Somehow when I wrote my last post about what it feels like to be triggered around my past trauma, I completely forgot about the other kind of trigger I experience. I sometimes struggle with gender-related dysphoria, and it is an entirely different thing from the other kind of trigger.
The dysphoria I experience around my gender is triggered almost exclusively by moments of realization that other people haven’t just automatically categorized me into a binary gender in their heads, but when their way of interacting with me seems to be coloured more by this misconception than it is by the actual person standing in front of them (namely, me).
These moments are, for me, a weirdly out-of-body experience, almost. I immediately get this very weird sense that what is happening is not real. It feels more like a dream, like something I am watching from a position floating above everything. Like maybe I was accidentally in someone else’s body and that’s why this is happening. Like I am actually invisible, maybe, and this person is literally acting entirely based on a single, incorrect “fact” about me. Like I-don’t-even-know-how-to-describe-it.
It’s definitely an instinctive dissociative response of sorts, and it’s not totally different from the triggering experience I described in my previous post, though I think it is much more genuinely adaptive. It is a weird and sometimes disorienting experience, but it generally functions to keep me from freaking out in the moment, and it usually passes reasonably quickly. Unless it happens with someone I am actually close enough to be vulnerable around, or if it happens repeatedly, it doesn’t amount to a whole lot out of my day.
Of course, I say this not because I think that being misgendered is ok, or somehow a lesser violence than the things that trigger me otherwise. It still upsets me. I am still unhappy about it. These experiences are part and parcel of the cissexist, binarist, and often just plain old misogynist nature of the culture I’m living in. These things are wrong regardless of whether they are triggering to me or to anyone else.
But yes, that is the other thing I am sometimes talking about when I talk about being triggered. And I do always specify when I’m talking about dysphoria, so my previous post can still stand, I think.