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What Is Gender Dysphoria?

Gender dysphoria is a term for when a person feels uncomfortable because their biological sex doesn’t match their gender identity.

This feeling of unease or dissatisfaction could be so strong that it leads to depression or anxiety and hurts daily life.

What is gender identity?

Gender identity is how we see ourselves and how we talk about ourselves.

Most people think of themselves as either male or female. People sometimes talk about these as “binary” identities.

But some people think their gender identity is different from their biological sex.

For example, some people have male genitalia and facial hair but don’t think of themselves as men or feel masculine.

Some people may have female breasts and genitalia, but they do not see themselves as women and do not feel feminine.

Some people don’t think of themselves as being “binary” For them, the idea of gender has nothing to do with who they are.

They may use different words to describe who they are, such as agender, gender diverse, or gender non-conforming. But they are often called “non-binary” as a group.

Gender dysphoria and gender identity

People with gender dysphoria often have a strong, long-lasting desire to live a life that “matches” their gender identity or shows it. They do this by changing their looks and ways of acting.

Some people with gender dysphoria, but not all, may want to use hormones or surgery to show how they feel about their gender.

Gender dysphoria is not a mental illness, but it can cause some people to have problems with their mental health.

Signs of gender dysphoria

People with gender dysphoria may have changed how they look, how they act, or what they like to do.

They may also show signs of pain or discomfort, such as:

low self-worth

withdrawing from society or isolating themselves, having depression or anxiety, or taking unnecessary risks
putting themselves last

Children and gender identity

Children may like clothes or toys that are more often associated with the opposite gender, according to society. They might not like how they look or how they act sexually.

But kids often act this way when they are young, and it’s a normal part of growing up. It doesn’t mean that all kids who act this way have gender dysphoria or other problems with their sense of who they are.

A small number of children may feel long-lasting, severe distress that gets worse as they get older. This usually happens when young people hit puberty and feel like their bodies don’t match their gender identity.

This feeling can last into adulthood, and some people have a strong desire to change their breasts or facial hair because of it.

If you think your child might have gender dysphoria, you should find out more about it.

How to get help

If you or your child might have gender dysphoria, see a doctor.

If your doctor agrees, they can send you to a gender dysphoria clinic (GDC) where a team of experts will evaluate you.

You don’t have to get checked out by a mental health service first, and your GP doesn’t have to get permission from the integrated care boards (ICBs), which are in charge of local health services.

You can go to a GDC on your own, but it’s best if your GP sends you there. This is because they can tell the GDC everything about your health.

If you are already seeing a doctor or therapist for something else, ask them if they know of a GDC they could refer you to.

Children and teens up to the age of 18 will be referred to the Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS) for children and teens.

Adults in England can be sent to a gender dysphoria clinic as early as 17 years old.

Times to wait

There has been a huge rise in the number of people who want to go to a gender dysphoria clinic, so there can be a long wait.

Find out how your general practitioner (GP) and other groups can help you while you are waiting to see a GDC.

Treatment for gender dysphoria

After a thorough evaluation to figure out if you have gender dysphoria and what it means for you, the GDC team will work with you to come up with a treatment plan that everyone is happy with.

If you don’t have gender dysphoria, the GDC may tell your doctor about other ways to help you.

The GDC’s treatments are meant to help with gender dysphoria in a long-term way. Different people can take this to mean different things.

Some people may only need to be accepted and told that they are who they say they are to be treated. Others may have to go through bigger changes, like changing their voice, getting hormone treatment, or having surgery.

What makes someone feel this way?

It’s hard to say for sure what causes gender dysphoria. Gender development is complicated, and there are still things that are not known or fully understood.

Gender dysphoria has nothing to do with being gay or straight. People with gender dysphoria may see themselves as straight, gay, lesbian, or bisexual.

What’s the frequency of gender dysphoria?

No one knows for sure because not all people who feel uneasy about their identity or who already identify as gender non-conforming need or ask for help from the NHS.

Over the last ten years, there have been a lot more referrals and diagnoses of this condition. In England, services for adults with gender dysphoria were used by about 8,000 people in 2018-2019.

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