Essay: Gender Dysphoria

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  • Subject area(s): Psychology essays
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  • Gender Dysphoria
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Up until recent years, very little was known about Gender Dysphoria. Previously labeled Gender Identity Disorder, researchers had and still to this day have much to learn about the disorder. Surprisingly enough, the disorder wasn’t even added to the DSM until 1980, an that was done in order to ensure that transgender people could be provided care that they needed. (Glicksman, 2013)
Often times, in today’s society, we are unsure how to interpret a concept that conflicts with what we have known, and now that more and more people are becoming comfortable enough to accept their gender identity, others face these challenges of acceptance and understanding everyday. More often than not, cases of Gender Dysphoria bring about controversy and stigmas. These negative actions towards an entire community may eventually be diminished but like anything else, it will take time and will not happen over night.

Like many other disorders, discontent with ones self has many problems that come with it and is not simply left at just having Gender Dysphoria. People that suffer from the dysphoria often experience depression and anxiety and are also at much higher risk for suicide. Along with suicide, they also experience hate crimes specifically targeted towards them being transgender or cross dressing. As time moves on, education and knowledge on the disorder becomes better available but is still not something that we know much about.

For many people, Gender Dysphoria is a completely new term. According to Parekh (2016), “Gender dysphoria involves a conflict between a person’s physical or assigned gender and the gender with which he/she/they identify. People with gender dysphoria may be very uncomfortable with the gender they were assigned, sometimes described as being uncomfortable

Gender Dysphoria Rebecca Neveau

with their body (particularly developments during puberty) or being uncomfortable with the expected roles of their assigned gender.” Many people experiencing distress from their presumed gender will alleviate the stress by wearing clothes of the gender they relate better to or in more extreme cases of gender dysphoria, people will continue on with hormone therapy and sex reassignment surgery. We have a biological gender or sex, that includes our sexual reproductive organs, then we have our gender identity. (Healey, 2014) Gender identity involves much more than how you look on the outside. Healey (2014) states “Rather than just two distinct boxes, biological gender occurs across a continuum of possibilities. This spectrum of anatomical variations by itself should be enough to disregard the simplistic notions of a binary gender system.”

According to the book, ‘Gender Identity: Disorders, Developmental Perspectives and Social Implications, Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytic theory was of the first approaches to a persons own gender identity. (Miller, 2014) In Miller’s writing, it was stated that Freud’s theory “emphasized biological differences between sex-assigned categories (Viz. men and women), and spelled out the implications of these differences for psychological development (Eagly, Beall & Sternberg, 2004).” (Miller, 2014) This has led to a way of building on those differences to form more theories and is used even now. (Miller, 2014)

Another leading example in research of differences among genders according to Miller was Lewis Terman and Catherine Cox Miles who were using measurements early on in the 1900’s to sort through the differences genders may have, by sorting responses that each gender gave to their questions. (Miller, 2014) “In brief, the Terman and Miles approach was that women

Gender Dysphoria Rebecca Neveau

and men differ from each other on certain psychological phenomena and not on others.” (Miller, 2014)

Mark Yarhouse adds in his book ‘Understanding Gender Dysphoria,’ “Gender identity is often associated with gender role. Gender role, then, refers to ways in which people adopt cultural expectations for maleness or femaleness.” It is important to note that Gender Dysphoria is not a psychological disorder due to wanting to be a gender other than the one you were assigned at birth, but a psychological disorder do to the discontent felt from not being the gender you identify with. This discontent can bring about many other psychological disorders such as depression and anxiety.

Stigmas are prevalent with many different psychological disorders. Many of the stigmas lead to undiagnosed and untreated disorders. Regarding challenges that transgender people may face, “Research by Aaron T. Norton and Greg M. Herek, PhD, at University of California, Davis, for example, found that the rejection transgender people encounter is significantly harsher than the negative attitudes experienced by lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) people (Sex Roles: A Journal of Research, 2012).” (Glicksman, 2013) Research conducted by the Institute of Medicine also showed that the “marginalization of transgender people from society is having a devastating effect on their physical and mental health.” (Glicksman, 2013) “In a study now in press in the American Journal of Public Health, Bockting found that half of the transgender women and a third of the transgender men surveyed said they struggle with depression from the stigma, shame and isolation caused by how others treat them.” Along with depression, anxiety is another problem that transgender people face due to the stigma of their diagnosis. (Glicksman, 2013) For

Gender Dysphoria Rebecca Neveau

many people, Gender Dysphoria is a newer term and harder to accept. This contributes to the discrimination that people with this disorder will face. LGBTQ is a community of people who are either lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer, and sometimes a combination of these. This community of people face a large amount of hate compared to others. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry states, “ Issues faced by lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals differ substantially from those faced by trans individuals.” “The National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force released a report in 2011 entitled Injustice at Every Turn, which confirmed the pervasive and severe discrimination faced by transgender people. Out of a sample of nearly 6,500 transgender people, the report found that transgender people experience high levels of discrimination in employment, housing, health care, education, legal systems, and even in their families.” (, 2017) Along with this, the Institute of Medicine conducted research that showed, “high rates of substance abuse, attempted suicide and HIV infection among other problems in transgender adults. The report concluded that the marginalization of transgender people from society is having a devastating effect on their physical and mental health.” (, 2013) Steps are being taken however to lower the stigma that people facing gender dysphoria will experience, such as the DSM-5 changing the focus of nonconforming to a gender to the distress someone faces with now being the gender they feel and know they are and should be. (American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 2016)

As mentioned before, people with Gender Dysphoria often face more than the distress of their condition. They can also experience depression and anxiety. Though they may experience these comorbid disorders, these disorders are not often the cause of their gender dysphoria and

Gender Dysphoria Rebecca Neveau

do not further explain their condition. (The American Journal Of Psychiatry, 2004) Risk of attempted suicide and and suicide in general is much higher than that of other populations. In fact, that rate is actually 25 times higher than the other populations according to a study by the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force in 2011. (, 2013) Though it seems most of the other mental illnesses someone may also suffer is strongly influenced by the discrimination they face day in and day out, it is also influenced by that distress they deal with. Many examples for this is waking up one day and knowing you are not in the right body. The sadness and anxiety you may deal with due to this will cause a great amount of mental distress, and when you add in other factors such as not being able to get a job because of discrimination and stigma, or simply not being able to walk down a street out of fear for a very real and possible attack you may experience, that distress is amplified, with due right.

Treatment for Gender Dysphoria is greatly effective. Though it often times requires a monumental change in a persons life, there is many steps to the process for people with Gender Dysphoria and often times can resolve the distress that they feel for who they are. They will still have to unfortunately face the conflicts that everyday life brings, but may feel more content with themselves once they receive treatment.

Treatment for each individual may be different and may start at different points in everyones life. Due to heavy controversy, questions are still asked for how to go about care for an individual. Questions like, “How should parents respond when a child displays behaviors more characteristic of the opposite sex? Should cross-gender identification be redirected toward identification with one’s birth sex? Should cross-gender identification be encouraged for a child

Gender Dysphoria Rebecca Neveau

who is already gender dysphoric? Should puberty be delayed to provide time for that kind of decision making? Or what options exist for teens and adults? Should they be encouraged to enter into therapy to resolve the conflict through psychological intervention?” (Yarhouse, 2015)

The DSM often focuses on changing thoughts and behaviors for many of the illnesses and disorders, but for Gender Dysphoria, the effort is focused more on modifying the persons body to better fit their perceived image of themselves. (Byrne, 2012)

In the process of transitioning, it can often times be required that a mental health provider show that the well being of a patient would be better improved if that person were able to transition to their preferred gender identity. (Glicksman, 2013) Any of the other mental disorders that may be present are typically treated as well before someone begins their transition, from then on hormone therapy can “diminish unwanted secondary-sex characteristics and produce or enhance secondary-sex characteristics of the desired gender.” (Glicksman, 2013)

According to the APA journal by Glicksman on ‘Trangender Today’, due to the transition process being a very big adjustment in life, it is recommended that those that are transitioning have a psychologist to help through the journey. The journal also shows that psychologists can ensure that the steps taken are taken in a way that will be easiest for the patient to handle and even for the family and friends that will also have to adjust to the new life that the patient will have to live. There is also great outcomes for the patient and family having support groups, and as the journal states, Bockting, a medical psychology professor (, 2015), shows that “Providing resources and counsel to families to help them understand and accept a transgender

Gender Dysphoria Rebecca Neveau

relative ultimately benefits the client, too.” and can also help the patient with legal aspects of their transition that they will have to deal with after the process. (Glicksman, 2013)

The importance of the patients psychiatrist is apparent. The psychiatrist can diagnose, treat, and prescribe medication for the Gender Dysphoria that their patient has, along with the other disorders that can typically be comorbid with the dysphoria. (Bryne, 2012) They can often times be the patients advocate for care in different areas of the medical field and can be there as a sense of comfort during an extremely stressful time for the patient in which it they experience stress both mentally and physically. Psychiatrist and psychologist alike can be an advocate for their patient in many different areas outside of their own treatment such as at school or work, helping in ares such as education for those with little to no experience with transgender individuals . (Glicksman, 2013)

As mentioned before, the study conducted by the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force in 2011, it was concluded “that as many as 63 percent of respondents experienced some form of discrimination due to bias about their gender identity, including the loss of a job, bullying and even physical and sexual assault.” (Glicksman, 2013) This study further proves that transgender individuals and those experiencing Gender Dysphoria will have many difficulties that they will have to face, and having someone with them to be, in a way, a voice for them as their psychologist, can possibly and hopefully lessen the difficulties they will face in their transition. In conclusion, gender dysphoria is a valid mental disorder. Though people will continue

Gender Dysphoria Rebecca Neveau

to question its prominence and validity, the more information learned from about this disorder, the more people become accepting. People who experience gender dysphoria are more likely to experience a hate crime and discrimination due to their disorder. They are likely to suffer from depression and attempt suicide. And with this knowledge that we have gained, Bockting states, “While we still have far to go, we have learned not to oversimplify what being transgender means,” (Glicksman, 2013)

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