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Gender Identity Disorder

What is Gender Identity Disorder?

A person with gender identity 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.

Symptoms of Gender Identity Disorder in Children

    • Expressed desire to be the opposite sex (including passing oneself off as the opposite sex and calling oneself by an opposite sex name).
    • Disgust with their own genitals (Boys may pretend not to have a penis. Girls may fear growing breasts and menstruating and may refuse to sit when urinating. They also may bind their breasts to make them less noticeable.)
    • Belief that they will grow up to become the opposite sex.
    • Rejection by their peer groups.
    • Dressing and behaving in a manner typical of the opposite sex (for example,

a female wearing boy’s underwear).

  • Withdrawal from social interaction and activity.
  • Feelings of isolation, depression, and anxiety.


Symptoms of Gender Identity Disorder in Adults

  • Desire to live as a person of the opposite sex.
  • Desire to be rid of their own genitals.
  • Dressing and behaving in a manner typical of the opposite sex.
  • Withdrawal from social interaction and activity.
  • Feelings of isolation, depression, and anxiety.


There is no universally accepted cause for this disorder; however, there are theories that are expressed by experts. These theories include:

  • Chromosomal abnormalities
  • Hormonal imbalances during fetal and childhood development
  • Disrupted childhood bonding and rearing
  • Any combination of the above factors

How is Gender Identity Disorder Diagnosed?

Gender identity disorder typically is diagnosed by a trained mental health professional (psychiatrist or psychologist). A thorough medical history and psychological exam are performed to rule out other possible causes for the symptoms, such as depression, anxiety, or psychosis. Gender identity disorder is diagnosed when the evaluation confirms the persistent desire to be the opposite sex.

Treatment for Gender Identity Disorder

If a mental health professional rules out other possible causes (including depression, anxiety, and psychosis), there are several options that are recommended for treatment, depending on the age and preference of the patient. In children, individual and family counseling is often recommended, while adults are often recommended to join support groups and therapy.

“Sex change” operations are a time consuming, selective process that some with gender identity disorder choose to undergo, through a combination of therapy, hormones, and even surgery. This allows the patient to transform his or her appearance to that of the opposite sex. Treatment is a very important part of the diagnosis, because if it is left untreated, gender identity disorder can lead to severe depression, anxiety, suicidal ideations, substance abuse, and low self- esteem.

Famous Faces in History with Gender Identity Disorder

  • Chaz Bono
  • Alexis Arquette
  • Amanda Lepore
  • Andrea James
  • Balian Buschbaum

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