, it can also allow them to interact safely and securely with the world around them.
For example, Dr. Kirkley says that gender euphoria can interact with a patient’s experience in the healthcare system.
“Most cisgender people, if they enter a health facility or otherwise, don’t think twice about getting the correct name, because it is,” says Dr. Kirkley. “Think about what it would be like if [people called you] every day the wrong name or pronouns. “
Conversely, being addressed with the correct name and pronouns can build trust and comfort and encourage continued medical care.
There are some barriers to trans and non-binary assistance, such as your location or lack of insurance. Check out our guide on how to overcome barriers to gender affirmation care so you can access the help you deserve.
What does gender euphoria look like?
Since each person has their own unique gender expression, gender euphoria can manifest itself in many ways.
Sometimes people access gender euphoria through big changes, such as undergoing hormone therapy or gender affirming surgery.
And small changes in one’s gender expression can have an equally strong impact: “The euphoria doesn’t have to come from big, life-changing decisions,” says Cherry. “It’s in the details. Maybe all you need to do is get your hair off your neck and ears, maybe an inch off the top. These little decisions can save a life.”
Pine also noted that changes in physical appearance facilitate gender euphoria in many of her patients. “[Gender euphoria] it can manifest as a sense of recognition and joy of security that comes from clothing or a hairstyle that helps connect a person with their gender identity, “she says.
People may also experience gender euphoria for other reasons. “It can be internal, for example from a person who enjoys hearing the change in their voice from testosterone, or it can be social, like hearing the chosen name and pronouns used consistently,” says Dr. Pine.
And people can experience gender euphoria even before publicly living as themselves.
“People describe early experiences as a waiter asking, ‘What would your child want?’ the child who was assigned a girl at birth and feel happy to be addressed as a boy, sometimes long before they have revealed their true gender identity to anyone, “says Dr. Pine.
Gender Euphoria Health Benefits
For those who don’t see the huge change in quality of life that transgender people experience when they have gender euphoria, it’s easy to assume that all gender euphoria is about making oneself feel better.
However, continuing gender euphoria carries significant mental and physical health benefits.
1. It can improve mental health
“One thing we do know is that the transgender community is disproportionately affected by various health disparities,” says Dr. Kirkley. “Where we’ve seen these indicators move is in the mental health space. Numerous studies show that access to gender-affirming hormone therapy and surgery – just those two alone – has improved mental health.”
Similarly, a February 2022 study inOpen JAMA networkfound that gender affirmation assistance is linked to a reduced risk of depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions for transgender and non-binary youth.
Dr. Kirkley also says her patients at the Plume experience significant reductions in anxiety, depression, and self-harm when they access gender-affirming treatments, as well as treating underlying medical problems.
When they receive these treatments, “patients feel more confident than they ever have because of those physical changes that align more closely with who they are,” says Dr. Kirkley.
“[Experiencing gender euphoria] it allows people to participate more in their communities, “says Dr. Kirkley.” And when you can participate in your community, it will do wonders for both your physical and mental health. “
For example, engaging more with your peers and with a larger community can encourage you to go out and participate in activities you might otherwise avoid, says Dr. Kirkley.
3. It could be linked to a decreased risk of disease
Dr. Kirkley isn’t the only one who has seen how improved mental health can translate into better physical health.
“People with depression and anxiety can experience higher rates of problems like heart disease and substance abuse,” says Dr. Pine.
In fact, a September 2021 study inHealth affairsfound that privately insured transgender people were at higher risk for most chronic conditions (such as diabetes or heart disease) than their cisgender counterparts.
But access to gender-affirming care – and the euphoria it can bring – can help curb mental health conditions linked to an increased risk of the disease.