Dysphoria affects all trans men differently.  The spectrum ranges from those of us who are not affected at all to others who power through a constant daily struggle.  On May 21, 2019 I went to Spa World for a day of relaxation and was instead forced to stare the battle I’ve had with dysphoria directly in the eye.

For those of you not familiar with Spa World, let me give you a visual.  Spa World is a 24-hour facility where you can simply…relax.  There is a Poultice Room area, Sauna, and a Bade Area.  The poultice area is the main area of the facility where men and women are able to congregate together.  There are 7 different poultice rooms with temperatures that range from 45 degrees all the way up to 170 degrees.  These rooms are great for pulling toxins from your body and helping your skin rejuvenate. 

Courtesy of Spa World, Centerville VA

The next area of Spa World is split up by men and women.  When you go into the bade area there are a few different rules. As I reviewed the rules posted on the wall I felt good about adhering to them all.  For instance, no alcohol or outside food was allowed inside.  Then, all of a sudden I saw it. The ONE rule that stood out to me and struck fear in my heart!


I don’t know about anyone else but being naked is one of my greatest fears.  I am finally comfortable walking around with my shirt off, but I still struggle with bottom dysphoria; especially when I am around CIS gendered men.

So, when I saw this sign I immediately went into panic mode.  When you check into Spa World you are given a short and shirt set that you are supposed to wear in the poultice area.  I was too nervous to go into the bade & sauna area, so I put on my shirt and shorts and went to find my wife in the poultice area.  Once I saw her I completely broke down.  I told her that I was not comfortable, and I didn’t want to stay.  We had already paid for 12 hours so I said I would sit in the car until she was ready to go. 

Luckily, I have an amazing and supportive wife.  She let me vent and say exactly how I felt.  I even shed a few tears briefly because I felt inadequate.  However, after listening to me, she began to validate me.  She let me know that I am a man.  She told me that I am her man and I could be secure in who I am.  She asked me if I knew that I was a man.  I answered yes.  Then she told me to be secure in who I was.  She asked me if a CIS gendered man happened to be in an accident where he lost his penis or even if they were born without a penis if that would make them any less of a man.  I had to think about it, and the answer was no.  No, they would not be any less of a man and I was not any less of a man.

It doesn’t matter if I “measure up” to other men.  All men are different.  Different heights.  Different sizes. Different colors.  Regardless, NO man is any less than the other.

Her words gave me confidence.  She told me that I’ve got this.  I walked back into the men’s locker room and got completely undressed.  You are allowed to have a hand towel, so I held it up to my crotch like everyone else and walked proudly into the bade area.  I hung up my towel and took my shower.  Grabbed my towel and walked into the jacuzzi.  As I looked around I realized that no one was staring at me.  No one was giving me any evil glances.  If anything, I received “the nod” if I walked past anyone. Although this was a terrifying experience, it ended up being one of the best experiences of my life.  It helped me realize that what other people thought about me didn’t matter.  The only thing that mattered was the way I felt about myself.  I am realizing that I was secure with myself and it was only the words of complete strangers that I was worried about. 

So, that day I finally realized I was indeed 100% male.  These days I stand a little taller. I stand with my shoulders back. Although I was forced into one of the most intense cases of self evaluation in my life, it helped me realize….. 

I am a man.

Dani Barnhill-Farrell is an activist and entrepreneur. Since his transition in 2017 he has been heavily involved in the LGBTQ community. He is currently the Sr. Director of Marketing & Communications for the National Trans Visibility March which first took place in 2019. He is also the Chief Administrative Officer for Trans Solutions Consulting. Dani is passionate about helping trans men so he started two organizations, TBuddy & Trans In Color, that serve as resources to uplift and empower. TBuddy is a 24/7 support service for trans masculine individuals by trans masculine individuals and offers support through text, phone, Skype, and in person. Trans In Color is a safe space for trans masculine individuals of color. They offer weekly support groups, clothes drives, and a weekly podcasts available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and Google Podcasts. He currently resides in the Washington DC area with his spouse.