Gender dysphoria – it’s a term that’s being thrown around in the media and on social media a lot lately. Many of you have read articles about children dealing with gender dysphoria, but what is it exactly?
Let’s first define dysphoria: a feeling of dissatisfaction, anxiety, and restlessness. Gender dysphoria is, therefore, when someone feels extremely distressed with their biological gender and strongly identifies with the opposite gender.
So is “transgender” the same as “gender dysphoria?” No, being transgender is not a psychiatric disorder, though gender dysphoria is. It’s easy to think about it like this: a transgender person might experience gender dysphoria if they feel stressed and anxious about their biological gender because they identify with the opposite gender. On the other hand, not everyone who experiences gender dysphoria will continually experience it, or self-identify with a gender that’s different than their own biological one as they grow older.
Today, as gender identity and being transgender is becoming more openly discussed and accepted in society, we are seeing and hearing about more children and adults experiencing gender dysphoria. As a parent or a prospective parent, how can you identify if your child is experiencing gender dysphoria, and if they are, what can you do? We got you covered.
Gender dysphoria can occur in children as young as five, however, from our writers at TNF, we know that others have reported their children experiencing it as young as three years of age.
Here are some identifiers:
- Preference for clothes, toys, or activities that are stereotypically associated with the opposite gender
- Asserting that they are the opposite gender
- Hiding or ashamed of their genitalia
- Believe that they will grow up to be the opposite gender
- Show signs of depression or anxiety
The Child Mind Institute suggests that children who display these symptoms for more than six months, may be experiencing gender dysphoria.
So what should parents do if they think their child has gender dysphoria? It’s common to see a mental health professional like a psychologist or a gender identity specialist if possible. They can offer counseling to children, such as talk therapy, and counsel parents about how to move forward.
Some kids feel better by altering their appearance such as growing out or cutting their hair, or wearing clothes that are stereotypically associated with the opposite gender. Older children might undergo hormonal treatment that would suppress physical changes from puberty. It’s always important to speak with a medical professional – family doctor and a psychologist – before doing so to know the risks.
After transitioning, not all people who experience gender dysphoria will decide to move forward with gender reassignment surgery. Others, for example, even stop experiencing gender dysphoria and begin to identify with their biological sex. Currently, there’s no real test that can determine whether a child dealing with gender dysphoria will live their adult life as the opposite sex.
There’s a real tug-and-pull argument among mental health professionals on how to best treat gender dysphoria, but for the most part, many encourage parents to take the lead from their children, let them express themselves how they wish, have discussions on the topic, and seek counseling.