Gender Identity Disorder
Gender identity disorder is a condition in which the individual feels a strong sexual connection with the sex opposite of their own. A girl feels that she was meant to be a boy or a boy feels he was meant to be a girl. People suffering from this disorder often feel uncomfortable in their own skin and will act out as if they were the opposite sex. They may express a strong desire to alter their sexual gender by a surgical procedure. If they go through with the procedure, they are known after as transvestites. Gender identity disorder can change one’s behaviors, mannerisms, self-image and self- esteem. By the age of 2 or 3, most children have established a clear gender identity. Usually, the understanding of being a boy or a girl directly correlates with the child’s autonomic sex.
If by the age of 2 or 3, if the child has not developed a clear gender identity, you need to watch for the following symptoms as they continue to develop:
- A repeatedly stated desire to be the opposite sex
- Preference for playmates of the opposite sex
- Belief they will grow up into the opposite sex
- A desire to participate in activities stereotypical of the opposite sex (boys play with GI Joes where girls play with Barbies)
- Girls dressing in male attire, boys dressing in female attire (cross-dressing)
- In boys, feeling disgusted by the appearance of their penis or testes
- In girls, rejection of sitting while urinating
- In girls, the assertion that she will eventually grow a penis and is disgusted by the thought of developing breasts or menstruating
As the child grows, symptoms in adolescence and young adulthood include:
- Rejection by peer groups
- Feelings of isolation, depression and loneliness
- Withdrawal from social interactions, withdrawal
- Desire to be rid of their own genitals
- Desire to live as a person from the opposite sex
On theory surrounding the cause of gender identity is genetics. Research has shown that there is a chromosomal abnormality on one of the chromosomes that manifests during the early stages of development. Hormonal imbalances during the fetal stages of development is another possible cause. Possible causes that are not physical include problems bonding with a parent or guardian during the early stages of development or issues that arise during child rearing. It is also possible that gender identity disorder may be caused by a number of these reasons. If the disorder is late-onset versus developing in the early stages of development, the disorder is often times not gender identity disorder but a form of fetishism known as transvestite fetishism, which comes with its own unique set of symptoms, causes, diagnosis and treatments.
Gender identity disorder is generally diagnosed by a trained mental health professional such as a psychologist or a psychiatrist. Through a medical examination and a series of counseling sessions, the professional is able to rule out other underlying disorders such as depression or anxiety. Gender identity disorder has been known to coexist with other dissociative disorders such as associated personality disorder or schizophrenia. A solid diagnosis is reached when the evaluation confirms the individual’s strong desire to be a member of the opposite sex.
Counseling and therapies of one form or another are the best approaches to treating an individual with gender identity disorder. Individual and family counseling are the most common forms of treatment in children with the disorder. The counseling focuses on boosting the child’s self-esteem and treating possible symptoms of anxiety and depression. Another goal of the therapy is to help the child function within his or her biological peer groups. As an adult with gender identity disorder, group therapy is the most affective form of treatment. Support groups allow peers to talk to one another about their issues and their different ways of coping. No medication, at present, has been found to cure or help the symptoms of this disorder.