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Gender identity disorder, is a disturbance of gender identity, in which a person who has been assigned one gender (usually at birth on the basis of their sex, but compare intersexuality), but identifies as belonging to another gender, or does not conform with the gender role their respective society prescribes to them. It is a psychiatric term for what is widely known by terms like transsexuality, transgender and (subject to debate, but full-fledged GID is present in at least some cases of) transvestism or cross-dressing.

This feeling is usually reported as "having always been there", although in some cases, it seems to appear in adolescence or even in adulthood, and it has been reported by some as intensifying over time. Since many cultures strongly disapprove of cross-gender behaviour, it often results in significant problems for those affected, and sometimes for their close friends and family members as well. In many cases, discomfort is also reported as stemming from the feeling that one's body is "wrong" or meant to be different.

See also: List of transgender-related topics

Diagnostic criteria


The current edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders has five criteria that must be met before a diagnosis of Gender Identity Disorder (302.85) can be given: [1]

  1. There must be evidence of a strong and persistent cross-gender identification.
  2. This cross-gender identification must not merely be a desire for any perceived cultural advantages of being the other sex.
  3. There must also be evidence of persistent discomfort about one's assigned sex or a sense of inappropriateness in the gender role of that sex.
  4. The individual must not have a concurrent physical intersex condition (e.g., androgen insensitivity syndrome or congenital adrenal hyperplasia).
  5. There must be evidence of clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.

The DSM-IV also provides a code for gender disorders that did not fall into these criteria. This diagnosis of Gender Identity Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (GIDNOS, 302.6) is similar to other "NOS" diagnoses, and can be given for, for example: [2]

  1. Intersex conditions (e.g., androgen insensitivity syndrome or congenital adrenal hyperplasia) and accompanying gender dysphoria
  2. Transient, stress-related cross-dressing behavior
  3. Persistent preoccupation with castration or penectomy without a desire to acquire the sex characteristics of the other sex, which is known as skoptic syndrome

For some people, GID in the DSM-IV is comparable to transsexuality, whereas GIDNOS, to them, is more comparable to other transgender conditions that may be seen as disorderly. On the other hand, many transgender people themselves feel quite accurately described by the DSM-IV, and many have none of the symptoms listed above under NOS. Some transsexual and transgender people do not feel like the DSM-IV describes their condition accurately, in any sense.
Transvestic fetishism has its own code, as a paraphilia rather than a gender identity disorder.


Gender Identity Disorder
ICD-10 F64
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The current edition of the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems has five different diagnoses for gender identity disorder: transsexualism, Dual-role Transvestism, Gender Identity Disorder of Childhood, Other Gender Identity Disorders, and Gender Identity Disorder, Unspecified. [3]

Transsexualism has the following criteria:

  • The desire to live and be accepted as a member of the opposite sex, usually accompanied by the wish to make his or her body as congruent as possible with the preferred sex through surgery and hormone treatment.
  • The transsexual identity has been present persistently for at least two years.
  • The disorder is not a symptom of another mental disorder or a chromosomal abnormality.

Dual-role transvestism has the following criteria:

  • The individual wears clothes of the opposite sex in order to experience temporary membership in the opposite sex.
  • There is no sexual motivation for the cross-dressing.
  • The individual has no desire for a permanent change to the opposite sex.

Gender Identity Disorder of Childhood has essentially four criteria, which may be summarised as:

  • The individual is persistently and intensely distressed about being a girl/boy, and desires (or claims) to be of the opposite gender.
  • The individual is preoccupied with the clothing, roles or anatomy of the opposite sex/gender, or rejects the clothing, roles, or anatomy of his/her birth sex/gender.
  • The individual has not yet reached puberty.
  • The disorder must have been present for at least 6 months.

The remaining two classifications have no specific criteria and may be used as "catch-all" classifications in a similar way to GIDNOS.

Since, very often, many people (including doctors, judges etc.) assume that the classifications "transsexual" and "transvestite" can apply only to adults, the F64 section of the ICD-10 is often criticised, especially since the "usually" in "usually accompanied by the wish to make his or her body as congruent as possible " is often ignored as well, and wish for sexual reassignment surgery (SRS) is seen as a requirement for the diagnosis of "transsexualism". However, an increasing number of physicians and therapists are treating transsexual people who have no desire for surgery, sometimes known as "non-op" transsexuals.

Many transgender people, however, do not fit into either of these two categories; for example, transgender people who wish to change their social gender completely, but who do not bother with SRS. This can lead to significant problems with things such as procuring medical treatment and legal change of name and/or gender; in some cases, it may make them completely impossible.


Many transgender people do not regard their cross-gender feelings and behaviours as a disorder. They question what a "normal" gender identity or a "normal" gender role is supposed to be. Sometimes, even the very existence of a "normal" gender identity or gender role is examined, and often rejected by sectors of modern gender studies. They often point out that not everyone who is born male is stereotypically masculine, and not everyone born female is stereotypically feminine.

Some people see "transgendering" as a means for deconstructing gender. However, not all transgender people wish to deconstruct gender or feel that they are doing so.

Other transgender people object to the classification of GID as a mental disorder on the grounds that there may be a physical cause, as suggested by recent studies about the brains of transsexual people. Many of them also point out that the treatment for this disorder consists primarily of physical modifications to bring the body into harmony with one's perception of mental (psychological, emotional) gender identity, rather than vice versa.

Even though the preponderance of evidence suggests that transgender behaviour has a neurological etiology, clear and convincing evidence has yet to show whether the etiology of transgender is mental or physical. Thus the psychiatric diagnoses will continue to carry authority, and remain useful for medical billing purposes and potentially for the classification of research results, unless those diagnoses are debunked. However, little or no research into transgenderism or transsexualism is actually being conducted, especially in North America. The mental illness diagnoses are also enshrined in the HBIGDA-SOCs; they persist because no other medical diagnoses are available.

However, there are numerous diagnoses included in the DSM for which there is strong evidence of a genetic and neurobiological etiology such as schizophrenia, autism, and bipolar disorder. Dividing conditions into 'biological' versus 'psychological' is not a scientifically supported dichotomy. Therefore, the medical community recognizes that psychiatric illnesses often have their origins in disorders of chemistry, not of character. Psychiatric conditions are not separate from biological disorders, but rather a subset of biological disorders.

In a landmark publication in December 2002, the British Lord Chancellor's office published a Government Policy Concerning Transsexual People document that categorically states "What transsexualism is not...It is not a mental illness." It would appear to be likely that other countries will follow this lead. Nonetheless, existing psychiatric diagnoses of gender identity disorder or the now obsolete categories of homosexual disorder, gender dysphoria syndrome, true transsexual, etc., continue to be accepted as formal evidence of transsexuality.

The official politics in many countries interpret transgenderism as an undesirable behavior that must be prohibited, or as a psychiatric disorder, which should be cured. See Heteronormativity

Additionally, some youth have been diagnosed with G.I.D. on the basis of their sexual orientation (because they are viewed as "gender non-conforming" due to their sexual attractions and/or dress/manner) and treated against their will in religious residential treatment centers. One of the more well known cases was that of Lyn Duff, a 15-year-old girl from Los Angeles who was forcibly transported to Rivendell Psychiatric Center in West Jordan, Utah, and subjected to aversion therapy in an attempt to change her sexual orientation.

Many people feel that the deletion of homosexuality as a mental disorder from the DSM-III and the ensuing creation of the GID diagnosis was merely sleight of hand by psychiatrists, who changed the focus of the diagnosis from the deviant desire (of the same sex) to the subversive identity (or the belief/desire for membership of the opposite sex/gender).[1] People who believe this tend to point out that the same idea is found in both diagnoses, that the patient is not a "normal" male or female. As Katharine Wilson, Ph.D, an advocate for GID reform put it "Behaviors that would be ordinary or even exemplary for gender conforming boys and girls are presented as symptomatic of mental disorder for gender nonconforming children."


Some medical and psychological professional have tried to cure (dissuade) individuals from their transgender behaviour/feelings at least since the mid-19th century. Only occasionally have such "cures" been reported, and almost all such reports lack substantiation. (Overlapping reports suggest some in fact were "cured" several times, implying that these individuals were not cured at all.) While over three decades ago the American Psychiatric Association (APA) removed homosexuality from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), and many believed sexual identities were finally freed of medicalized stigma, today many LGB and gender non-conforming youth and adults remain vulnerable to diagnosis of psychosexual disorder under the "GID" diagnosis which immediately replaced homosexuality in the DSM version III. Thus many LGB and gender variant youth and adults, including transgender individuals, are still subjected to “conversion” therapies.

Today, most medical professionals who provide transgender transition services now reject conversion therapies as abusive and dangerous, recognizing instead what has long been clear to many transgender people: that when able to live out their daily lives with both a physical embodiment and a social expression that most closely matches their internal sense of self, transgender and transsexual individuals live successful, productive lives virtually indistinguishable from anyone else (e.g. Lynn Conway’s “Success Pages” in External Links below). “Transgender transition services”, the various medical treatments and procedures that alter an individual's primary and/or secondary sexual characteristics, are thus now considered highly successful, medically necessary interventions for many transgender persons, including but not limited to transsexuals, especially those who experience the deep distress of body dysphoria. (See discussion of body dysphoria for how this concept relates to the misnomer "gender dysphoria". Similarly, see Transgender transition for a critical discussion of the concept of “reassignment” as in sex reassignment therapy and for a discussion of related medical services and procedures.)

The World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH, formerly HBIGDA) Standards of Care (Version 6 from 2001) are considered by some as definitive treatment guidelines for providers. Other Standards exist (see those discussed in Standards of Care for Gender Identity Disorders, including the guidelines outlines in Gianna Israel and Donald Tarver's classic 1997 book "Transgender Care". Several health clinics in the United States (e.g. Tom Waddell in San Francisco, Callen Lorde in New York City, Mazzoni in Philadelphia) have developed “protocols” for transgender hormone therapy following a “harm reduction” model which is coming to be embraced by increasing numbers of providers. (See Hormone replacement therapy (trans) for a fuller discussing including links.) In their 2005 book “Medical Therapy and Hormone Maintenance for Transgender Men” Dr. Nick Gorton et al suggest a flexible approach based in harm reduction, “Willingness to provide hormonal therapy based on assessment of individual patients needs, history and situation with an overriding goal of achieving the best outcome for patients rather than rigidly adhering to arbitrary rules has been successful.” (See External Links below.)

Medical body interventions and procedures are often necessary to enable living socially in a gender role that more closely matches one's gender identity, and many assume that being accurately perceived by others is a primary goal of body transformations. However, for those transgender individuals who experience the deep internal distress of body dysphoria, the effects wrought by physical changes - hormones, surgeries, or other procedures - go much deeper than surface "appearances" and are far from "cosmetic." The primary effects of hormonal and/or surgical interventions are experienced directly by self, internally, increasing a sense of internal harmony and well-being at the deepest psychological and emotional levels, as well as through the physical senses especially proprioception - the body's own knowledge of itself. Many medical professionals have come to consider "post-transition" transsexuals (see “transgender transition”) to be fully cured of their dysphoria or any other "disorder."

Therefore, many feel the diagnosis of "gender identity disorder" is at best only temporarily applicable, if ever). Indeed, through transition many transsexuals are able to bring their body and their lived/expressed gender into alignment with the internal sense of self. Thus, many post-transition transsexuals cease to regard themselves as "trans" in any sense: many transwomen (male-to-female) self-describe as "women" and, similarly, many transmen feel themselves to be unequivocally "men." While some of these individuals may require continued hormone replacement therapy (estrogen or testosterone, respectively) throughout their adult life, such HRT is not substantially different from the HRT often prescribed for "[cisgender]" females or males (not only are dosage levels similar, so are the effects of lack of treatment). Thus, many medical providers in the United States now routinely prescribe such HRT under the same medical codes used for other women and men.

Achieving basic human rights for all transgender persons undoubtedly requires increased social acceptance of each individual's own expression of their identity, regardless of their birth gender or social role expectations. However, for those transgender individuals who experience the internal distress of body dysphoria, social acceptance of variation, while vastly important, will not be sufficient. For this segment of the transgender community, some medical services and procedures will also be required in order for these individuals to feel aligned with their bodies and for the distress of body dysphoria to be fully alleviated.

Gorton et al underscore the importance of medical interventions for some transgender individuals, warning that “Providers must however consider not only the adverse effects of providing hormones but the adverse consequences of denying access to medically supervised hormonal therapy. […] Non-treatment of transgender patients can result in significantly worse psychological outcomes.” Failure to treat and/or delayed access to transition may have tragic, indeed catastrophic, results for some transgender individuals. It is well-known that the rate of teen suicides is highest for LGBT youth. Recent studies now suggest that suicide rates are highest for transgender youth and adults, especially those unable to live their gender identity and those unable to access transgender transition services. Gorton et al suggest rates as high as 20% for untreated transsexuals. (See also “transgender health priorities”).

See also


  1. The Riddle of Gender ISBN 0-375-42162-9

External links

de:Geschlechtsidentitätsstörung nl:Geslachtsidentiteitsstoornis ru:Гендерная дисфория zh:性別認同障礙

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