Many people feel relatively good about their body; at most, they think they would be better off with a different type of hair, with more or less kilos on top, or with a more muscular body.

However, others notice as if their identity does not fit with their body because they feel they are of a gender that does not correspond to their biological sex . This feeling is the essence of gender dysphoria .

What is gender dysphoria?

Basically, gender dysphoria is the term used to refer to the perceived inconsistency between one’s gender identity and the sex attributed to one’s body , and all the problems that result from this.

People who experience gender dysphoria perceive their own body as something foreign, not their own, because it is the opposite sex from what it should be. This causes them to be dissatisfied to a degree that can vary greatly. There are people for whom gender dysphoria is little more than a nuisance, and others who experience profound discomfort from it. Also, not all transgender people experience this psychological phenomenon.

Transgender people with gender dysphoria tend to need their sex and gender to be aligned according to traditional canons .

Which people experience gender dysphoria?

Gender dysphoria can appear in all kinds of people, even in childhood, when they still do not have the means to express correctly what they feel and the only way to externalize this tension between sex and gender is to reject the gendered elements that are being instilled in them and opt for those that correspond to the opposite sex.

Furthermore, it can appear in both men and women, although it is estimated that, at least in Spain, it is somewhat more frequent in men.

Is gender dysphoria a disease?

The short answer to this question is that no, it is not. This is so because, despite the fact that there is still a debate today as to whether or not transsexuality can be considered a mental disorder, no pathological elements related to gender dysphoria have been found that link this disorder to biological causes, but above all because gender dysphoria can also be addressed as a social and cultural problem.

According to this perspective, which avoids the pathologization of gender dysphoria, it can be explained as a product of the cultural construction of gender: the feminine is related to emotion and vulnerability, the masculine to harshness and physical violence , etc. Therefore, when situations arise in which a person’s identity does not fit with these gender roles, the individual may feel more identified with the gender identity that has not been assigned to him/her at birth based on rigid biological criteria.

Thus, if gender dysphoria can be solved by modifying the culture in which people live, it is impossible for it to be a disease.

However, this does not mean that for some people gender dysphoria is so strong that they decide to opt for surgery, i.e. the medical and immediate route. Thus, both cosmetic surgery and sex change operations, in which important structural changes are introduced, can be used. This is considered to be a solution that makes it possible to reduce the tension that exists between one’s own identity and the social expectations imposed on the individual based on isolated biological characteristics.

Surgery in transsexuality

As the person experiencing gender dysphoria notices that his or her identity and body are not in harmony, he or she will often seek help to bring these two elements into harmony .

The most common measures for this are the use of the type of clothing that is associated with gender to the biological sex to which one wants to belong and the use of hormones so that certain quantitative changes appear in one’s body: more or less facial hair, greater or lesser development of the muscles, etc.

Psychotherapy for gender dysphoria?

Of course, one can also consider the option of making one’s identity fit better with one’s body, instead of physically modifying the body. However, psychotherapy has proved ineffective in resolving the feelings of discomfort produced by gender dysphoria , so the most useful option is the modification of the body and clothing.

However, that doesn’t mean that psychotherapy isn’t useful in addressing these kinds of problems. Specifically, psychological care can be used as preparation and accompaniment of the transition to a body with which one’s identity fits, in order to be able to face in good conditions the new needs and problems related to the passage to the other sex.

Bibliographic references:

  • Asenjo Araque, N., García Gibert, C., Rodríguez-Molina, J. M., Becerra-Fernández, A., Lucio Pérez, M. J. (2009).Gender dysphoria in childhood and adolescence: a review of its approach, diagnosis and persistence. Revista de Psicología Clínica con Niños y Adolescentes, 2(1), pp. 33 – 36.