Nonbinary Gender Euphoria: Breaking Free from the Male Gaze

April 20, 2023 Hayes Mitchell

During my sophomore year of college, I discovered I was transgender nonbinary (a gender identity that is not exclusively male or female). I began experimenting with the way I presented my gender. For me, that meant being myself for the first time. And that was terrifying. The idea of having my internal sense of self in congruence with my external self felt like turning myself inside out.

My whole life, I had been playing a role I was given because it was safe, it made sense, and I was good at it; I was good at it because I fit today's Western beauty standards. I knew what I had, and I knew how to flaunt it. Was I comfortable doing so? No. I dissociated from my body, sense of self, and the world around me my whole life. It wasn't until I broke away from the male gaze and my toxic relationship with femininity that I began to feel free and authentically myself. 

My Nonbinary Gender and the Impact on My Mental Health

I felt like a Barbie doll. People touched my body without asking. Growing up, everyone loved to run their hands through my hair and tell me how soft it was. I did and said nothing because I didn't have the words to put to what I felt: uncomfortable. No one taught me boundaries as a child. 

Compliments about my appearance felt like nothing to me. When someone complimented my makeup or outfit, it felt like a pat on my back. I was being told, "Good job." The effort I put into my appearance made me socially acceptable, which meant I was safe. I feared going against the gender norm (social rules and expectations for men and women) because I had stood on a pedestal my whole life. If I did not have beauty, what would I have? How would I be treated?

I pushed on for years performing this gender that did not fit me. The expectations were crushing. I only ever thought about what people wanted from me, not what I wanted or who I wanted to be. The fatigue, depression, and dissociation wore me down. Then I learned that I had a choice. I learned about gender performance and nonbinary genders. I had the key to my freedom. The shackles fell away. 

Expressing My Nonbinary Gender and Breaking Away from the Male Gaze

I stopped dressing for the male gaze. At the time, I was only interested in dating women. Which meant for the first time in my life, I stopped trying to be desirable to men. I had such a toxic relationship with femininity that I just needed to break away from it. 

In my life, shopping has been difficult. Women's clothes are made for my body but usually cause gender dysphoria (distress an individual experiences when their gender identity doesn't match their sex assigned at birth). Men's clothes are not made for my body but create gender euphoria (happiness an individual feels when they feel comfortable in their body and gender identity). Men's clothes are just so much more comfortable. The quality is better, there's plenty of pocket space, and they're just meant to move around in. Women's clothes have always been tight, restricting, and revealing. 

After adopting a masculine style, I began experiencing gender euphoria instead of gender dysphoria. There was ambiguity in my figure. I felt less constrained in my clothes. I didn't need to be aware all the time of how my clothes were moving around, making sure I wasn't revealing too much. 

Masculinity made me feel confident and casual. I embraced my short hair and naked, make-up-free face. My anxiety improved along with my self-esteem. I was happier. I was coming into my nonbinary gender identity. 

My social status didn't change the way I feared. I barely received compliments on my appearance and didn't turn heads everywhere I went. That was a great relief. I no longer had expectations I needed to maintain. 

These days I'm adding a bit of femininity back into my outfits. One day I'm masculine; one day, I'm a blend of masculine and feminine. Most days, I try for gender ambiguity. I'm happier now that I'm confident enough in my identity not to fear being misgendered when experimenting with femininity. 

APA Reference
Mitchell, H. (2023, April 20). Nonbinary Gender Euphoria: Breaking Free from the Male Gaze, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, May 24 from

Author: Hayes Mitchell

Hayes can be found on Facebook, LinkedIn, and his personal site.

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