Gender dysphoria is a very complex condition that can be incredibly difficult to understand and very stressful for the person experiencing it. It is important to distinguish between the meanings of different gender-related terms:
- Gender Dysphoria – discomfort or distress caused by a mismatch between a person’s gender identity and their biological sex assigned at birth
- Transsexualism – the desire to live and be accepted as a member of the opposite sex, usually accompanied by the wish to have treatment to make the physical appearance more consistent with their gender identity. Transsexual describes those people who seek gender reassignment treatments, including genital reconstructive surgery where possible. Someone who is transitioning from female to male is often known as a Trans man, while male to female transsexual people are known as a Trans woman. After successfully transitioning to live permanently in their preferred gender role many prefer to be considered simply men or women.
- Transvestism – where a person occasionally wears clothes typically associated with the opposite gender (cross-dressing) for a variety of reasons.
- Genderqueer – an umbrella term used to describe gender identities other than man and woman – for example, those who are both man and woman, or neither man nor woman, or moving between genders.
- Trans – is used to capture experiences of being gender variant in behaviour and preference, as well as social and legal gender change or transformation. Trans is primarily a UK term, which was developed in a political context to refer to a diverse and inclusive community of people ranging from cross dressers to transsexual people who undergo gender reassignment surgery.
- Transgender – this is an alternative umbrella term used in many parts of Europe and North America. In the UK transgender is used as a policy term to describe those people who live parts of their lives in the preferred gender role, such as Debbie and Miranda. They may use hormonal treatments to change their body form but they will generally not seek to undergo gender reassignment surgeries.
- Intersex – refers to people with both male and female sex signifiers. Some intersex people will identify as Trans, and choose in adulthood to undergo gender reassignment treatments to enable them to live in their preferred sex, which may be opposite to that in which they were raised. Most intersex people do not identify as Trans.
What to do if you feel you may have gender dysphoria
Gender dysphoria isn’t the same as transvestism or cross-dressing and isn’t related to sexual orientation. People with the condition may identify as straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual or asexual, and this may change with treatment. It is important to find help and support. There are many support groups you can attend and forums online that you can join. Visit your GP and speak to them in confidence. While gender dysphoria appears to be rare, the number of people being diagnosed with the condition is increasing, due to growing public awareness.
However, many people with gender dysphoria still face prejudice and misunderstanding. Treatment for gender dysphoria aims to help reduce or remove the distressing feelings of a mismatch between biological sex and gender identity.
This can mean different things for different people. For some people, it can mean dressing and living as their preferred gender. For others, it can mean taking hormones or also having surgery to change their physical appearance. Many trans people have treatment to change their body permanently, so they’re more consistent with their gender identity, and the vast majority are satisfied with the eventual results.
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