Many people assume that a person’s sex and gender are the same thing and use these words interchangeably. Psychologists give these words quite different meanings; sex refers to the physical definition of a male or female and gender is the masculinity or femininity of your thoughts and actions.
Children who are born with both male and female genitalia have the opportunity to surgically correct this birth defect. If the wrong choice is made early on, choosing to remove all male genitals and becoming completely female, it could bring on Gender Identity Disorder. This disorder is seen in children born physically normal, but their brains and their sexual organs developed differently in the womb. Kids who are “normal” have a hard enough time growing up, let alone carrying the burden of an intersex condition.
Those with Gender Identity Disorder (GID) have an extremely hard time adjusting to the world around them. The fact that this disorder is seldom treated before the age of 18 means that these people would endure ridicule and social alienation for years. Living with untreated GID can lead to depression, anxiety, loneliness, shame and embarrassment.
While the name of the disorder may not have always been the same, psychologists and counselors have been trying to treat or cure GID for over a hundred years. Unlike the extreme and sometimes unethical treatments of the past, today counselors and therapists play an important role in helping those with GID come to terms and understand their condition. Now armed with a deeper knowledge of the brain and hormones, psychologists are beginning gender reassignment treatment with psychotherapy. This process often takes a considerable amount of time to unravel a long history of confusion and harmful resolve.
Once a psychologist comes to the conclusion of GID, they will begin Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT). The administration of hormones is gauged based on the mental state of the patient and whether they want to begin changing their bodies to look more like that of the other sex. Next they will need to show their therapist they are able to live and function as a person of the opposite gender for at least one year. This phase also requires “coming out” to their family and friends, being in the public eye and changing their name to reflect their gender. Many people with GID stop at this phase of treatment and are satisfied leading this life. For some, they take the final leap with a sex change operation.
So much less is known about Gender Identity Disorder compared to other more common disorders, yet counselors and therapists have been able to come up with this multi-phased treatment plan and have seen relatively high success rates. The fact that so many people living with the symptoms of gender issues have the opportunity to begin a highly effective treatment is due to the determination of counselors, therapists and psychologists. The more that professionals learn and understand about GID, the easier it will be for the general population to accept and allow people who have taken these steps to live normal lives.
Find out how you can become involved, request information from schools offering Psychology degree programs. Also, learn more about the psychology career licensing processes and what the requirements for licensure are: Psychology Career Licensure.