Essay: Gender Dysphoria

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  • Subject area(s): Psychology essays
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  • Published on: March 23, 2018
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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.

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