Gender dysphoria, also known as transgenderism or gender identity disorder, is a condition whereby the affected individual feels like he or she is trapped within a body of the wrong sex. People with long-lasting and extreme forms of the conditions are known as transsexuals.
What causes it?
The exact cause of gender dysphoria is unknown and there is much debate over its possible causes. It was traditionally thought to be a purely psychiatric condition, which meant that its causes were believed to originate in the mind. However, recent studies have challenged this and suggested that gender dysphoria may have biological causes associated with the development of gender identity in the womb.
More research is needed before the causes of gender dysphoria can be fully understood, but it is widely agreed that it cannot be thought of as a purely psychiatric condition.
What are the symptoms?
A person with gender dysphoria usually begins to sense that something is wrong in early childhood. For some others the process does not begin until later and sometimes not until adulthood. Typical symptoms displayed by a child to with gender dysphoria are as follows:
- Disliking wearing clothes that are typically worn by their sex and wanting to wear clothes that are typically worn by the opposite sex
- Disliking or refusing to take part in activities and games that are typically meant for their sex, and wanting to take part in activities and games that are typically meant for the opposite sex
- Disliking or refusing to pass urine as their sex usually does, for example a boy may want to sit down to pass urine and a girl may want to stand up
- Insisting or hoping that their genitals will change, for example a boy may want to be rid of his penis, and a girl may want to grow a penis
- Feeling extreme distress at the physical changes of puberty
- Insisting that they are of the opposite sex
Teenagers and adults usually go on to develop a serious dislike of their genitals and a strong desire to hide the physical attributes of their sex (girls may want to hide their breasts and boys their body hair and muscle definition).
These symptoms may be very difficult to deal with and can cause depression and even suicidal feelings.
How is it treated?
Treating gender dysphoria is not easy and is a long and drawn-out process. It aims to help the individual lead a normal life in their preferred gender role. This means that treatment varies from person to person. Psychological support is essential throughout this process and is especially important to children who have been diagnosed with the condition.
Adults may choose to go on to have hormone treatment, speech and language therapy and laser hair removal, for instance. Some choose to have gender confirmation surgery, also known as a sex change. A trans man (woman to man) undergoes the removal and the womb and construction of a penis. A trans woman (man to woman) undergoes the removal of the testicles and penis and the construction of a vagina. The surgery usually makes the individual happier in their gender identity. Sexual orientation varies from person to person.
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