For some transgender people, the difference between the gender they are thought to be at birth and the gender they know themselves to be can lead to serious emotional distress that affects their health and everyday lives if not addressed. Gender dysphoria is the medical diagnosis for someone who experiences this distress.
Not all transgender people have gender dysphoria. On its own, being transgender is not considered a medical condition. Many transgender people do not experience serious anxiety or stress associated with the difference between their gender identity and their gender of birth, and so may not have gender dysphoria.
Gender dysphoria can often be relieved by expressing one’s gender in a way that the person is comfortable with. That can include dressing and grooming in a way that reflects who one knows they are, using a different name or pronoun, and, for some, taking medical steps to physically change their body. All major medical organizations in the United States recognize that living according to one’s gender identity is an effective, safe and medically necessary treatment for many people who have gender dysphoria.
It’s important to remember that while being transgender is not in itself an illness, many transgender people need to deal with physical and mental health problems because of widespread discrimination and stigma. Many transgender people live in a society that tells them that their deeply held identity is wrong or deviant. Some transgender people have lost their families, their jobs, their homes, and their support, and some experience harassment and even violence. Transgender children may experience rejection or even emotional or physical abuse at home, at school, or in their communities. These kinds of experiences can be challenging for anyone, and for some people, it can lead to anxiety disorders, depression, and other mental health conditions. But these conditions are not caused by having a transgender identity: they’re a result of the intolerance many transgender people have to deal with. Many transgender people – especially transgender people who are accepted and valued in their communities – are able to live healthy and fulfilling lives.