Explaining and Treating Gender Identity Disorder

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  • 0:06 Gender Identity Disorder
  • 1:03 Causes
  • 3:07 Treatment
  • 4:14 Lesson Summary
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Instructor: Natalie Boyd

Natalie is a teacher and holds an MA in English Education and is in progress on her PhD in psychology.

What causes someone to be transgender? In this lesson, we'll look at the psychological and biological causes of gender identity disorder as well as common treatments for the disorder.

Gender Identity Disorder

In 2010, Chaz Bono was born. Technically, he'd come into the world 41 years earlier, as the daughter of performers Cher and Sonny Bono. But between 2008 and 2010, Chastity Bono went through sex reassignment surgery and became a man, and, in 2010, the transformation was complete when he legally changed his name to Chaz Bono.

Chaz Bono is a transgendered man, meaning that he was born with female genitalia but realized that he was actually a man inside. According to the American Psychiatric Association, transgendered people, like Chaz Bono, are suffering from a mental disorder called gender identity disorder, or the very similar gender dysphoria, both of which are classifications for people who are born with the sex organs of one gender but identify themselves mentally and emotionally as the opposite gender.


There is much controversy over whether gender identity disorder should be considered a mental disorder. Some of the criticism of the disorder springs from the possible biological causes of gender identity disorder. Though scientists don't know for sure what causes gender identity disorder, there are two categories that might explain how someone could feel like they were in the wrong body: psychological causes and biological causes.

Proponents of gender identity disorder as a mental illness generally believe that psychological causes are responsible when someone feels his or her body is the wrong sex. Sexual trauma and unease with sexual orientation have both been cited as possible psychological causes of gender identity disorder.

In addition, some people believe that the way a person is raised determines what gender they relate to. Let's look at an example. Society says that boys like to play cops and robbers, while girls like to play house with dolls. If a girl is raised to like cops and robbers, though, some people believe that she might end up feeling more like a boy than a girl.

Most people, though, recognize that there is a biological component to gender identity disorder. There is some genetic component, though genetics aren't the only cause. Hormones and brain structures are different in people with gender identity disorder and those whose sex and gender match up. For example, male-to-female transsexuals (that is, people who are born with male genitalia but who feel like women) have brain structures that resemble female and not male brains. In addition, they may be more sensitive to female hormones than male hormones.

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