Gender Dysphoria


Explanations of Gender Dysphoria

The term gender dysphoria describes an individual's experiences of feeling uncomfortable with the gender assigned to them at BIRTH, which may lead to a sex change operation or gender reassignment. Gender dysphoria is the same condition as transgender, transsexual or gender identity disorder.

Gender Dysphoria affects both male and females - Male to Females (MtF) outnumber Female to Male (FtM) by about 5 to 1 (NHS 2012)

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Psychosocial explanations

Mental illness...A number of psychologists have proposed that gender dysphoria is related to mental illness, which in turn is linked to some childhood trauma or maladaptive upbringing. For example COATES ET AL produced a case history of a boy who developed GID (gender identity disorder) proposing that this was a defensive reaction to the boy's mother's depression following an abortion. The trauma occured when the boy was 3, a time in development when a child is particulary sensitive to gender issues. The trauma may have led to a cross -gender fantasy as a mena of resolving the ensuring anxiety

Mothe-son relationshiops...STROLLER propsed that GID resulted from distorted parental attitudes. In clinical interviews with individuals diagnosed with GID stroller observed that they displayed overly close mother-son relationships. This would be likely to lead to greater female identification and confuused gender identity.

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Biological explanations

Mismatch between hormones and gentic sex... Prenatal hormone levels may be affected by genetic conditions and this may lead to a mismatch between hormones and gentic sex. AIS and CAH may reuslt in an INTERSEX condition when external genitalia do not match genetic sex, and an individual may be assigned to the wrong sex at birth.

Tanssexual gene... A recent study (HARE ET AL) looked at the DNA of 112 MtF transsexual and found they were more likely to have a longer version of the ANDROGEN RECEPTOR GENE than in a 'normal' sample. The effect of this abnormality is reduced acion of the male sex hormone TESTOSTERONE and this many have on gender development in the womb (e.g. under masculinising the brain)  

The brain- sex theory of transsexualism... is based on the fact that male and female brains are different and perhaps transsexuals' brains do not match their genetic sex. One region of the brain that has been studied is the BSTc, which is located in the THALAMUS. On average, BSTc is twice as large in hetrosexual men and contains twice the number of neurons. This explanation may be that the size of the BSTc correlates with preferred sex rather than biological sex. Two Dutch studies (ZHOU and KRUIJER ET AL) found that the number of neurons in the BSTc of MtF transsexuals was similar to that of the females. By contrast, the number of neurons in FtM transsexual was found to be in the male range.

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Biological explanations - A01

Environmental effects...

Not all biological causes are internal. One external possibility is that environment pollution may be causing problems. For example the insecticide DDT contains OESTROGENS which may mean that males are prenatally exposed to unduly high levels of these female hormones causing a mismatch between genetic sex and hormone influences.

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Psychosocial - A02

Mental - illness 

COLE ET AL studied 435 individuals experiencing gender dysphoria and reported that the range of psychiatric conditions displayed was no greater than found in a 'normal' population, which suggests that gender dysphoria is generally unrelated to trauma or pathological families.

Mother - son relationships 

ZUCKER ET AL studied 115 boys with concerns about their identity and their mothers. Of the boys who were eventually diagnosed with GID, 64% were also diagnosed with seperation anxiety disorder, compared to only 38% of the boys whose symptoms were subclinical. This points to some kind of disordered attachment to a mother as a factor in GID, but it does only explain MtF transsexuals.

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Biological explanations- A02

(weakenss) Parental hormonal abnormalities... DESSENS ET AL studied 250 genetic females with CAH who were raised as females. Despite prenatal exposure to male hormones 95% were constant with their female gender role. The remaining 5% did experience gender dysphoria but generally prenatal exposure to male hormones did NOT show a clear relationship with dysphoria.

Criticisms of brain - sex theory... The theory was seriously challenged by CHUNG ET AL who noted that the differences in BSTc volume between men and women does not develop until adulthood, whereas most transexuals report that their feelings of gender dysphoria began in early childhood. LAWRENCE suggest that the difference found in the BSTc could not be the cause of transsexualism but might perhaps be an effect. 

Support for the brain-sex theory... There is evidence that does continue to support transsexualism as a sexual differentiation disorder. RAMETTI ET AL studied the brains of FtM transsexuals before they started transgender hormone therapy. In terms of amounts of white matter in their brains, the FtM individuals had a more similar pattern to individuals who share their gender identity (males) than those who share their biological sex (females) 

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A03 - Ethics

S: Research on gender dysphoria has potential social consequences for individuals represented by the research. 

E: The question is whether they are better off with or without the research. If a biological cause is identified this may help other people to be more accepting about the needs of transsexuals. On the other hand if a biological cause is identified this might harm individuals born with the abnormality because it might be assumed (wrongly) that transsexualism is inevitable. The evidence, for example from CAH cases, is that a simple cause and effect (determinist) relationship is unlikely 

E: Either way the outcome of research has social consequences for individuals represented by this research.

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