I'm not alone in using video games like "Animal Crossing" to cope with my mental illness. Ever since the shelter-at-home orders back in February, gamers have been purchasing the Nintendo Switch faster than they can be physically made. Video games became a form of escapism, and what was once a pastime became a coping mechanism for those stuck at home. While I’ve been trapped in my apartment in this pandemic, no Nintendo Switch game has been more useful for exploring and coping with my mental illness than "Animal Crossing."
Life as an autistic transgender person was complicated almost from the beginning. As an undiagnosed autistic child, I hadn't considered that there was anything different about me until my sister started pointing it out. Growing up with an opinionated sister telling me what to wear, how to hold hands with boys, what sports to play, and how to act taught me how to camouflage my more autistic traits and keep my queerness to myself. How could I be queer, transgender, or different when I was so busy trying to be well-liked?
Since I'm openly transgender, I sometimes get comments that my identity is a mental illness because "gender dysphoria" is in the DSM-5, the official diagnostic tool for psychiatric disorders. To me, this reflects a misunderstanding about what gender dysphoria is and how it's treated. While most trans people experience dysphoria, especially before transitioning, not all trans people do for their whole life. For that reason, it's possible for someone to be transgender but not have gender dysphoria.
Last week I went to my two-year checkup for hormone replacement therapy, a medication I take because I am transgender, to align my body with my gender identity. I visit my doctor every six months to make sure my testosterone levels are in the healthy range for a man and that my mental and physical health are okay, too. The past two years have gone by so fast that it's hard for me to believe I've been on hormone medication for so long. It feels like just yesterday that I decided to seek help for my gender dysphoria, or the distress I felt because my biological sex and gender identity didn't align. Since my appointment, I've been thinking a lot about what it means to be transgender and how complex gender really is.
I find myself in a paradox lately. I have always been extremely accepting of others who are different, especially those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ). But it's been extremely hard for me to accept that I am genderqueer. While this is common with people who suffer from mental illnesses, it is a huge problem with LGBTQ individuals. LGBTQ people have a much harder time with self-acceptance thanks to a hostile environment that does not accept their sexuality and gender identity. In short, gender dysphoria affects my depression.
Dealing with depression and other mental illnesses is very hard. But when an individual identifies as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer (LGBTQ), the struggle can become alienating. Many LGBTQ individuals find themselves disconnected between their true identity and the person they are forced to be in public. This is why many LGBTQ people have depression and contemplate suicide. Being genderqueer, too, can lead to depression. Sadly, many go through with suicide because they see no better option.
For the past few months, I have struggled to accept my gender identity and the fact that I am genderqueer. I've been having a hard time trying to label my gender identity, especially since our society puts only two labels to gender: man or woman. Thanks to the social websites like Tumblr, though, I am starting to see that there are other people just like me out there.
How can you love yourself and have self-acceptance and yet deny part of your true identity? Is such a feat even possible? This is a problem that is common among many people within the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer community (LGBTQ). Unfortunately, many LGBTQ individuals cannot come out due to safety reasons. If they were to come out as gay or transgender, they risk the scary chance of getting kicked out and ending up on the streets. They can even lose their jobs. So while the world proudly declares that we must be unashamed of our true selves, society’s reaction toward many LGBTQ people is a contradiction. And it has very negative effects on the mental health of LGBTQ individuals. A lack of self-acceptance can even worsen depression in LGBTQ individuals.
Have you ever tried being something that you’re not? I think it’s safe to say that all of us have gone through this at some point in our lives. It makes us feel as if we are a fake, and that we’re being untrue to ourselves. It may also lead to deep depression and low self-esteem, especially when it comes to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or questioning (LGBTQ) individuals. Those who identify as LGBTQ have a higher chance of self-harm, substance abuse, and eating disorders, for example, which are all linked to depression.