Gender dysphoria is a condition characterized by a disconnection between someone's assigned and perceived genders. Individuals with this issue usually identify themselves as transgender or transsexual, depending on their ideological feelings about sex and gender. Some transgender individuals also disagree with the categorization of it, or more specifically, gender identity disorder, as a medical condition, as part of a larger exploration of gender identity and what “normal” gender is. It is also important to note that this is different from being a transvestite; technically, a transvestite is someone who wears clothing belonging to the opposite gender, but he or she is usually both happy and secure with his or her gender identity.
People of all ages can experience gender dysphoria, although most patients experience a sense of disconnection from a very young age. A child who experiences gender dysphoria may not seek treatment until he or she is much older, but the underlying feelings are still there. Adolescence is also a common time period for the emergence of symptoms, while, more rarely, some individuals only start to question their gender when they are much older. The acceptance of this issue as a condition requiring compassionate treatment, rather than an abnormality, began in the mid-20th century, but was not widespread until the 1980s.
Individuals with gender identity issues who seek treatment usually start by seeing a psychologist to discuss their feelings. Working together with a psychologist, the patient decides the extent of gender dysphoria, and whether steps should be taken to bring his or her physical gender into alignment with the perceived gender. In most nations, a patient must be seeing a psychologist about the problem for a minimum of one year before taking the next step in treatment, to ensure that the patient truly has gender dysphoria, rather than a passing phase. In most cases, the next step begins with living life in the other gender part time. A man transitioning to a woman, for example, may start going to the store in dresses and will also begin discussing the transition with the people in her life.
There are a number of treatments that can be used to transition between genders. The first is hormone treatment, which will physically alter the body. After a set period of hormone treatment, the patient may consider surgery to modify his or her genitalia and the chest region. During hormone treatment, the patient usually begins to transition full time, dressing and behaving in ways that match his or her perceived gender, and sometimes taking voice training and other lessons to learn how to walk, talk, and “pass” as the new gender. At the end of the treatment, the transgender individual will have fully transitioned into a new gender.