August 18, 2019 | 81° F

Rutgers Transmissions hosts event on battling dysphoria within transgender community with healthy habits

Photo by Casey Ambrosio |

“Battling Dysphoria with Healthy Habits” discussed habits like healthy eating and physical activity for students dealing with gender dysphoria — the feeling that one’s emotional and psychological identity are opposite to one’s biological sex.


Gender dysphoria is the terrifying experience that affects many in the transgender community and causes anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts and more, according to the National Health Service of England.

Charlie Vitale, president of RU Transmissions and a School of Environmental and Biological Sciences junior, described gender dysphoria as being uncomfortable with one’s body image because it does not relate to what one wants to see, in terms of gender and expression.

“Living in an unaccepting society makes it so that you don’t have the freedom to really express your gender the way you want to,” Vitale said. “The big thing about dysphoria is that it’s very debilitating, which is why a lot of the community is so at-risk for suicide.”

For people who do not know how to deal or have a rough time dealing with gender dysphoria, Transmissions coordinated "Battling Dysphoria with Healthy Habits," an event on Wednesday that focused on combating dysphoria, according to the event page.

At the event, members of Transmissions presented a slideshow of healthy coping mechanisms, ranging from daily helpful tips to guides for when an individual finds themselves in a panic. The event also focused on healthy habits and mechanisms like positive affirmation, a healthy diet and consistent sleep.

Also included was a 20-minute activity where attendees could make face masks and facial scrubs in the upstairs of the Rutgers University Center for Social Justice Education and LGBT Communities (SJE) building.

“I really wanted the event to focus on being kind to your body and your mind and genuinely taking care of yourself rather than trying to alter your appearance, putting emphasis on the fact that you don’t have to be cis-passing,” Vitale said.

They said that these small things do add up and help. Vitale uses positive affirmations like personally writing nice messages to themselves on their mirror. They could look at it every day for self-reinforcement. Doing things such as arts and crafts and playing video games keeps the mind and hands busy as well, Vitale said.

Mollie Bradley, the secretary of RU Transmissions and a School of Arts and Sciences junior, said that there are many other creative ways to keep a healthy mindset. While she personally likes to cook, she also recommended artistic and creative things like painting or keeping a personal journal. 

“Creating outlets is a really nice coping mechanism," said Jackie Lyons, the event coordinator and a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore. "Being creative helps you process through things and takes your mind off of whatever you need it to, or it can help you put your emotions down and help you process them better.”

Dysphoria can affect motivation to do daily and simple tasks. Lyons said that cooking is hard when feeling depressed, but there are plenty of nutritious and easy-to-make meals that are microwaveable and do not require the full effort of cooking. These meals are much healthier than surviving an entire week entirely on junk food like popcorn or Cheetos.

Breathing exercises that can help in panic situations were also discussed during the program. One breathing exercise mentioned was the square breath. Lyons said the process entails thinking of drawing a square while breathing in for 4 seconds, holding it in, breathing out and holding it again. 

Even when trying to seek professional help, therapists often hyper-fixate on the fact that someone is transgender and do not address any other possible problems, Vitale said. Therapists will sometimes try to blame a legitimate issue like anxiety or depression on the fact that someone is transgender, writing off any other reasons or serious problems that could be causing mental illness.

Members of Transmissions said that gender dysphoria can sometimes feel like a black hole — but it can be managed. For some people, that can be medically transitioning, getting hormone replacement therapy or simply being allowed to wear the clothes that they want to wear. The organization noted that this does not apply to everyone.

People assume a lot about someone from the way they look, Vitale said. A transgender person’s appearance can be very important to them. It can be reflected in the way they talk, dress, walk, do their hair and the way they do their makeup, they said.

Dysphoria is not a requirement for being transgender, according to the American Psychiatric Association.

Vitale said that the way they feel is not reflected in how they dress, which is not reflected in how people perceive them. This is one reason why transgender people are misgendered.

Often times, being misgendered can lead to dysphoria, which can also exacerbate mental illnesses, Vitale said. Although this does not speak for the entire community, it speaks to many who experience dysphoria. 

“I know that when people look at me, they don’t see what I am, they just see what I look like,” Vitale said.

Khoa Nguyen

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