Gender Dysphoria

What is gender dysphoria?

Gender dysphoria occurs when there is a conflict between the sex you were assigned at birth and the gender with which you identify. This can create significant distress and can make you feel uncomfortable in your body.

People with gender dysphoria may want to change the way that they express their gender. This may mean changing the way they dress, transitioning socially (using the pronouns and public bathroom associated with their affirmed gender), transitioning medically or surgically, or some combination of these.

Gender dysphoria symptoms

People with gender dysphoria feel that the sex they were assigned at birth does not match the gender with which they identify. For example, someone who was born with the reproductive organs and other physical traits of a male may identify as female. The word "dysphoria" means significant uneasiness and dissatisfaction, and gender dysphoria can start to present as early as childhood in some people. Other symptoms include:

  • distress
  • anxiety
  • depression
  • negative self-image
  • strong dislike of your sexual anatomy
  • strong preference for the toys and activities associated with the other gender (in children)

The distress related to this condition has been associated with an increased risk of substance abuse, self-harming behaviors, and suicide attempts. This is mostly because of the increased risk of discrimination for individuals who are transgender or gender non-conforming.

Gender dysphoria was sometimes previously called "gender identity disorder" and "transsexualism," but these terms are outdated and may be considered offensive. Gender dysphoria is not the same as homosexuality, which refers to sexual orientation rather than gender identification. It is also different from gender non-conformity, which refers to engaging in behaviors that don't conform to gender norms or stereotypes, such as cross-dressing.

Gender dysphoria causes

We still don't know exactly what causes gender dysphoria, although some experts believe that hormonal influences in the womb may be involved.

How we care for gender dysphoria

The clinicians in the Center for Gender Surgery are dedicated to providing medical and psychological care and support to patients with concerns about gender identity. Our skilled team includes specialists in plastic surgery, urology, endocrinology, nursing, gender management, and social work, who collaborate to provide a full suite of treatment options for transgender teens and young adults. By partnering with the hospital's nationally recognized GeMS Program, we help youths with gender identity concerns transfer seamlessly to surgical care, if and when they are ready. We also work with transgender teens and young adults who are medically managed outside of Boston Children’s.