Understanding gender identity

What is gender identity?

Gender identity is an inner sense of being a girl/boy, man/woman, both, neither, some other gender, or no gender at all. One’s gender identity can fall outside categories of male or female. People who feel this way may use the term non-binary.
Cisgendered people refer to those whose sex assigned at birth matches their gender identity. Gender expression refers to the presentation of their gender identity (e.g. appearance, dress, and behaviour).

Gender identity is not sexual orientation

Sexual orientation refers to the types of people towards which one is sexually attracted.
People who are transgender have the same diversity of sexual orientations as people who are cisgender.

Gender dysphoria

• May be experienced by some who are transgender/ non-binary
• Relates to a person's thoughts or feelings that the gender they were assigned at birth is not consistent with their experienced or expressed gender
• Might cause significant distress and discomfort around their identity
• Is not experienced by all transgenders
• Can begin in any stage of life
• Can lead to discrimination of transgenders, which contributes to mental health concerns

Diagnosing gender dysphoria

Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) defines gender dysphoria as: marked incongruence between one's experienced/ expressed and their assigned gender, lasting at least 6 months.
Examples of how this can manifest:
• Strong desire to be of other gender
• Strong desire to be treated as other gender
• Strong conviction that one has the typical feelings, reactions of the other gender
• Dislike of one's sexual anatomy

Treatment for someone with gender dysphoria

People with gender dysphoria typically seek various types of gender affirmation, including:
1. Social affirmation (e.g. changing one’s name and pronouns)
2. Legal affirmation (e.g. changing gender markers on one’s government-issued documents)
3. Medical affirmation (e.g. pubertal suppression or gender-affirming hormones)
4. Surgical affirmation (e.g. breast augmentation, masculine chest reconstruction etc.)

Supporting one with gender dysphoria


Use the language a person uses for themselves regarding their gender and pronouns


If you don’t know or understand - ask questions rather than attack or criticise


Support transgender people who experience discrimination


Continue to educate yourself on gender identity


Be respectful, do your best and keep trying!

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