Gender dysphoria, formerly referred to as gender identity disorder, refers to the gender identity crisis individuals go through. In other words, it’s a mental or emotional state wherein a person identifies with the opposite gender and seeks others acceptance over the matter. For example, a girl not comfortable within a female body and who feels or behaves like a boy apparently has this disorder.
Such feelings could be temporary or last much longer. All young kids with gender dysphoria may not necessarily carry over such feelings to teenage or adulthood. If the feeling stays post puberty, the individual will likely feel the same way throughout.
Difference Between Gender Dysphoria and Homosexuality
Gender dysphoria isn’t homosexuality. A homosexual or gay isn’t confused about his identity. He knows he is a man and prefers to have sexual relationships with another male. People with gender dysphoria do not develop sexual feelings for a same-sex individual. They basically feel like the opposite gender and therefore desire to be the opposite sex.
Then, why the confusion? This is because most gay men or women dress like their opposite gender or adopt the behavioral traits of the opposite sex, which often gets misinterpreted for gender dysphoria.
There isn’t much clarity in this regard. Initially, gender dysphoria was considered a psychiatric condition – the causes being related to the mind. Later research revealed the feelings could be due to the baby’s abnormal development in the womb, thanks to hormonal or genetic factors. This makes the brain to form a gender identity different to the sexual organs of the baby.
An individual having gender dysphoria must exhibit a continuous and strong cross-gender identification and not simply perceive the positives of transforming into the other sex. The following signs signal a strong case of gender dysphoria:
- An individual’s repeated insistence of being or feeling like the opposite gender
- Increased desire to be treated or live as the other sex
- Major dislike for one’s body or sexual anatomy
- Strong inclination to have friends in the opposite sex
- Strong dislike or refusal to urinate in a manner typical to their current physical gender
- Strong dislike for their own genitals, often resulting in little or infrequent showering, dress changes or sexual acts so that they don’t end up touching or seeing their private parts
- Strong rejection of games/toys typically identified with a particular gender
- Strong desire for participating in the opposite sex’s pastimes, such as watching opposite gender-specific television programs
- Refusal to attend social or school events that require them to dress their gender
Gender dysphoria exists only if an individual exhibits the aforementioned signs for a prolonged time period. Generally, one must exhibit the signs for at least six months straight.
Some individuals with the disorder may resort to hormone treatments. Though rare, they may even carry out their own penectomy or castration, and resort to methods that may help them develop opposite gender genitals.
Proper diagnosis and treatment is imperative to address gender dysphoria. Because the affected individuals are at a major risk of developing mental health issues. Those may include anxiety disorders, mood disorders, depression, schizophrenia, eating disorders, substance abuse and suicide attempts.
Gender dysphoria is not a mental disease. It’s a state of physical and internal mismatch. Therefore, the objective mustn’t be to alter how an individual perceives his or her current gender, but to address the distress that comes along with such feelings. Those may comprise stress, depression and anxiety, to name a few.
Some individuals could be confused about their gender preference, and counselors may chime in to help them through their identity confusion.