Gender Dysphoria:  Not Just About Being Gay Or Lesbian Says Therapist

What is Gender Dysphoria?

Gender dysphoria or gender identity disorder is the distress an individual experiences because of feeling uncomfortable with the physical or assigned gender and the gender with which they identify themselves with.  They also feel uncomfortable and troubled with the likely role they have to take with their assigned gender.

The general population views sex/gender as binary categories—male/masculine and female/feminine. In contrast, some scholars and activists argue that both sex and gender extend along a continuum. — David Ludden Ph.D.


Gender Dysphoria In Childhood

Confusion or gender conflict affects some individuals, especially children, in different ways.   It may change the way a person wants to express himself and can influence the way he behaves, he dresses, and the way he portrays his self-image.

One couple with a transgender boy told their story that at age two, their son would refuse to toilet train unless they buy him boxers.  He would refuse to be called in his female name but preferred a boy’s name.   They felt troubled by this, but they accepted and respected their child’s decision to be a boy, no matter what other people would say to them.


After their child’s social transition, they claimed that his life blossomed and their anxiety about his coming to puberty escalated.   They said that it’s a long and challenging journey to parent a transgender child.  They had him see a therapist to guide him, and that made a significant impact on their son’s life, who now is living a happy, well-adjusted life.

But it is a different case for Tony, now an adult, who was not accepted by his family when he tried to tell them about his struggle at a young age of nine, and out of fear of his strict father, he decided to suppress his true feelings.  Although he tried to do his best for his father to accept him, he still can’t come out in the open.   He even got married after college just to please his father.  But despite having an almost perfect family, deep inside he was not happy because he was suppressing his true identity.  He felt depressed because the way he was living did not match the way he felt inside.  He was always thinking about how his life would be better if he could live as a female, that whenever his wife was not around, he would try on her clothes.

Recent evidence indicates that thalates from plastic and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are one of many factors predicting gender dysphoria, particularly in the case of male-to-female transgenders. — Nigel Barber Ph.D.

Living an upsetting, unhappy life, he sought treatment from a therapist to whom he can be honest about his life plans.   He talked about how much he desired to be the opposite gender but was afraid to upset his father.  Sharing his life with his therapist, he became more sure about becoming a woman, and he began to tell his closest friends about it and even requested them to address him as “she.”  ‘

She is now in the process of working things out with his mental health provider and preparing herself to have the courage to tell her wife.   She started her hormone treatment but has no plan of having surgery.


Acceptance And Respect

People with gender dysphoria are living in a confusing world, and they are in conflict with themselves and the people around them.   Feeling unaccepted and unrespected cause them to be depressed, unhappy, and some even reach the point of contemplating suicide.

The family must be the first one to understand their ordeal.   Studies have shown that children who are experiencing gender dysphoria recover faster and can live a happier and fuller life when the family shows support than those who are hiding in the closet.


A few very misguided clinicians (and families) have attempted to “cure” a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity with things like aversion therapy and labeling the individual as a sex addict (as a way to explain his or her “abnormal” feelings and behaviors). Again, these tactics are nearly always both harmful and counterproductive. — Robert Weiss Ph.D., MSW

There are some with gender dysphoria who are satisfied with just doing cross-dress, some want to socially transition, and there are those who want to consider medical options with sex-exchange surgery or hormone treatment.  Socially transitioning includes use of affirmed gender’s pronouns and bathrooms.

Not all individuals who experience gender dysphoria want to have gender reassignment.  Some are fighting for their right to dress the way they want without being judged, to be supported, and treated fairly and equally, and to be accepted by their family and the society with which they belong.

Gender dysphoria is not just about being gay or lesbian says a therapist, but more about being able to come out in the open freely, be accepted and not be judged because they choose a gender they are not born with.