What is gender dysphoria?
Gender dysphoria is the strong sense of discomfort experienced when the gender in which people are born does not match the identity in which they feel at home. This is often accompanied by an overwhelming desire to become a member of the opposite sex.
A person with this disposition does not only want to behave as a member of the opposite sex - a phenomenon known as gender role or gender expression - but also wishes to adopt the physical characteristics of the opposite sex. The degree of this sense of distress can vary and can also take on various forms, but it is likely to result from a complex interplay between psychological, social and biological factors.
Gender dysphoria is also the official medical description according to the DSM-5, the diseases classification system of the American Psychiatric Association; the most important characteristic is the incongruence of natal gender and experienced identity.
Those suffering from this condition are often referred to as transgender people. Often, following diagnosis, transgender people wish to undergo gender-confirming medical treatment with the help, initially, of hormones, often followed by operative gender reassignment. Gender incongruence is the proposed terminology according to the ICD-11, the international classification of diseases' system adhered to by the World Health Organization.
Gender dysphoria can occur at all ages. It can be experienced as a child, but only a minority of children with a gender identity disorder retain this feeling through adolescence and later wish to undergo medical or surgical treatment.
Nowadays, the term transgender is mostly used in an overarching sense for all kinds of gender diversity, gender variance or gender non-conformity. These terms include the spectrum of gender identity disorders if gender expression and natal gender are not in conformity with what is seen as gender sterotype.
The umbrella term transgender incorporates the desire to dress as someone of the opposite sex known as cross-dressing, drag queens, drag kings, third genders and even a-gender.
Increasingly it is understood that there is no dichotomous definition of a man or woman, but a number of variations that result from the incongruence between one's experienced gender (gender identity) and assigned gender.
Possible causes of gender dysphoria
Gender dysphoria is a collective term for many different phenomena. Research has only really been conducted into the most extreme form, if individuals request medical gender-confirming treatment.
It would appear likely that gender dysphoria is therefore determined by more than one factor.
It is not yet known exactly which factors are required or sufficient to cause this condition, or even their phase of development. But it is highly likely that biological factors play an important role in certain forms of gender dysphoria.
Studies also show that brain differences may result from a mismatch between anatomical sex characteristics and gender identity.