For some transgender folks, emotional distress can occur when they experience a difference between the gender they are assigned to at birth and the gender they identify with and know themselves to be. This can lead to severe emotional distress that can negatively impact their health and day to day life if not addressed. Gender dysphoria is the medical diagnosis for folks who experience this distress. Those with gender dysphoria are often uncomfortable with the gender they were assigned and can be uncomfortable with their body particularly during puberty and the developmental changes that take place during that time. They may also feel uncomfortable with the expected roles of their assigned gender.
Being transgender is not considered a medical condition and not all transgender folks experience gender dysphoria. There are many transgender individuals who do not experience severe emotional distress or anxiety associated with the difference between the gender they are assigned to at birth and the gender they identify with, and will therefore not have gender dysphoria.
Feelings of discomfort associated with gender dysphoria can be relieved by expressing gender in a way that the individual is comfortable. This can include the clothing they wear and the hairstyle they choose, which can help portray and visually communicate who they know they are. Transgender folks may also choose to use a different name or pronoun, and some may take steps to physically alter their body with the use of hormones or by undergoing top surgery. All major Canadian medical organizations recognize that living in a way that reflects one’s chosen gender identity is a safe, effective, and medically necessary treatment for many folks who experience gender dysphoria.
While being transgender is not in itself an illness, many transgender folks experience mental health and physical problems due to widespread stigma and discrimination. Unfortunately, many transgender people live in an environment where they are told that their identity is incorrect, deviant, and wrong, which leads to rejection within their homes, at school, and in their community. Some have even lost their jobs, families, friends, homes, their support network, and are often the subject of harassment, abuse, bullying, and violence. These experiences are a challenge for anyone and for some, it can lead to emotional distress and anxiety disorders, depression, and other mental health conditions.
It is important to acknowledge that these conditions are not the result of being transgender. They are, in fact, the result of the intolerance and discrimination that they experience. There are many transgender folks who are able to live healthy and fulfilling lives if they are accepted and valued as members of their community. It is also helpful if they are given the resources and knowledge of various treatment methods that can reduce the sense of incongruence between the gender they are assigned, and the gender they truly know themselves to be.