A person with a gender identity disorder is a person who strongly identifies with the other sex. The individual may identify with the opposite sex to the point of believing that he/she is, in fact, a member of the other sex who is trapped in the wrong body. This causes that person to experience serious discomfort with his/her own biological sex orientation. The gender identity disorder causes problems for this person in school, work or social settings. This disorder is different from transvestism or transvestic fetishism where cross-dressing occurs for sexual pleasure, but the transvestite does not identify with the other sex.
A person with this disorder often experiences great discomfort regarding his or her actual anatomic gender. People with gender identity disorder may act and present themselves as members of the opposite sex and may express a desire to alter their bodies. The disorder affects an individual’s self-image, and can impact the person’s mannerisms, behavior and dress. Individuals who are committed to altering their physical appearance through cosmetics, hormones and, in some cases, surgery are known as transsexuals.
There are two components of Gender Identity Disorder, both of which must be present to make the diagnosis. There must be evidence of a strong and persistent cross-gender identification, which is the desire to be, or the insistence that one is of the other sex. This cross-gender identification must not merely be a desire for any perceived cultural advantages of being the other sex. There must also be evidence of persistent discomfort about one’s assigned sex or a sense of inappropriateness in the gender role of that sex.
Children between the ages of 2 and 4 with gender identity issues are not uncommon. However, most children grow out of the wish to change their gender if treated early, before adulthood. If left untreated, he or she will probably continue to have problems throughout life.
Treatment of Gender Identity Disorders
Treatment of adolescents or adults with gender dysphoria or gender identity disorder is difficult. If possible, it is far better to prevent, diagnosis early, and treat such problems in early childhood. For milder forms of this disorder, psychotherapy can help the client to accept him or her self as a “transgender” person. The next step is to practice living the role of the opposite sex, informing relevant people (e.g., parents, friends, bosses), choosing a new name, and perhaps receiving some reversible hormone therapy, speech therapy, and cosmetic changes. If the ‘real life test’ is successful, sex reassignment through surgery and additional hormonal therapy is an option. However, continued counseling may be required to help the newly transgendered person learn to live with the changed body, surgical scars, fears about being discovered and fears about what to reveal and how to be sexual with a new partner.