The lives of transgender people are often agonizing. They experience significant distress or impairment concerning their strong desire to transition to the gender other than the one they were assigned at birth.
How does the medical profession help? Psychiatrists regard their plight as a mental-health disorder. Under categories for children, adolescents, and adults, the disorder is termed Gender Dysphoria (discontent) in the latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (American Psychiatric Publishing, 2013).
The disorder’s symptoms are varied and painful. According to Wikipedia, adults with gender identity disorder are “at increased risk for stress, isolation, anxiety, depression, poor self-esteem and suicide.” Symptoms of the disorder in children include “disgust at their own genitalia, social isolation from their peers, anxiety, loneliness and depression.”
The psychotherapy that was practiced decades ago tried to help them become reconciled with the gender assigned at birth. Now the emphasis is more on providing affirmative care for the patient, with treatment driven by the patient’s desired outcome. Attempts to “cure” them by having them reconcile with their birth characteristics have been ineffective. It’s not helpful, the American Psychological Association says, to force a transgender child “to act in a more gender-conforming way.”
While compassion and support for the individual are essential, there are certain deeper psychological aspects of this problem—issues involving self-doubt, self-rejection, and feelings of being trapped—that aren’t getting sufficient recognition and understanding. [Read more…]