Gender and sexuality are complex areas of medical research and psychological practice. The traditional view of gender and sexuality as binary (man or woman, gay or straight) is being challenged by notions of sexual spectrums and gender variation. There is increasing recognition that gender and sexuality are not static concepts, but rather complex and nuanced psychological constructs.
Sexual identity involves an interplay of factors: biological sex (gender assigned at birth), gender identity (expressed gender) and sexual orientation (attraction). For some people, these factors will be in alignment. Others may experience discomfort or distress if these areas feel incongruent. Research suggests that the brain is more critical to gender identity than external genitalia.
Gender Dysphoria is the experience of a conflict between biological sex and experienced or expressed gender identity. This can have a range of mental health implications. Common issues that arise from Gender Dysphoria include:
· Depression and anxiety
· Feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness and helplessness
· Substance use, misuse or abuse
· Thoughts of suicide or self-harm
· Social withdrawal and isolation
· Discrimination, bullying or harassment
Treatment for Gender Dysphoria usually involves psychotherapy as well as medical intervention. Psychotherapeutic approaches can vary but ultimately aim to relieve distress and impairment to functioning. Another major goal is to support the client through transitioning – psychologically, physically, socially, emotionally and legally – to achieve greater gender identity congruence. Transitioning between genders may also involve hormone therapy and surgical procedures.
Written by Dr Marc Janover, a psychologist at Seed Psychology.
Marc has extensive experience with sexual identity and LGBTI issues.