What is Gender Dysphoria?
Gender dysphoria is a term that describes a sense of unease or dissatisfaction that an individual may have because of confusion between their biological sex and gender identity. Our gender identity refers to how we see and describe ourselves. Most people identify as either male or female based on their biology; this is referred to as ‘binary’ identities. However, some individuals may feel that their gender identity is different to their biological sex and this is sometimes described as ‘non-binary identities’ or ‘transgender’. On the other hand, some people do not define themselves as having a binary identity as they believe that the concept of gender is not relevant to their identity. This sense can have a negative and harmful impact on daily life by leading to depression and anxiety.
Causes and Symptoms
The exact causes of gender dysphoria is not known or entirely understood. However, several factors may play a role such as genetics, hormonal influences during prenatal development and environmental reasons. At a young age, children may start to show interest in clothes or toys that are often associated with the other gender. Society tells us what is considered ‘boys’ and ‘girls’ toys and clothes. As they get older, this could cause serve distress as they realise that their gender identity does not match their physical appearance. This can cause bullying or harassment for being different from friends, classmates and colleagues. Relationship difficulties are also common; this can result in loneliness or isolation from others.
Here are some of the symptoms of gender dysphoria
• Belief that their gender does not match with their physical body
• Strong desire to be rid of their genitals and other sex traits
• Deep urge to have the sex characteristics of the gender with which they identify
• Strong desire to be treated as a different gender
• Wanting to wear the clothing of the gender with which they identify
• Strong rejection of toys, games, and other things that are typically associated with their birth-assigned gender
There are many different treatment options available for gender dysphoria. For some, psychological treatment is available through therapy and counselling. For others, it may involve changing their appearance to confirm their identity.
Below are some treatment options:
• Puberty blockers. These refer to hormones that suppress physical changes of puberty. For example, blocking the growth of breasts.
• Hormones. Teens or adults may take the sex hormones oestrogen or testosterone to develop traits of the sex that they identify with.
• Surgery. Some people choose to have a sex-change operation. Experts recommend surgery only after age 18 and after the person has lived in their desired gender for 2 years.
Overall, those with gender dysphoria may just want to feel acceptance from others. Many support groups offer advice and guidance and allow them to talk to others with similar experiences. It is important to spend time exploring your identity and the ways of expressing it that feel right for you.
- The Beaumont Society– Help and support from the trans community.
- Gendered Intelligence– Trans-led charity that aims to improve the lives of trans and non-binary people in the UK and specialises in supporting young people.
- GIRES– Gender identity research and education.
- LGBT Foundation– National charity with trans services and resources.
- Mermaids– UK charity supporting trans and gender-diverse children, young people and their families.
- Mindline trans +– Emotional and mental health support helpline for anyone identifying as trans, non-binary, gender variant, and their families, friends, colleagues and carers.
- Spectra– Peer-led trans services accessible to all trans and gender-diverse people, including 1-2-1 support, social groups, counselling, peer mentoring, referral, and signposting to relevant partners.
- Stonewall– UK charity campaigning for LGBT equality.
- WPATH– Non-profit organisation devoted to trans health.