Gender Dysphoria (Gender Identity)

Gender dysphoria is a term used to describe the conflict that some individuals feel between the gender that has been physically assigned to them and the gender with which they identify. People with gender dysphoria often feel very uncomfortable with the gender they were assigned, and with their body, because that biology does not feel as if it “matches” with their identity. This discomfort can cause significant stress because the person is strongly dissatisfied with the mismatch between body and identity. The discomfort can interfere with all aspects of a person’s life, causing severe anxiety, depression and other ailments.

Symptoms

Children and gender dysphoria

Gender dysphoria is not the same as homosexuality, which is about sexual orientation rather than gender identification.

Gender dysphoria often manifests itself early in life. It is not uncommon for a child born with female anatomy, for example, to insist that “she” is a boy even if she has all of the physical traits of a girl. Other signs that a child may be experiencing gender dysphoria may include:

  • Having a strong preference for clothing that is worn by the opposite gender
  • Rejecting the toys, games and activities typically associated with that child’s assigned gender
  • Preferring to spend time with other children who match the gender with which the child identifies
  • Wanting to replace the genitals they currently have with the genitals that are associated with their “real” gender
  • Experiencing serious distress about the physical changes that occur in the body during puberty.

As children with gender dysphoria mature, their feelings of dissatisfaction often grow. Many experience increasing levels of anxiety as they become certain that their real gender does not align with the body parts that they have. They may be disgusted with the genitals that they do have to the point that they avoid showering, changing clothes, or having sex in order to avoid seeing or touching their genitals. Often, this is accompanied by a strong desire to rid themselves of their genitals and other physical traits that mark them as a gender with which they do not identify.

People living with gender dysphoria are at high risk of developing mental health conditions. Experts estimate that more than 70 percent will be diagnosed with a mental health condition in their lifetime. These include mood disorders, schizophrenia, depression, substance abuse, eating disorders, and suicidal thoughts.

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