Generder Identity Disorder - Terminology:
For many years Transsexualism and Transgenderism were the terms used to describe Gender Identity Disorder (GID) or Gender Disorder. However, over the past number of years the medical experts have dropped them from the vocabulary as they are inaccurate and deeply unhelpful and have in fact caused a great deal of confusion, misperception and prejudice towards those born with this condition. It is therefore, for these reasons that GIDI only recognises the medical terms used by the experts rather the continuing to use terminology that is inaccurate and unhelpful
As you can imagine, being told that a family member has Gender Identity Disorder can come as quite a shock, especially as most people have never even heard of this condition.
Some common questions:
What is Gender Identity Disorder ?
Most people never have to ask themselves the question "Am I male or female?". They only have to look at their body and the answer is obvious. For a person with Gender Identity Disorder, the sex of their body feels totally wrong, because the way that they see themselves and the world around them is that of the opposite physical sex.
This is often very confusing to a person with Gender Identity Dysphoric, since most people expect a male body to contain a man, and a female body to contain a woman. This is not true for a GID person, and the fact that they have the wrong physical characteristics for their true sex makes them very unhappy.
There are two types of Gender Disorder. Male to female Gender Dysphorics have a male body and a female mind, whereas female to male Gender Dysphorics have a female body and a male mind. GID is a rare condition (although no one knows exactly how rare), but there are thousands of GID individuals living in Britain . In fact, although you may not have realised it, you have probably already met a GID individual.
What causes Gender Disorder ?
Nobody knows for sure. Some people think that Gender Disorder is a psychological condition, with no physical cause, but recent research into the human brain has shown that male and female brains are different in structure. Scientists who have studied the brains of people with GID have found that their brains are structured like those of their psychological rather than their physical sex.
This strongly suggests that there is a physical event that causes the condition which occurs during the development of the brain while in the womb, and that it is a type of intersex condition (that is, the body is physically neither male nor female but has some characteristics of both). There are a number of possible causes for this.
What does Gender Disorder feel like?
A common statement made by someone with GID is "I am a woman trapped in a man's body"(MTF). While to the person with GID this is a perfectly understandable and acceptable statement to make, it can leave someone without GID bemused and scratching their head. And why not? It is a bewildering statement to make. How can a person who looks like a man say he's a woman in his head? How can they claim that their body is just wrong? And what does this "wrongness" feel like? Unless you are GID getting a grasp of what this actually feels like is next to impossible. However, it can be associated with a feeling of things being 'odd', out of place and out of sorts. That odd feeling can be rather like the odd feeling you get when you hold an knife and fork in the wrong hands. For a while something will feel strange and out of place until you realise what you done and switch them back. For people with GID though, that odd feeling is multiplied a hundred or a thousand times. And it's there everyday, day in day out until they too can switch over to the way things belong.
Do people with Gender Disorder always know that they are Gender Disorder?
Not always. The world is full of people who are the same sex as their bodies, and it is often difficult for a person with GID to understand exactly what the problem is. Instead they just have a deep feeling of wrongness that takes many years to understand for what it is.
Some GID individuals know that they are members of the 'opposite' sex from the time that they are aware that there is a difference between men and women, others are aware that they want to be the other sex without understanding why, and others believe that they are not GID into middle or old age before they understand the truth about themselves.
Is Gender Disorder a lifestyle choice?
Absolutely not. The process of changing gender role is an extremely painful one, and is always a last resort, usually done only after years of soul searching. People with GID, who do transition, are sometimes accused of being selfish, but the difficult change that they undergo is never the result of a whim, idle curiosity or boredom. They choose that path because no other way of life is bearable for them. People with GID are born, not made.
Are people with Gender Disorder just homosexuals who can't come to terms with their own sexuality?
No. It is easy to confuse sexual orientation (whether someone is attracted to men or women) with gender identity (whether someone is male or female). Individuals with GID have a gender identity that is different from their physical sex, and this is not related to whether they are sexually attracted to men or women. There are heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual and asexual GID individuals.
Are people with Gender Disorder the same as transvestites?
No again. Transvestites are people who get sexual or emotional pleasure from wearing the clothing of the opposite sex. The vast majority of transvestites are men. Transvestites are perfectly content to remain with the body that they have, but enjoy the fantasy of pretending to be a member of the opposite sex.
As GID individuals have the wrong body it can be difficult for them to develop sexually. Sometimes they are not very attracted to members of either sex, since the role that they would have to perform in any sexual relationship would feel wrong. The idea of being a member of the opposite physical sex may become the only way in which they can express their own sexuality, and their sexual fantasies can become geared towards being that sex. This is not the same as transvestism, but it is easy to confuse the two, and sometimes these GID individuals mistakenly assume that they are transvestites.
Is there a cure for Gender Disorder ?
Since the beginning of the 20th century, when the condition was less well understood, GID was classed as a mental illness. Psychiatrists tried to 'cure' GID sufferers by using techniques like aversion therapy or drugs. This never worked. There is no way that a genuine GID individual can ever be content living in the wrong gender role, and attempts to make a 'normal person' always fail.
GID individuals, themselves often try to deal with the question of their gender identity by ignoring it, or by denying that there is a problem. Unfortunately neither of these methods works in the long term. They are simply ways of putting off something that has to be dealt with, and only cause the individual's sense of unhappiness to deepen until it reaches a crisis point. In general the sooner GID individual is treated the better the results of treatment are, so delay can be very damaging.
The only successful treatment that has ever been found for GID individuals is for them to live as members of the sex that they psychologically are. How this is done varies from person to person, and can involve counselling, speech therapy, electrolysis (removal of facial hair), hormones, and surgery.
However, sex reassignment is not an overnight fix for GID. It is a long, expensive and painful process, and the final result is something of a compromise (for example, surgery makes you sterile). However, nearly all GID individuals find that, despite sometimes being subject to prejudice or discrimination, sex reassignment does offer them a suitable, enjoyable and extremely fulfilling life.