What is gender dysphoria and why should we care?

Several years ago I was invited to a dinner that included a photo session for which I had not prepared. I wasn't wearing something worthy of being captured on camera, so a friend offered to lend me a blouse. I thought it was pretty, although being flowery and frilly it wasn't exactly “my style”. Still, I decided to try it on. But I didn't expect the reaction I had when I saw my reflection. Despite the fact that the fabric was good and the cut was not revealing, that blouse made me feel very uncomfortable. My body's response was visceral, I even had to take a step back: that one in the mirror, with the yellow flowered blouse, simply wasn't me. I immediately took off the strange garment and put on something else.

What if someone felt like this all the time? What if, no matter how many tops she tried on, a woman could never feel comfortable in anything designed for people of her sex? What if the discomfort went beyond clothing? What would happen if a man looked in the mirror and what he wanted to tear off was not a tie, but his own genitals?

Imagining these scenarios gives us a glimpse of what people suffering gender dysphoria constantly experience.

The word dysphoria refers to a “sad, anxious, or irritable mood.” According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), gender dysphoria is a condition of "marked incongruence between experienced/expressed gender and assigned gender." A young woman with gender dysphoria does not want to develop as a woman; rather, the mere thought of her is disabling and distressing to him. She is convinced that she is not a woman, regardless of the biological characteristics of her body. What does this all mean? Why should we spend time trying to understand it?

The wave of confusion about what it means to be a man or a woman continues to hit; many, whose bodies are a constant cause of agony, are seeking peace

Indeed, the issue of gender identity can be perplexing even to those of us who have spent a lot of time thinking about it. Yet we cannot afford to ignore it. The theme is inescapable. The wave of confusion about what it means to be a man or a woman continues to hit, and none of us are exempt from being swept up in force. There are people for whom their bodies are a constant cause of agony and they are looking for peace. However, many are looking for it in the wrong places.

The gender

The word gender It has been used in different ways throughout history. Around the 13th century, the word gender mainly referred to people or things that shared certain characteristics. By the end of the 14th century, the grammatical use of gender (to refer to words as masculine, feminine or neutral) was already recorded. In the early 15th century, it was used as a synonym for biological sex; for the 20th century, gender it became the most usual way of referring to the sex of a human being. In 1963, feminist literature used gender to describe social attributes associated with being male or female. On the other hand, the expression gender identity It is used to describe the internal feeling that a person has of being a man or a woman.

When it is said, then, that gender dysphoria is a condition of "marked incongruity between experienced/expressed gender and assigned gender," this means that a person's gender identity—what they perceive about their condition as male or female—does not correspond to their biological sex.

Gender dysphoria is a real psychological condition. People who suffer from it cannot avoid the mental anguish of feeling that they are in the wrong body or that they definitely do not fit in with the usual cultural expressions for their gender. Each person experiencing gender dysphoria is a human being created in the image of God; it is our responsibility to love them with compassion and truth in the midst of their struggle.

The problem is that today many of these people are not getting the help they need to embrace the reality of their body and sex, because it is no longer acceptable to show them the beauty (if sometimes painful) of what it means to be a man or a woman. Rather, mental health professionals are pushed to affirm the patient's perceived gender identity. Because? Because it is thought that the individual and his subjective feelings are the ones who have the last word regarding his true gender. But what we think or feel about our sexuality does not change our biological reality, imprinted in the nucleus of every cell in our body and revealed through male or female physical characteristics.

Gender dysphoria is a real psychological condition. The problem is that many are not getting the help they need to embrace their body and sex.

The diagnosis of gender dysphoria in the DSM-5 replaced the diagnosis of gender identity disorder from the previous edition (DSM IV), which stated: “a disorder characterized by clinically significant distress or impairment of functioning due to intergender identification (i.e., the desire to be or actual insistence on being of the other sex) and a persistent discomfort stemming from the belief that one's sex or gender is inappropriate for their true self. Note how the old terms denoted this psychological condition as a "disorder" and a "disorder." Also note that there was talk of wishing to be or believing that you are of the other sex or gender.

In the diagnosis of gender dysphoria (in English), the words “disorder” and “disorder” have been removed entirely. The objective now is to communicate that «the presence of gender variance is not the pathology, but the dysphoria comes from the anguish caused by the non-alignment of the body and the mind and/or the social marginalization of people with gender variance. ». In other words, it is now thought that the problem is not that your mind is not aligned with your body, but that this causes you anxiety. The solution to dysphoria, then, will not be for your psychology to embrace the reality of your biology, but to eliminate the anguish…through hormones or surgery if necessary.

Also note the phrase "assigned gender" in the current clinical definition of gender dysphoria. This refers to the classification of a baby as male or female, usually upon inspection of her external genitalia. Why is "assigned gender" used instead of just "gender" or "sex"? Again, because the individual is thought to have the last word regarding her true gender. Thus, at birth we are "assigned" a gender, but now it is claimed that it is not necessarily our "true gender", regardless of our biological characteristics. As if this were not enough, in recent years gender identity has been completely separated from sex, which is binary: the individual can no longer only seek to identify as a man or a woman, but also as both, neither, gender fluid or more. .1

your body matters

Writer Andrew T. Walker explains that "gender dysphoric people experience the feeling that their biological body is lying" (God and the transgender debate, p. 33). This struggle is real and it can be excruciatingly painful. It is necessary to accompany those who are in the midst of it with compassion. But the body—unlike our fluctuating thoughts and feelings—doesn't lie. Ignoring the reality of our biology only destroys us. Literally.

Chloe Cole, a young American girl, tells in an interview (in English) how she was diagnosed with gender dysphoria at the age of twelve. At thirteen she began receiving puberty-blocking hormones and, soon after, testosterone. At fifteen she had her breasts removed. At sixteen she realized that it had all been a mistake. Modifying her body through surgeries and chemicals was not the solution to the anguish in her mind. But what's done is done. Her body was mutilated and she can't go back. The long-term effects of hormone treatment remain to be seen. Now Cole is dedicated to speaking out against gender-affirming healthcare. "No fifteen-year-old girl should have to go through that," she says.

We do not settle for temporary relief. Thanks to the sacrifice of Christ, we know that we will live with a psychology perfectly aligned with biology.

Chloe's story is, in many ways, extreme. Not everyone with symptoms of gender dysphoria goes so quickly to the extremes that she came to try to alleviate the misalignment between her mind and body, much less at such a tender age. We must recognize that there are people who have tried everything to treat her dysphoria without seeing any improvement. Even so, many of them are reluctant to deny the reality of their bodies and learn to live with the pain of dysphoria. For others, anguish has pushed them to modify their bodies, and there are those who have found that this brings relief, sometimes partial and sometimes total.

If our only hope is this earth, that relief—one that denies the reality of the body and forces it to submit to the mind—might be enough. The good news is that we don't have to settle for temporary relief in a passing world. The God who created us male and female is restoring all things and calls us to submit to Him in love. That will bring an everlasting peace, which passes all understanding. "Peace I leave you, My peace I give you, I do not give it to you as the world gives it," said Jesus. "Do not be troubled in your heart and do not be afraid. […] I am going away and I will come to you" (Jn 14:27-28).

Thanks to the sacrifice of Christ, all of us who trust in Him will one day live in a place without crying or pain, with glorified bodies and with a psychology perfectly aligned with biology. We look forward to that time with hope. Meanwhile, we seek the truth, even if it is sometimes painful and brings momentary grief. Denying the truth—including biological truth—will never bring everlasting peace to anyone.

1 Some have already gone so far as to deny the binary biological reality of sex in humans, but that is another topic to be dealt with another time.

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