In 2013, the fifth version of the Diagnostics and Statistics Manual (DSM-5) published by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) changed the official diagnosis for transgender people from “Gender Identity Disorder” to “Gender Dysphoria”. This is often left as a footnote in the larger discussion of the transgender experience, but I think doing so does the community a disservice. The first step to understanding what it is to be transgender is to understand the dysphoria.
Dysphoria, or confusion, describes the state of existence most of us had to deal with the majority of our lives. The conflicts we experienced being socialized in our assigned gender explain many of the other mental health issues within the community such as depression, social anxiety and suicidal ideation and action. As we transition into our identified gender and learn to manage the dysphoria, we walk a fine line between satisfying cultural norms or expectations and being true to ourselves and authentic in our presentation.
It is important to note that Gender Dysphoria is not a mental disorder, but rather is described as a psychological state. According to the APA, a “disorder” exists when a psychological state causes an unacceptable level of disruption on ones daily life. For most transgender people, this describes our existence prior to transitioning to our affirmed gender expression. In other words, transitions is the solution not the problem. As we find balance in the freedom of expressing our true identities, the dysphoria dissipates. I’m yet to meet anyone who can claim it’s completely gone, but it is no longer something suffered through on a daily basis.
For a summary of the DSM-V description of Gender Dysphoria, click here.