Leslie McMurrayThe benchmark for a diagnosis of gender dysphoria is a strong, consistent and persistent identification with and desire to be the opposite sex than one was designated at birth.

Yeah. But what’s it feel like?

Recently, Dallas attorney Katie Sprinkle referred to gender dysphoria as “brain nausea.” Someone else described it as a toothache that some days is bearable, other days excruciating – but always there.

I like Katie’s “brain nausea” descriptor. It fits.

There are few things we humans know for sure. Life is a lot of guesswork. But one thing we know without question is “Who we are.”

Even as little kids, we don’t need an adult to tell us who we are. I sure didn’t. I was a little girl.

But when I was born, my doctor looked between my legs instead of between my ears and hung an “M” on me that followed me around for far too long.

I didn’t ask for that. There is a whole cascade of expectations society has waiting for people with an “M” on their birth certificates. Nobody asked me if I wanted to sign up for that stuff, but I gave it my best shot anyway.

But back to the brain nausea: It fits because there is an odd disconnect between the physical evidence (your anatomy) and the expectations from family and society, however well meaning, and what you know to be true about yourself. It’s a puzzle with some of the pieces missing.

Knowing I am a girl, I should see girl things in the mirror confirming my identity. But as a child, I didn’t. A little boy looked back at me instead.

My father frequently told me,” You can be anything you want to be, if you want to do it badly enough.” I could be the president! I could go to the moon! I could be a doctor! Anything, if I was willing to pay the price.

I wonder how many little boys lie awake at night and pray to God to get rid of their penis and put a vagina in its place? “Please God. That’s all I want.

Not many, I imagine.

But when my dad would stop in and tuck me in at night, he would ask if I said my prayers. I’d say yes. He never asked what I was praying for.

If you’ve ever suffered from motion sickness, the “brain nausea” is kind of similar. Motion sickness arises when what your eyes see and what your brain feels are in conflict. Gender dysphoria is much the same.

It’s disorienting. It’s distracting. It’s sometimes the only thing you can think of as it pushes nearly everything else out of your head. It can get bad .

It can kill.

The motion sickness analogy is relatable. Imagine a never-ending case of it, the disorientation and nausea unrelenting, at times so severe it’s unbearable.

It’s little wonder 41 percent of transgender people consider a permanent solution to this very treatable problem.

In treating this “brain nausea,” it has proven ineffective to try and treat the brain with therapy. But what works well is bringing the body in line with what the individual knows to be their true self.

The “Dramamine” in my case was estrogen and progesterone. They calmed the dysphoria to where I could live my life.

They have certainly had significant and profound physical effects on my body. But the most immediate effects happened to my mind. I had never before felt this sense of calm.

Everyone is different. For some, hormones are enough. Others need surgery. The rule of thumb is generally go with the least invasive treatment that rids one of gender dysphoria.

If you have never felt this or just can’t relate to this article — be grateful. I can tell you, it’s no picnic.

With all of the information available now via the Internet, it’s so much easier to find support groups, counseling and clinics that can help. But I grew up in the 1960s and I believed I was a freak, the only one. I didn’t have a name for what I felt and had no way to express it.

I never had the courage to tell my parents, and they passed many years ago without ever knowing they had a daughter. But my dad’s words of encouragement lived on, fanning long-smoldering embers that manifested themselves in a way he never would have dreamed.

I really could do anything I wanted to, if I were willing to pay the price.

Well, I was willing, and two years ago I transitioned to the woman I always knew dwelled inside of me. I hope my dad (and mom) would understand.

Leslie McMurray, a transgender woman, is a former radio DJ who lives and works in Dallas. Read more of her blogs at lesliemichelle44.wordpress.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 3, 2014.