Consider yourself in a situation where you are at a party without your friends. You feel uncomfortable with the people who surrounded you. You are stuck, and there is no way out. Each person you see causes you terror. Then imagine a person who is not comfortable in his/her own body. Their soul seems encaged in their skin. This is Gender Dysphoria.
Gender Dysphoria is defined as “a state where there is a conflict between a person’s gender-based identity and the biological sex they own, which usually leads to stress and anxiety.” (Webster, n.d.)
Is Gender Dysphoria real?
Many people totally reject the idea that it is impossible to have a gender in conflict with your biological sex, but the reality is different. The reality of Gender Dysphoria is a medical condition and has to be considered a mental health issue. It starts with stress, anxiety, fear, eating disorders, self-harm, substance abuse, and even suicide. (Clinic, n.d.)
Gender and Psychology:
We often mix gender and sex, whereas sex associate with the biological orientation of a person, and gender has to do with the social roles and norms associated with it. Basically, it is a breakup of how a male and female should behave in a society. A Male is expected to be strong and less expressive, and a female should be caring and emotional.
The problem arises when a person does not align themselves with the social construct. A continuous fight is going on in their mind. They do not feel a sense of belongingness with the specific group of people to which society regards them as belonging. “I am more comfortable as the opposite gender,” they say.
Society then resists the decision questioning their identity and choices. This is when “Gender Dysphoria” arises, and the person starts to feel distressed.
The glory of Social conditioning:
Gender dysphoria in a complex society leads to many serious problems. Let’s look at Asian and African societies, for example. Social conformity assumes the people to match a particular behaviour which society approves.
Here, the condition of people suffering from Gender dysphoria worsens. They have to dress a certain way, are bullied and harassed in educational institutes, and are deprived of jobs when they reveal their identity. Whenever they have social interaction, they feel deficient due to the identity crises they are facing.
This vulnerability restricts their social mobility and makes them part of the lower middle class due to the lack of acceptance and opportunities.
The African context:
Gender dysphoria is still stigmatized in this part of the world. Africa is a challenging place for the LGBTQ community as they disapprove of homosexuality. Among the 72 countries which criminalize homosexuality, 32 are African countries. Their approach to gender dysphoria is that they consider it unnatural following their historical literature and religion.
Some of the recent prominent events were the following; two men in Zambia were sentenced to 15 years in prison for having sexual relations in their hotel room. 125 people were detained by Ugandan police in a gay-friendly bar in the capital, Kampala. Many of them are now facing charges. In Nigeria, 47 men have pleaded not guilty to allegations of public indecency. They had been detained during a police raid on a hotel. (minds, n.d.)
The reason behind this approach is said to be the religious influence and the influence of colonialism. This makes the people with Gender dysphoria aliens and sinners in the minds of the majority of Africans. Despite a decade of activism, the change observed is negligible.
How do people deal with Gender dysphoria?
People with Gender Dysphoria are fighting a severe mental health issue. The stress and anxiety that accompany it are managed by a mental health expert to closely monitor how the problem could be solved. Often managed through counselling and therapy to regain self-esteem and own oneself with the right to self-identification.
Various methods chosen to deal with the identity crises are:
Hormone therapy is used to intervene in the current number of male/female hormones under medical supervision to help transition from one gender to another. It is a hormone replacement therapy (HRT) in which transgender or gender variant people receive sex hormones and other hormonal medications to connect their secondary sexual characteristics with their gender identity. (Wilson L et al., n.d.)
Sexual reassignment surgery
This is the procedure where the person’s anatomy is changed on primary and secondary levels through reconstructive surgical procedures.
“Gender dysphoria” is a reality due to various stress factors. The regional context may vary for those affected. Still, these crises can be dealt with through medical help and supervision.
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