There are no physical symptoms of gender dysphoria, but people with the condition may experience and display a range of feelings and behaviours.
In many cases, a person with gender dysphoria begins to feel a mismatch between their biological sex and gender identity during early childhood. For others, this may not happen until adulthood.
Gender dysphoria behaviours in children can include:
- insisting they're of the opposite sex
- disliking or refusing to wear clothes that are typically worn by their sex and wanting to wear clothes typically worn by the opposite sex
- disliking or refusing to take part in activities and games that are typically associated with their sex, and wanting to take part in activities and games typically associated with the opposite sex
- preferring to play with children of the opposite biological sex
- disliking or refusing to pass urine as other members of their biological sex usually do – for example, a boy may want to sit down to pass urine and a girl may want to stand up
- insisting or hoping their genitals will change – for example, a boy may say he wants to be rid of his penis, and a girl may want to grow a penis
- feeling extreme distress at the physical changes of puberty
Children with gender dysphoria may display some, or all, of these behaviours. However, in many cases, behaviours such as these are just a part of childhood and don't necessarily mean your child has gender dysphoria.
For example, many girls behave in a way that can be described as "tomboyish", which is often seen as part of normal female development. It's also not uncommon for boys to roleplay as girls and to dress up in their mother's or sister's clothes. This is usually just a phase.
Most children who behave in these ways don't have gender dysphoria and don't become transsexuals. Only in rare cases does the behaviour persist into the teenage years and adulthood.
Teenagers and adults
If the feelings of gender dysphoria are still present by the time your child is a teenager or adult, it's likely that they're not just going through a phase.
If you're a teenager or an adult whose feelings of gender dysphoria begun in childhood, you may now have a much clearer sense of your gender identity and how you want to deal with it. Many people with strong feelings of gender dysphoria are fully transsexual during their teenage years.
The way gender dysphoria affects teenagers and adults is different to the way it affects children. If you're a teenager or adult with gender dysphoria, you may feel:
- without doubt that your gender identity is at odds with your biological sex
- comfortable only when in the gender role of your preferred gender identity
- a strong desire to hide or be rid of the physical signs of your sex, such as breasts, body hair or muscle definition
- a strong dislike for – and a strong desire to change or be rid of – the genitalia of your biological sex
Without appropriate help and support, some people may try to suppress their feelings and attempt to live the life of their biological sex. Ultimately, however, most people are unable to keep this up.
Having or suppressing these feelings is often very difficult to deal with and, as a result, many transsexuals and people with gender dysphoria experience depression, self-harm or suicidal thoughts.
See your GP as soon as possible if you've been feeling depressed or suicidal.
Alternatively, you can call the Samaritans for free on 116 123. They're available 24 hours a day to talk through any issues you may be experiencing, and will do so in total confidence. Alternatively, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org.
You may also find it useful to contact The Beaumont Society on 01582 412220 (also available 24 hours a day) for advice and support. The Beaumont Society is a national organisation run by and for the transgender community.
A condition that describes the feeling of a mismatch between your biological sex and your gender identity.
Gender identity is your personal sense of which gender you belong to, or the way that you see yourself.
A transsexual is someone with deep and long-lasting feelings of gender dysphoria, who seeks to alter their biological sex to match their gender identity.