Breaking The Stigma: Understanding Gender Dysphoria

Our gender identity is omnipresent. It seems to follow us in every sphere of our lives – from pronouns to shopping stores to bathroom lanes and pretty much everything else. For people with gender dysphoria, these everyday situations can cause immense distress.

We are all assigned a sex at birth. But it is not necessarily important to identify with that sex or gender throughout our lives. Some people might not identify with any gender at all. Transgender (people whose gender identity is different from the sex they are assigned at birth) and gender nonbinary (people who identify with neither of the two genders) folks fall in these categories. 

The term gender dysphoria is extensively discussed with respect to trans and nonbinary individuals. It refers to the psychological distress one experiences from incongruence or conflict with their gender and sexual identity. Unfortunately, the term is often riddled with stereotypes and stigmas. This is why understanding gender dysphoria is important to build a supportive and empathetic society. 

On that note, let us dive deeper into the various aspect of gender dysphoria and understand the condition better. 

 Gender Dysphoria

What Is Gender Dysphoria?

Dysphoria originates from ‘δυσφορία,’ a Greek word that refers to a stressed and restless state of mind. Pairing it with gender dysphoria now gives the term a much more precise meaning. Gender dysphoria occurs when a person feels psychological and social stress because of the conflict between their gender identity and the sex they are assigned at birth. 

Gender dysphoria was first included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) in 1980. Published by the American Psychiatric Association (APA), DSM lists gender dysphoria under a set of diagnosable conditions called gender identity disorders. While a school of thought considers gender dysphoria as a legible psychiatric disorder, others believe that the stress around one’s gender identity does not and should not contribute to a diagnosable mental health condition. According to the latter school of thought, labeling gender dysphoria as a mental health condition contributes to the existing stigma surrounding transgender and non-binary individuals.

The DSM-V accepts that not all transgender folks experience gender dysphoria, and no diagnosis is required to be classified as a transgender person. However, any transgender person trying to avail of gender-affirming care from the system has to get the diagnosis of gender dysphoria. This also means when a transgender person wants to undergo medical transition, they have to prove they are actually trans, which mostly means exemplifying and recalling incidents of gender dysphoria and associated stress and discomfort. 

Signs Of Gender Dysphoria

For people who associate with the stress of gender dysphoria, it occurs mainly in the early stages of life. As per a study by the Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles, 73% of trans women and 78% of trans men experienced gender dysphoria as early as seven years of age. 

The signs of gender dysphoria include:

  • bodily discomfort,
  • social discomfort,
  • intimacy issues with partners arising from bodily discomfort,
  • anxiety and depression,
  • self-harm and other risk-taking behaviors, and 
  • suicidal tendencies.

Read more: The Emergence of “BIPOC”

How To Support People Dealing With Gender Dysphoria?

1. Use correct names and pronouns. 

 If your friends, family members, or anyone you know has changed their pronouns, use those names and pronouns. Yes, it can be challenging to talk about someone in a new way, but practice is the best way to learn this. And if you mess up even after that, it’s fine. Apologize about it and learn from it. 

2. Encourage them to seek support.

If your friend or loved one is sharing things with you, it is a good sign. It is a sign that they are actually willing to seek help and support. You can suggest to them various outlets to seek help, including gender-affirming counselors or support groups. 

Read more: Best Online Therapy Platforms


Gender dysphoria is defined as the psychological stress experienced by an individual due to the conflict between their gender identity and the sex assigned to them at birth. It can be an incredibly isolating and challenging experience because the mainstream conversations around gender dysphoria are riddled with misconceptions and stigma. 

This is why it is essential to learn more about trans identities and issues. Trans Day of Visibility is marked every year to showcase the powerful and unique lives of trans people. To learn more about the day, click here.

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