Gender dysphoria has been in the news a lot lately, but what’s it all about?
It refers to a mental condition whereby the individual has the strong sense, sustained over a long period of time, that they are “in the wrong body”. This gives rise to intense feelings of distress that, in some cases, are alleviated by medical and/or surgical intervention to make the body look more like that of the sex the person identifies as.
In fact, it’s just as important to understand what gender dysphoria isn’t, as what it is!
Gender dysphoria is not being physically and/or romantically attracted to people of the same sex as oneself. While some homosexual people may have it, most do not. The vast majority of people who experience same-sex attraction do not have gender dysphoria.
Gender dysphoria is not having interests and hobbies stereotypically associated with the opposite sex. A woman can love Formula One, and a man adore tapestry, without having it. Many people—but not all—with gender dysphoria do display a preference for the interests and hobbies associated with the sex other than their natal one—but it’s not clear whether this is because of inborn reasons, cultural pressure, or a combination of the two. It’s important to remember that cultural forces have a big influence on which hobbies and interests are considered “feminine” and which “masculine” (knitting was traditionally a male occupation in Iceland, for example, unlike the UK).
If you or someone you love has gender dysphoria, it’s important to talk with someone who can help you deal with the difficult emotions associated with it. While options such as surgery and other medical intervention are available—and can be very helpful to some people with gender dysphoria—having elective surgery, with irreversible consequences, or taking long term hormonal treatments, again potentially with irreversible consequences, are decisions that should be taken after a lot of careful thought.
Because many people with gender dysphoria are experiencing considerable distress by the time they reach out for help, it’s crucial to unravel all of the sources of the distress. Much may be attributed to societal discrimination, or to problems such as depression or eating disorders, rather than just the gender dysphoria per se.
People with gender dysphoria have the same right to a dignified life as anyone else. In some cases, that may mean receiving support as they “transition” to a different sort of body. In others, it may mean receiving support as they work through their dysphoria to find acceptance of the body they were born in.
Above all, it is important to remember that gender dysphoria is not a moral issue, but a real and deeply distressing condition. Amid increasingly polarised and divisive news coverage of this condition, we need to bear that in mind.
WHO CAN I SPEAK TO FURTHER ABOUT THE ISSUES IN THIS ARTICLE?
For help with the issues discussed in this article speak to one of our therapists here at Private Therapy Clinic for a free initial chat or to make an appointment.