Gender dysphoria is the diagnosis given when the gender at birth is different than the gender they identify with later in life. Often times, significant distress is experienced due to the gender they were assigned at birth. In order to meet the criteria for a diagnosis, there must be a marked difference between the individual’s identified and expressed gender than the one that they were given at birth, and this must last longer than six months. It can be present at any age. This distress can cause impairments in social, occupational, academic, or any other area of a person’s life. Symptoms can manifest in a variety of ways and may be seen as a strong desire to be treated as a different gender. The experience of this disorder and therefore the treatment of this disorder does not always end when a gender transition begins or even ends. Treatment and support should follow through the transition process and provide support while hormone therapy and/or surgery is being done.
Symptoms of Gender Dysphoria in Children:
- Disgust at their own genitalia
- Consistently saying they are really one gender even though they are physically the other
- Preferring the company of the gender they identify with
- Rejecting toys or clothing that is stereotypical to their designated gender
- Strong belief that they will grow up to be the other gender
- Difficulties using the bathroom in a traditional manner
- Fearing puberty
- Social isolation from peers, self-imposed
- Anxiety or Depression
- Body image issues
- Low self-esteem
Symptoms of Gender Dysphoria in Adults:
- Discomfort or disgust with their own genitalia
- Certainty that their gender is not what they were designated at birth
- Strong desire to be rid of their genitals
- Dressing as the gender they identify as
- Poor self-esteem
- Anxiety, Depression, Self-harm, Suicidal Ideation
- Body mutilation or eating disorders
- Poor body image
There are many theories on the causes of gender dysphoria; however, the one factor that most agree on is that it is primarily caused by varying degrees of discomfort with their gender. A number of gender classifications can cause gender dysphoria and it is important to note that the gender identity itself is not a disorder. Treatment is not to be focused on changing the gender identify, but rather focus on the distress they are experiencing due to the discomfort of not being designated as the correct gender.
Some Common Terminology in Gender Identity:
Agender (non-gender): not identifying with any gender, the feeling of having no gender
Androgynous: a person whose gender may not be readily apparent, or someone who exhibits traits that are traditionally associated either male or female or both male and female.
Bigender: to identify as both genders and/or move between male and female stereotypical appearance and behavior; or to have two separate genders in one body; or to express a distinct female and distinct female persona. It is not limited to male/female and can include other genders.
Cisgender: a person whose gender identity is what they were designated at birth, non transgender.
Gender Fluid: a person who identifies a range of female and male characteristics, with a flow between genders depending on time or situation. Not a fixed gender expression.
Genderless: someone who does not have a gender.
Intergender: a person whose gender identity is between or a combination of genders.
Non-Binary: a gender identity that is neither male or female.
Pangender: an identity that is comprised of many gender identities or expressions.
Transgender: a broad term used to describe people whose gender identity differs from what they were designated at birth.