Laura Kate Dale is the author of Uncomfortable Labels: My Life as a Gay Autistic Trans Woman and their second book, for children, Me and My Dysphoria Monster. This beautifully illustrated book follows the story of Nisha.
Nisha’s monster follows her everywhere. It used to be small, but recently her monster has begun to grow. And as her monster gets bigger and bigger, Nisha feels more and more unlike herself.
When people refer to Nisha as a boy, or when she tries to hide her true gender identity, Nisha’s dysphoria monster grows larger and larger. Until, one day, Nisha meets Jack – a trans man – who shows Nisha how she can shrink her dysphoria monster back down to size. We talk to Laura about her motivations for writing Me and My Dysphoria Monster – the first children’s book to fully explore gender dysphoria and how to deal with it.
When I think back on my childhood, and the fact I didn’t come out as a trans woman until the age of 18, the biggest factors that delayed my coming out were a lack of positive representation of trans lives, and a lack of access to language to properly understand my own identity.
Sure, there were other factors at play in my coming out when I did, but when push comes to shove, I grew up not being able to put a name to a feeling of internal discomfort that for years I only got to see portrayed as either a punchline, or a villain.
I was born in the early 90’s, and grew up in a world where mainstream representations of the transgender community were less than positive. The word transgender itself was rarely used, but I understood that people assigned male at birth who wanted to live their lives as women were either seen by the wider world as deceitful villains hiding their identities from the world for personal gain, or objects of disgust and ridicule.
To find a trans woman attractive was a vile and disgusting act, that would prompt characters to vomit uncontrollably upon discovering what they had done.
To be transgender was to be evil, disgusting, and villainous.
When I think back on my decision to write Me and My Dysphoria Monster back in early 2021, I think a lot about my own coming out at age 18, and the push I needed to see my own identity as acceptable.
I remember vividly the first time I was introduced to the idea that trans people could simply live happy, normal, fulfilling, unsensational lives.
Around the age of 18, a friend introduced me to a 12 episode anime series about two young children who were both struggling with feelings of gender dysphoria, one trans boy and one trans girl.
Looking back on the show today, it has its issues as a piece of trans representation, but what it provided me with was a story told from a trans perspective, where a trans character was given space to verbalise all those quiet feelings I had kept bottled up inside for years.
They were explaining all the feelings I had spent my life too afraid of repercussions to verbalise.
They understood what I was quietly suffering through.
I wasn’t alone.
There was a name for what I was feeling, and my feelings didn’t make me evil.
My feelings didn’t preclude me from living a fulfilling life if I decided to come out as transgender.
I watched that whole series in one evening, sat crying while staring at the wall for a while, and came out as trans to my girlfriend later that night.
Positive representation, and language to explain how you feel, are incredibly vital tools for communities whose lived experience differs from the norm, in ways that face societal prejudice. I likely would not have come out when I did if not for coming across one piece of such representation, and that experience has always stuck with me.
There are a couple of reasons why I ultimately wanted to write Me and My Dysphoria Monster, but first that comes to mind is the need for early representation that is accessible to children.
Many resources for trans people are written in inaccessible, clinical language for children, or lean too far the other way and do not use proper terms to talk about trans identity, leaving young readers without the tools they might need to seek more information about specific topics.
As a child, I needed access to resources that were age appropriate, and discussed transition in a way that would be easy enough to process, and explain to others. I needed help explaining what I was going through to the adults in my life, as well as my peers, and I wanted to create a resource that my younger self could have benefitted from having access to.
I wanted to create a narrative that presented a positive outlook on transition, where a young reader could see a vision of hope.
I wanted to create a book where they could see a hopeful, happy, trans adult blossoming from what had once been a distressed and upset dysphoric child, and know that there was a hope for things improving in their lives.
I wanted to create a resource that contained a parent’s guide, with more in depth explanations of important concepts, so that adults could read further follow up information, and be better equipped to answer any remaining questions a child might have after reading.
But, beyond that, I wanted to create a resource that presented dysphoria and transition in an accessible way which would make sense to cisgender children who might have a trans person in their life they want to better understand.
As a trans adult, when I came out, there were young family members who had questions about what I was experiencing and why. I know if I had come out as a child, my peers in school would have had questions they wanted answers to. I wanted to write a book that they could read, in order to get some insight and some empathy into the difficulties that many dysphoric trans people experience.
Not every trans person experiences dysphoria, and transition for reasons other than dysphoria are entirely valid. However, experiences of dysphoria are a big part of my own transition, as they are for many other trans people.
I write this book not to invalidate those whose stories of transition vary from my own, but to give language and representation to one kind of story about transition.
I wrote Me and My Dysphoria Monster to provide the positive representation and age appropriate language my younger self lacked, and to provide the resource for younger relatives that my adult self needed access to.
I hope that, both for young trans people and cis allies seeking answers, this book can be a source of support, comfort, and understanding.
Me and My Dysphoria Monster will publish on the 18th August 2022, and is available for pre-order now.
Follow Laura Kate Dale on Twitter @LauraKBuzz.
If you liked this article, why not join our mailing list to receive more content like this? You may unsubscribe at any time.