This week’s post is a reader request! Ricki B asked for more information on gender dysphoria before and after transition. While I can’t speak from personal experience, I can dive into the literature and answer the question that way. Luckily there’s a summary article that talks about this very topic!
Gender dysphoria is a term that refers to the distress associated with having a mismatch between gender identity and physical sex. It’s a hallmark of being transgender or transsexual. People with gender dysphoria are often in intense distress. Some (but not all) individuals try to commit suicide, self-castrate, or self harm because of their distress.
This summary was published in 2010. The authors looked at studies that examined dysphoria and other psychological factors before and after medical transition (hormones or surgery or both).
Across all the studied the authors looked at, this is what they found:
- 80% of the individuals found relief from their gender dysphoria by transitioning — some even to the point that they had no dysphoria at all.
- 78% had relief from other psychiatric disorders, such as anxiety and depression. They also had relief from psychiatric symptoms that had not been diagnosed as a disorder. Suicide attempts also dropped, though they were still above that of the general population.
- 80% had a significant increase in their quality of life. At least 2/3rds found that they had an improvement in concrete factors in their life. Their relationships improved. Their job prospects improved. They were generally happier.
- More than half were satisfied with their sexual life after transition.
While life did not improve for everyone on hormone therapy or after surgery, it was a strongly positive influence in the vast majority.
This particular summary article did not go deep into potential differences in the benefits of surgery and hormones, though individuals studies do. The current consensus is that both are beneficial for the alleviation of suffering.
If you’re looking for a more personal account of how dysphoria improved with treatment, I highly recommend visiting the transgender communities on reddit, or picking up one of the many books written by trans people.