Being in the Wrong Body: Feeling the Pain of Gender Dysphoria
Written by listed counsellor/psychotherapist: P Michael Acton-Coles B.Ed., M.Ed. (Psych.) Hons., M.A.C. Psych., P.D. C. Psych.
7th August, 2012
Imagine that from the earliest you can remember you knew you were different. You wanted to play with toys that children of the other sex played with. You feel wrong in your clothes and the way you are stereotyped. Worse still you live in fear of being caught, ridiculed or beaten up; you quickly learn how to behave and live a fake life.
As you struggle through school you start to experience, with impending horror and disgust, the development of your body because it feels wrong. It may be a case that you never came out and the pressure of living a lie in your adult life becomes too much; the kids leave home and your situation becomes desperate.
Some people don’t have to imagine: this is their life journey.
Gender dysphoria is the tragically misunderstood ‘condition’ of being born with a gender that is the opposite of your physical sex; being a male born into a female’s body or vice versa. Once thought of as a social ‘choice’, it is now widely accepted to have biological origins rooted in the action of hormones during the crucial sex differentiation stages of foetal development.
Treatment may involve gender reassignment surgery, but there is much work to do before making any decisions about whether to move forward or to stay where you are and work on becoming more comfortable with yourself. For a start, gender dysphoria must be carefully diagnosed and other possibilities eliminated. If assimilation to your gender is desired then hormone therapy may be gradually introduced alongside counselling. Due to the incredible bravery needed to seek treatment, or even to open up and talk about your situation, those who seek support via counselling or group therapy are sadly in a minority. The majority struggle with their feelings in isolation; we lose some to suicide and others stay quiet and suffer. It is the fortunate few who feel able to seek help.
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