5 Ways To Support A Trans Person                

(Trigger Warning:This piece deals with the over-consumption of alcohol and
describes an experience dysphoria in detail.)

My partner is pounding on the door, begging me to unlock it.

I’m sitting in front of a tall mirror, tears falling quietly down my face,
as I clutch my shirt in one hand and a bottle of vodka in the other.

The amount of panic my chest has caused me in the last three months has
reached a breaking point. I stare, helplessly, at a body that both confuses and
terrifies me.

As I look at myself, my body trembling, I’m reminded of the times as
a child when I would take the heads off of my Lego characters and place them on
different bodies – only this time, the stakes are real, and the stakes are

I can recognize my face, but everything else feels so, so wrong.

My partner manages to pick the lock, and they push through the door. Their
eyes widen with horror as they realize I’ve been drinking to cope with my
dysphoria. They take the bottle from me, and I listen as they hurry down the
hall, pouring the vodka into the bathroom sink.

They return and, helping me stand up, wrap a blanket around me, help me into
bed, kiss my forehead and say, “I’m not angry. I’m just concerned.” As I mutter
a drunken apology, they sigh, propping me up with another pillow. They squeeze
me gently.

“We’re going to watch Netflix, we’re going to relax, and everything is
going to be okay.”

* * *

Being a trans and genderqueer person who regularly experiences body
dysphoria has been a challenge that few people in my life have felt prepared

Coping with body dysphoria, let alone helping someone cope, is not something
we’re taught or expect to encounter.

Most who know I experience dysphoria never anticipate the extent to which it
impacts my life – at my worst, I can spend days holed up in my apartment,
suffer panic attacks in the shower, and before I got help, I could even turn to
alcohol to cope.

While friends and loved ones can’t take my dysphoria away, they can help me
to cope in healthier ways and ride out the inevitable waves. With the support
of folks who loved me, we have learned together the best ways to manage my
dysphoria – and it has made a huge difference in my life.

So if you’re wondering how to support a trans person in your life who is
experiencing body dysphoria, this list of five tips is a great place to start.

1. Engage Compassionately and Validate Their Experience

No two bouts of dysphoria are

The spectrum of emotions we
experience with dysphoria can vary time to time, person to person, or even episode
to episode. The severity can also range from mild to severe.

Some days, we might feel
comfortable in our skin; other days, it can be intolerable.

Keeping all of this in mind,
regardless of the severity or focus, it’s vital to validate that person’s experience.

“Is it really that bad?” is never
an okay response. “Why can’t you leave your apartment?” is not an okay response
either. And “Get over it, we all have insecurities” is absolutely, 100% an
awful response.

All of these responses
trivialize this person’s pain and suggest that what they are feeling isn’t
worth caring about.

What a trans person needs from you
is validation.

“I’m sorry this is happening” or
“That sounds really awful” are responses that acknowledge this person’s pain –
and moreover, validate that it is real and important. This is what we, as trans
folks, need from our supporters.

Remember, too, that body dysphoria
can impact more than just trans women and trans men. A whole range of
identities – including genderqueer folks, agender people, neutrois,
bigender, and so on – can all experience dysphoria.

The bottom-line is that
every instance of dysphoria is valid and important, no matter who is going
through it or how they experience it.

So, please, don’t interrogate,
don’t argue, and don’t invalidate. We need—nay, deserve—your

2. Ask How You Can Help

Every trans person is different,
and sometimes what helps us through our dysphoria can vary.

Keeping that in mind, asking
the expert – the trans person themselves – is
a great place to start if you’re looking to help someone cope with dysphoria.

Some trans folks need to get out of
the house to do something fun, while others would shudder at the thought of
being in public. Some trans folks might find talking through their dysphoria to
be comforting, while others will only be more upset if they engage in a long
conversation about it.

It’s best to ask folks what
they need when they’re experiencing dysphoria. It’s as simple as saying, “How
can I help right now?”

My partner knows that when the
dysphoria comes a’knockin’, we’re going to be spending our night watching Parks
& Rec or playing Nintendo. Bonus points if there’s popcorn involved.

In some instances, a trans person
may need help setting up a crowdfunding campaign for top surgery or may
need to brainstorm how to start HRT (some great ones include Indiegogo,
Giveforward, and Crowdrise). Maybe they need help saving up for a new binder.
But not every trans person will opt for these things, however. Instead of
suggesting a specific intervention, allow them to bring it up. If it’s on their
mind, they will tell you so.

Bear in mind that sometimes we
don’t know what we need. And that’s okay! That’s when the next tips come in

3. Suggest Distractions or Fun Activities

Bust out the coloring books.
Marathon your favorite movies. Order Thai food and play a board game.
Brainstorm some fun distractions that can get their mind off the dysphoria –
and if there are laughs involved, that’s even better.

Make sure the activities
you suggest aren’t triggering.

For example, getting into a
swimsuit and going to the pool isn’t always the best idea if you’re having
dysphoria related to your body.

Similarly, going to a funhouse full
of mirrors might not be so much fun for someone who wants to take their mind
off of their body.

If you’re selecting a movie, a
documentary about plastic surgery might not be the best choice.

Try to choose an activity that is
both enjoyable and far removed from the crisis at hand.

And remember that sometimes
we’re not in the mood for fun stuff. If that’s the case, a cup of tea
and a shoulder to cry on can be just as helpful, too.

4. Send (Or Bring!) Them a Self-Care Package

Care packages are awesome. They can
include delicious snacks, lotions or soaps, cuddly stuffed animals, a favorite
movie or book, a journal to write down our feelings, crayons or colored pencils
and a sketchbook, or anything you can think of that might be comforting.

Sometimes trans folks don’t
want visitors when they’re feeling dysphoric. That’s important to respect – and
a great reason to opt for a self-care package if they’re not looking to hang

Mailing it or leaving it on their
porch (with permission) is a great way of saying, “I care and also respect your

If you know that they aren’t in the
mood to cook, you can also offer to send them food from their favorite takeout
restaurant – or deliver a meal to them yourself.

If all else fails, an e-gift card
to a favorite store can encourage them to treat themselves, and it doesn’t
require the creativity of assembling a care package yourself.

5. If Needed, Encourage Them to Seek Help

The day after I drank vodka to cope
with my dysphoria, my partner sat me down and helped me schedule a therapy

Dysphoria is a beast – and
sometimes that beast takes more than just willpower to tame.

If your loved one is
engaging in harmful or unhealthy coping behaviors, or is grappling with
suicidal ideation, it’s time to seek outside help.

A trans-competent therapist, for
example, can be an important safety net for a trans person coping with
dysphoria; a local support group at an LGBTQIA+ community center can also be a
great resource.

In the case of dysphoria
accompanied by suicidality, contacting the Trans Lifeline Hotline, National Suicide Prevention
Lifeline (call 1.800.273.8255 in the US), or if there is a plan and intent
to act, calling 911 may be a necessary step. Transgender folks are especially
vulnerable as suicide is too often a silent killer in our community.

Sometimes the very best thing you
can do for someone you love is encourage them to seek out the resources and
support that they need to ensure their wellness in the long term.

* *

My partner did everything right
that night when I made the mistake of drinking to deal with my dysphoria.

They didn’t waste time questioning
the legitimacy or extent of my struggle. They didn’t invalidate my pain. Instead,
they compassionately expressed their concern without placing judgment on me or
my choices. And after making sure I was safe, they helped by
comforting me and distracting me.

When the dust settled, they
encouraged me to reach out for the professional support that I needed to ensure
that nights like these would not happen again.

Dysphoria can be painful, and at
times, traumatic. That being said, the support of a loved one can make all the

You may not be able to take away the pain and
discomfort that comes with body dysphoria, but with compassion and respect, you
can help make the burden just a little bit easier for us to carry.

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