Gender Dysphoria (previously called Gender Identity Disorder) is the psychological and emotional distress that comes from conflicting gender assignment and gender identity. The simplest definition of dysphoria is “a state of unease or general dissatisfaction with life”. Anyone can experience dysphoria for a wide variety of reasons, and not everyone who questions their assigned gender struggles with dysphoria.
In 2013 the American Psychiatric Association made a meaningful change to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM), changing the term “Gender Identity Disorder” to “Gender Dysphoria”.
In 2019 the World Health Organization (WHO) removed “Gender Identity Disorder” from the list of mental illnesses and changed it to “Gender Incongruence”.
The word disorder can be stigmatizing, unfortunately, and may feed the belief that something is inherently wrong with a person, but it’s important to understand that Gender Dysphoria (GD) is not a mental illness in itself.
That’s not to say that people with GD don’t experience mental health difficulties as a result of GD, but reclassifying what was previously considered a “disorder” is a great stride towards compassion and acceptance of a huge population of people who were previously condemned simply for being who they were.
Gender identity refers to one’s own sense of their gender, while gender expression refers to the way an individual presents themselves to the world.
Transgenders are individuals who do not identify with their gender assignment because it is completely different from their sense of self. They often choose to express themselves in the world as the gender they know they really are. For example, wearing make-up is considered a feminine gender expression, and having a beard is considered a masculine gender expression.
Not everyone who struggles with gender dysphoria identifies as transgender, but a great number of people diagnosed with gender dysphoria do identify as transgender, gender fluid, or gender non-conforming.