We are all assigned a gender at birth. As newborns, we don’t question how our bodies look and feel, but as we grow, insecurities and curiosities start creeping in. Have you ever felt uncomfortable in your own skin? Have you ever had an out of body experience? Have you not been able to express who you truly are? These are some of the emotions a transgender child routinely feels.
According to The New York Times, it is estimated that there are about 1.4 million transgender people living in the United States. Being transgender is more prevalent than ever, especially in children and adolescents. It is evident that transgender people in the United States and around the world live challenging lives, with constant misunderstanding and discrimination. However, thanks to transgender activists and celebrities like Jazz Jennings, Laverne Cox, and Caitlyn Jenner, what it means to be transgender, along with important issues and controversy surrounding the LGBTQ community, have been brought to the forefront. Those in the public eye have been proving that being transgender can be joyful and transformative, not just for the individual, but for those who love and accept them.
What does being transgender mean?
The term transgender describes people whose gender identity, meaning a person’s internal and personal preference of being a boy or a girl, differs from the sex the doctor marked on their birth certificate. Simply, for transgender people, the sex they were assigned at birth and their own internal gender identity do not match. Transgender children are typically found to be insistent about their gender identity, consistent with their identification over time and persistent in how they identify themselves.
What is Gender Dysphoria?
Gender dysphoria (GD), previously called Gender Identity Disorder (GID), is commonly identified in children. This medical condition occurs when a child or adolescent experiences discomfort or distress, due to a mismatch between their biological sex and gender identity. It is important to note, that GD is a recognized as a medical condition, not a mental illness.
For many people, the terms “gender” and “sex” are used interchangeably, but incorrectly. Biological sex is used to identify whether you are female or male at birth, determined by chromosomes, hormones, and anatomy. Gender identity is one’s identification as male, female, both or neither. It correlates with one’s outward behavior (gender expression or role) related to that perception of who you are inside and out.
The mismatch between someone’s sex and gender identity can lead to distressing and uncomfortable feelings called “dysphoria.” When a child or adolescent experiences dysphoria, they often have feelings of dissatisfaction and anxiety, because they feel that they are essentially “stuck in the wrong body.”
However, not all transgender individuals feel dysphoric. Children who persist in feelings of transgender identification do not wish to be the opposite gender, they believe and insist, that they are in fact that gender.
For those who have been diagnosed with GD, their discomfort with the gender they were originally assigned (specifically during puberty) can be so intense that it can interfere and disrupt the way they function in everyday life, i.e., bouts of anxiety, insecurity, and depression. Due to experiencing these feelings of dysphoria, there is a high prevalence of mental health issues that are associated with transgender patients. People with gender dysphoria do not want to conform, and may be uncomfortable with the expected gender roles of their assigned gender.
Gender Non-conformity and Gender Dysphoria
In recent years, the media coverage surrounding gender non-conformity in childhood and adolescence has heightened the public’s awareness. Gender non-conformity (GNC) is a broader term that includes people with gender dysphoria.
Non-conformity refers to expressing behaviors that do not match the gender norms or stereotypes of the gender assigned at birth. For example, a girl transitioning into a boy, will often behave and may dress in ways more socially expected of a girl.
There are many possible developmental abnormalities that can cause a mismatch between a person’s biological sex and their gender identity at birth, making the exact cause of gender dysphoria unclear. Biological sex is determined in the mother’s womb. One theory is that the hormones that trigger the development of biological sex may not work properly in the brain, causing differences between them.
Gender nonconforming people may experience gender dysphoria at some point in their lives, and many individuals who receive treatment will find a gender role and expression that is comfortable for them.
If you have any questions regarding gender dysphoria, gender non-conformity, or what it means to be transgender, call Endocrine Kids at (248) 347-3344 to request an appointment with Dr. Bishop.