I talk a lot about identities on this blog, but I don’t always talk about things that specific communities may face. An example of one these topics is gender dysphoria. In this piece, I’m going to about gender dysphoria by explaining its origins and different forms/experiences of it.
Gender dysphoria is a distress or unhappiness experienced because one’s gender does not match their sex/gender assigned at birth. This concept comes from the idea of feeling dysphoric, or just “being uneasy or generally dissatisfied with something” (Yarhouse). In this case, one’s gender identity. It’s important to remember that gender identity is fluid and that gender identity is not a binary of just men and women.
Originally, gender dysphoria was known as gender identity disorder. It was changed in the DSM-V (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) in 2013 (Gender Dysphoria).
Now gender dysphoria is defined as:
- A strong desire to be of the other gender or another instance that one is the other gender (or some alternative gender different from one’s assigned gender)
- In boys (assigned gender), a strong preference for cross-dressing or simulating female attire
- A strong preference for cross-gender roles in make-believe play or fantasy play
- A strong preference for the toys, games, or activities stereotypically used or engaged in by the other gender
- A strong dislike of one’s sexual anatomy
Below are some of the different forms/examples of gender dysphoria:
As a Child
I recently picked up the 2015 novel and true story: Becoming Nicole: The Transformation of an American Family by Amy Ellis Nutt that explains experiencing dysphoria as a child well, in talking about how Nicole grew up:
“Out of the blue, he’d ask Kelly, ‘When do I get to be a girl?’ or ‘When will my penis fall off?’ The questions almost seemed natural, as if it was only a matter of time before he became a girl…He was impatient, though, and that’s where the unhappiness seemed to come from, from wanting to push the process he thought must be as natural as caterpillars transforming into butterflies” (Nutt 29-30).
I think it’s awesome that this book was written because it gives a first hand experience and more visibility to trans youth. I also recommend this PBS Documentary.
As Ash Hardell points out in their book The ABC’s of LGBT+, there are tw0 main types of gender dysphoria. One of the them is social, or when dysphoria is triggered by social situations. Examples could be: assuming a person’s gender identity or using the wrong pronouns (92).
The other type is body dysphoria, or dysphoria related to one’s body or physical appearance. Examples could be: a trans man hugging someone and feeling uncomfortable about their chest, negative feelings surrounding one’s genitalia, or gender expression. (Mardell 92 and 75).
As a Nonbinary or Genderqueer Individual
As activist Sam Dylan Finch explains, “sometimes there’s a misconception that non-binary people aren’t completely trans or that their experiences of being trans are somehow less serious, less valid, or less sincere” (Finch). This can make it seem like non-binary people can’t experience gender dysphoria. Additionally, Jenny Croston explains how the dualism with androgyny can result in gender dysphoria. You can read Croston’s piece here.
As an Adult
People can experience gender dysphoria at any age. For adults, the one additional thing more significant is the affect it can have on a marriage/partnership (ABCNews). Of course adults can experience all, none, or any of the above.
While I think it’s important to bring light to gender dysphoria, it’s also important to recognize that not everyone experiences gender dysphoria. Sam Dylan Finch explains that here (Finch).
I hope this taught you a little bit about what some people face in their feelings towards their gender identity. I think it’s helpful to learn about it in order to be educated on what others may be feeling, even you don’t feel that way yourself.
Be sure to check out the sources and references below to learn more!
Crofton, J. (2016). 9 Strategies for Dealing with Gender Dysphoria for Gender Queer and Trans Folks. the body is not an apology. Retrieved from: https://thebodyisnotanapology.com/magazine/9-strategies-for-dealing-with-body-dysphoria-for-gender-queer-and-trans-folks/
Finch, S.D. (2015). These 5 Myths About Body Dysphoria in Trans Folks Are Super Common – But Also Super Wrong. Everyday Feminism. Retrieved from: http://everydayfeminism.com/2015/06/these-5-myths-about-body-dysphoria-in-trans-folks-are-super-common-but-also-super-wrong/
Gender Dysphoria. American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders : DSM-5 (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: Americaychiatric Association. http://www.PsychiatryOnline.org.
Mardell, A. 2016. The ABC’s of LGBT+. Coral Gables, Florida: Mango Media.
Nutt, A. E. (2015). Becoming Nicole: The Transformation of an American Family. New York: Random House.
What is Gender Identity Disorder? (2008) ABCNews. Retrieved from:
Yarhouse, M. A. (2015). Understanding Gender Dysphoria: Navigating Transgender Issues in a Changing Culture. Westmont: InterVarsity Press.
Finch, S.D. Not All Transgender People Have Dysphoria – And Here Are 6 Reasons Why That Matters. (2015). Everyday Feminism. Retrieved from: http://everydayfeminism.com/2015/08/not-all-trans-folks-dysphoria/
Navasky, M., O’Connor, K. e. (Film editor),$eproducer,$edirector., O’Connor, K., Navasky, M., O’Connor, K., Navasky, M., & … Navasky, M. (n.d). Growing Up Trans. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/film/growing-up-trans/