I knew that I was different from the boys around me when I was eight years old, and because of this difference, my childhood was filled with tremendous amounts of alienation and secrecy, as I tried mightily to be someone that I was not on the inside. This story is not atypical, and because of this shared struggle, many transgender people are victims of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety, and have one of the highest suicide attempt rates of any minority group at levels between 40% to 55% according to a recent in-depth inquiry into transgender peoples’ lives (Haas, Herman, & Rodgers, 2013).
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual version 5 (DSM-5), transgender people who are not yet being treated for their condition are suffering from Gender Dysphoria. Gender Dysphoria is defined as individuals “having a marked incongruence between the gender they have been assigned to (usually at birth, referred to as natal gender) and their experienced/expressed gender” (American Psychiatric Association, 2013). There are many different expressions of this condition from individuals who were born with a sexual anomaly such as intersexuality to those who merely enjoy acting in accord with the opposite gender’s norms but lack the desire for treatment.
Those that are distressed by their condition to the point of desiring to live full-time as the opposite gender may seek treatment via various means. They might require the use of cross-sexual hormones (testosterone for those assigned female at birth and estrogen for those assigned male at birth). Also, various surgeries are available to assist in these individuals achieving a body that more closely matches their inner perception of gender. When transgender people who wish to transition are treated for their condition, they no longer qualify for a gender dysphoria condition. Whereas the older versions of the DSM labeled transgender people as possessing Gender Identity Disorder (GID) for life, the newer manual sees gender dysphoria as a treatable and therefore suppressible condition.
This topic is highly controversial, and there are numerous opinions and positions related to transgender people. Often, these opinions come from non-transgender people. I can say that my inner life has grown immeasurably better since I transitioned 8 years ago. I have a sense of peace about myself that I never had when I was living as a man. Also, I know that the transgender people that I’ve met on my journey tend to be some of the most authentic and strong people that I know. Hopefully, with continued advocacy, we transgender people can attain the simple status of just being normal people who are allowed to be themselves from birth.
American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: Author.
Haas, A. P., Ph.D., Rodgers, P. L., Ph.D., & Herman, J. L., Ph.D. (2014). Suicide Attempts among Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming Adults. The Williams Institute.