Gender identity disorder, also known as gender dysphoria, is a condition describing the conflict between a person’s physical gender and gender they identify as. Due to the nature of how their physical gender and gender identity conflicts, people with gender identity disorder are also referred to as transgender.
Gender Identity Disorder (Gender Dysphoria) Statistics
1. As much as 80 percent of mothers of individuals with gender dysphoria had some type of psychiatric problem or some form of psychiatric treatment, mainly to treat symptoms originating from their struggle with gender identity.
2. As much as 45 percent of father of individuals with gender dysphoria also had some type of psychiatric problem or some form of psychiatric treatment.
3. According to the 2012 United States Census, as much as 24 percent of children (some with gender dysphoria) only live with their mothers, with an absence of a father figure.
4. There’s a near 100 percent absence of fathers in the homes of boys who suffer from severe gender dysphoria.
5. As much as 1 out of 30,000 adult males seek sexual reassignment surgery (sex change).
6. At least 1 out of 100,000 adult females seek sexual reassignment surgery (sex change).
7. Clinically referred children between the ages of 2 to 4 years old usually start developing gender dysphoria.
8. As much as 52 percent of children between ages 4 to 11 have one or more diagnosed conditions, alongside their gender dysphoria.
9. A 2012 survey by the Equality and Human Rights Commission found that as much as 1 percent of the population surveyed as ‘gender variant’ to a degree.
Recently, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V) reclassified gender identity disorder as gender dysphoria. The former classification of gender identity disorder (as a diagnosis) pathologized or treated the condition as ‘abnormal,’ which was considered unsupportive to the transgender and medical community. The reclassification addresses those issues by only defining the discontent experience by suffering from gender identity problems.
People with may feel as if they were born in the wrong body. They may feel as if they were assigned as the wrong gender at birth, and will often act as their true gender identity to compensate for their body disparity. The condition may also affect how they may perceive their concept of self, mannerisms, dress, behaviors and their choice of sexual partners.
The Causes of Gender Dysphoria
Gender dysphoria, as of now, doesn’t have any causes that are completely understood by the medical community. Finding what causes gender dysphoria is a topic of interest for the transgender community and the medical community. Gender dysphoria, when formerly classified as gender identity disorder, was originally conceived as a psychiatric condition. Recent studies now suggest gender dysphoria is inherently biological, originating from how gender identity develops from birth. Therefore, gender dysphoria isn’t a mental illness.
As mentioned, gender dysphoria may develop from disparities in how a child’s gender identity develops from birth. Most of a child’s gender identity develops happens in the womb or uterus. To understand how gender is determined in the womb, and possibly may play a role in gender dysphoria, let’s look at how gender develops in the womb.
Chromosomes determine a child’s biological sex. They’re the parts of cells that contain genes, the genetic material determining one’s characteristics. Both sex chromosomes come from the mother (XX) and the father (XY) of the child in the womb.
Unborn fetuses, in the early stages of pregnancy, are female, since the mother’s sex chromosome (X) is active. At the eight week of gestation, the father’s sex chromosome (either XY or XX) becomes active. The chromosome that becomes active determines the baby’s gender: X for a girl and Y for a boy.
When the chromosome activates, two different scenarios happen:
XX: The unborn baby continues to develop as a female, as the female hormones have already started to affect the entire fetus already in development.
XY: The unborn baby will begin biologically developing as a male, after the Y chromosome causes a surge of male hormones, notably testosterone.
When unforeseen changes in gender development happens, various situations happen where a developing child’s gender identity may become mismatched.
Hormonal problems are likely a cause of gender dysphoria during gender development in the womb.
Sometimes, the hormones that help trigger the development of gender in an unborn fetus may not work properly within their developing brain, genitals and reproductive organs. When this happens, it’s possible for a growing fetus to have be biologically male while having a female genital identity, to provide an example.
The hormonal issues might be caused by outside factors, in some cases. This usually happens when the mother somehow has increased hormonal levels, sometimes provoked by taking medication. In some cases, the developing fetus develops a hormonal sensitivity, also known as androgen insensitivity syndrome, that leads to the issues described in the last section.
How Gender Dysphoria Develops
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (version DSM-IV), gender identity disorder (now gender dysphoria) progresses in accordance to a strong and persistent cross-gender identification, which isn’t just a desire for any perceived cultural advantages of possibly being the opposite sex. From there, the progression of gender identity disorder is defined for both children and adolescents/adults.
The dysphoria develops in children in the following ways:
1. A repeated stated desire to be, or insistence that they are, the opposite sex.
2. A strong preference for cross-dressing in female attire in boys; an insistence on only wearing masculine clothing in girls.
3. A strong and persistent preference for cross-gender roles in make believe play, in addition to having fantasies of being the opposite sex.
4. An intense desire to participate in the pastimes and games ‘belonging’ to the opposite sex.
5. A strong preference for playmates or friends of the opposite sex.
Both adolescents and adults have symptoms manifesting in ways considered more intense than that of children. They often state their desire to become the opposite sex (their true gender identity), desire to live as their true gender identity and feel they possess the reactions and emotions of their true gender, often the opposite sex.
They also experience:
1. Constant discomfort with their biological sex, where they may feel their biological sex is inappropriate.
2. Discomfort and/or dissatisfaction with their biological sex that isn’t related to a physical intersex condition.
3. Frequent, and often intense, discomfort or distress (about their gender identity) that impairs their occupational, social or other areas of normal functioning.
Gender dysphoria is known to develop in children before age 4, notably in young boys. While young girls are said to give up masculine behavior by adolescence, many that don’t may be experiencing gender dysphoria. Therefore, the condition is said to have an early onset in both young boys and girls.
Gender identity disorder or gender dysphoria is a complex disorder. Due to that, there’s a lack of information about gender dysphoria among children, teens and adults. The statistics in the following section recount data from research trials, studies and other gender dysphoria resources.
Treatment for Gender Dysphoria
Despite the number of symptoms, the prognosis for gender dysphoria is often a good one. The prognosis generally depends on the patient’s age of onset and how intense their symptoms may develop. In most cases of gender dysphoria, an early diagnosis is required. Many people with gender dysphoria, however, do receive treatment later in life.
Treatment for gender dysphoria typically involves supporting the patient in helping them physically modify their body to match their gender identity. Common treatments for gender dysphoria include hormone replacement therapy (male-to-female and female-to-male) and, in rare cases, sex reassignment surgery.