Gender Dysphoria

  • Gender Dysphoria is also known as gender identity disorder. It is characterised by a mismatch between biological appearance and the way they feel about their gender.
  • People with gender Dysphoria:
  • Are unambiguously male or female in appearance but are uncomfortable with the sex assigned.
  • Feel they were born the wrong sex
  • Are not intersex
  • Show preference for opposite toys and clothes
  • Avoid sex appropriate games and show disgust with their own genitalia
  • Can be seen to display symptoms as early as 2

They may opt for a sex change to reduce their unhappiness.

Prevalence of Gender Dysphoria:

 It is 5 times greater in males to females than from females to males.

Zucker and Green (1992) suggest it is due to biological vulnerability during foetal development. If insufficient levels of androgen hormones present in a XY male, they may develop male genitalia but not all male gender characteristics and therefore may feel female.

It could also be due to social explanations for example cross gender behaviour being more acceptable in girls (tomboy). Therefore gender Dysphoria is accepted and less reported or diagnoses in girls than in boys.

Biological Explanations:

The brain-sex theory of transsexualism is based on the fact that male and female brains are different and perhaps transsexual’s brains don’t match their genetic sex. The BSTc (bed nucleus of the stria terminalis), located in the thalamus has been studied, it was found that on average the BSTc is twice as large in heterosexual men and contains twice the number of neurons. It may be that the size of the BSTc correlates with preferred sex rather than biological sex. Two Dutch studies, Zhon et al (1995) and Kruijver et al (2000) found that the number of neurons in the BSTc of MtF transsexuals was similar to females. Also the number of neurons in an FtM transsexual was found to be in the male range.


There are conflicting reports against the brain sex theory. Chung et al (2002) noted that the differences in BSTc volume between men and women doesn’t develop until adulthood, whereas most transsexuals report that their feelings of gender Dysphoria began in early childhood. This suggests that the difference found couldn’t be the cause of transsexualism but may be an effect. Additionally, Hulshoff Pol et al (2006) found that transgender hormone therapy influences the size of the BSTc and the individuals in the Dutch studies were receiving hormone therapy. Therefore it may be the hormones that cause the difference in transsexuals rather than their biological sex.

Psychosocial Explanations:

Psychologists have proposed that gender Dysphoria is related to mental illness, which has stemmed from childhood trauma or maladaptive upbringing. For example, Coates et al (1991) produced a case study of a boy with GID, proposing that this was a defensive reaction to the boys mothers depression following an abortion which occurred at the age of 3, a time when children are sensitive to gender issues Coates et al suggests that the trauma may have led to cross gender fantasy as a means of resolving the ensuing anxiety.


There are actual implications for the socially sensitive research. Research on gender Dysphoria has potential social consequences for those represented by the research. However, it needs to be considered that they may be better off with the research existing. For example, if a biological cause is identified, this may cause a greater acceptance of transsexuals, as it may not be seen as ‘their fault’. On the other hand, if a biological cause is found this may lead to poor treatment of those with the abnormality, as they could be considered inevitable. Therefore either way there are potential consequences but also potential benefits.

Gender Dysphoria- Plan



  • The brain sex theory of transsexualism: male and female brains are different, maybe their brain doesn’t match their sex
  • BSTc in the thalamus has been studied, 2x as large in heterosexual men than heterosexual women and contains 2x number of neurons.
  • Size of BSTc may correlate with preferred sex not biological sex.
  • 2 Dutch studies, Zhon et al (1995) & Kruijver et al (2000): no of neurons in MtF transsexual was similar to females. Also no of neurons in FtM was similar to male range.


  • Gender Dysphoria is related to mental illness
  • Coates et al 1991: case study, buy with GID, defensive reaction to depressed mother, incident happened at age 3, sensitive age
  • Trauma led to cross-gender fantasy, trying to resolve the anxiety


P: Conflicting reports against brain sex theory

E: Chung et al (2002): difference in BSTc doesn’t develop until adulthood but most report feelings of Dysphoria in early childhood.

E: Suggests, the difference could be an effect not a cause.

E: Hulshoff Pol et al (2006): transgender hormone therapy influence size of BSTc and those in the Dutch study were receiving therapy.

E: Therefore, the hormones caused the differences rather than biological sex.

P: Real life implications of the studies- social consequences

E: They could be better off, biological cause = acceptance

E: Or it could lead to poor treatment of those with the abnormality, they could be considered an ‘inevitability’

E: Therefore, potential benefits and potential consequences.