Gender Identity Disorder

Gender Identity Disorder (GID) is a diagnosis used to describe individuals who believe they truly belong to the sex opposite of that of their physical body and are troubled by this belief. The term transsexualism is usually linked to individuals who have severe gender identity disorder in adulthood. This, undoubtedly, is a very controversial topic because it is inconsistent with popularly held notions about male and female identities. Furthermore, some argue whether GID should be labeled as a disorder in the DSM given that many notions about male and female identities are culturally-based.

Viewed from a clinical perspective, it is unclear why some people develop GID. Often, experts raise the question whether gender identity is genetically determined prior to an infant’s birth or whether it is determined by biological or social factors an individual faces in the environment. Some argue that it is the combination of several factors. Whatever the reason, our society is still intolerant of boys who engage in activities considered to be more typical of girls, and vice versa.

However, how can we tell if someone is experiencing GID? The DSM-IV-TR diagnostic criteria for gender identity disorder are as follows:

“A. A strong and persistent cross-gender identification (not merely a desire for any perceived cultural advantages of being the other sex). In children, the disturbance is manifested by four (or more) of the following:
(1) repeatedly stated desire to be, or insistence that he or she is, the other sex
(2) in boys, preference for cross-dressing or simulating female attire; in girls, insistence on wearing only stereotypical masculine clothing
(3) strong and persistent preferences for cross-sex roles in make-believe play or persistent fantasies of being the other sex
(4) intense desire to participate in the stereotypical games and pastimes of the other sex
(5) strong preference for playmates of the other sex. In adolescents and adults, the disturbance is manifested by symptoms such as a stated desire to be the other sex, frequent passing as the other sex, desire to live or be treated as the other sex, or the conviction that he or she has the typical feelings and reactions of the other sex.

B. Persistent discomfort with his or her sex or sense of inappropriateness in the gender role of that sex. In children, the disturbance is manifested by any of the following: in boys, assertion that his penis or testes are disgusting or will disappear or assertion that it would be better not to have a penis, or aversion toward rough-and-tumble play and rejection of male stereotypical toys, games, and activities; in girls, rejection of urinating in a sitting position, assertion that she has or will grow a penis, or assertion that she does not want to grow breasts or menstruate, or marked aversion toward normative feminine clothing. In adolescents and adults, the disturbance is manifested by symptoms such as preoccupation with getting rid of primary and secondary sex characteristics (e.g., request for hormones, surgery, or other procedures to physically alter sexual characteristics to simulate the other sex) or belief that he or she was born the wrong sex.

C. The disturbance is not concurrent with a physical intersex condition.

D. The disturbance causes clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.”

Many females experiencing gender identity disorder claim that they are men who are trapped in a female body. It is clear that many feel more male than female and quite often are sexually attracted to women. Likewise, males who experience GID sense that they are women trapped in a male body and are often sexually attracted to men.

It is extremely important to distinguish the difference between GID and homosexuality. Most people who are homosexual feel comfortable with their own gender identity; they are merely sexually and romantically attracted to members of the same sex. Being homosexual does not necessarily imply a wish to belong to the opposite gender. Gay males, for example, typically do not wish to become females. In cases of GID, however, an individual strongly identifies with the opposite gender to the point of profound self-identification with that gender. The person experiences mental and emotional distress as a result.

Some in society believe that the goal of therapy for individuals with GID is to help them change their thoughts and feelings towards their gender identities. However, this is not usually the case. Therapy can assist individuals in developing greater self-acceptance in the face of societal prejudices and discrimination, coping with rejection and marginalization from family and peers, and in some cases, making the decision to seek medical procedures such as gender reassignment surgery.

If you believe that you may be facing symptoms of gender identity disorder, a competent mental health professional can support you in facing challenges, overcoming obstacles, and finding the best resources for self-care

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