What is gender dysphoria? Gender dysphoria definition as Jamie Wallis comes out

Issues around gender dysphoria and trans identities are a topic of debate in Scotland as reforms are being proposed to the GRA in an attempt to reduce paperwork around changing your gender identity on official documents.

Gender dysphoria can be diagnosed by specialist teams in the UK. Photo: Katie Rainbow / Pexels / Canva Pro.
Gender dysphoria can be diagnosed by specialist teams in the UK. Photo: Katie Rainbow / Pexels / Canva Pro.

Conservative MP Jamie Wallis has made history in coming out as trans, making him the first MP ever to do so.

Mr Wallis has been praised for their bravery by Prime Minister Boris Johnson after revealing they are "not OK" and being open about having gender dysphoria.

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"I have never lived my truth and I'm not sure how", said the Bridgend MP in statement on social media, adding: "Perhaps it starts with telling everyone."

On March 30th, Conservative MP Jamie Wallis became the first British lawmaker to openly declare they were transgender, prompting messages of support from colleagues and Prime Minister Boris Johnson.The MP's announcement comes against a backdrop of an often toxic debate about transgender rights and gender identity in British politics and wider society. Photo: JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP via Getty Images.

In light of their coming out, here’s what gender dysphoria is and how to access help for it.

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What is gender dysphoria?

According to the NHS, gender dysphoria “describes a sense of unease that a person may have because of a mismatch between their biological sex and their gender identity”. Such feelings can be so intense that they can also lead to anxiety and depression, but gender dysphoria in itself is not an illness.

Gender identity refers to how a person sees and describes themselves, with people often identifying as male, female, or non-binary. Other terms also used include agender, gender diverse, and gender non-conforming. Sometimes, people can feel as though their gender identity is different from their biological sex. This can lead to gender dysphoria.

For example, people with male genitals may not identify as male, while people with female genitals may not identify as female.

Many people with gender dysphoria will want to live a life that better matches their gender identity. This is often displayed by people changing how they look and behave. Some people may want to use hormones or surgery to aid these changes, but not all.

Signs of gender dysphoria include low self-esteem, withdrawing from social interactions, depression, anxiety, taking unnecessary risks, or personal neglect. People may also start to change how they look, through hairstyles, clothing choices, or make-up, to name a few examples.

How to access help with gender dysphoria

If you or someone you know thinks they have gender dysphoria and want support with it, the first step is to speak to your GP. You will then be referred to a specialist team at a gender dysphoria clinic (GDC). You can also self-refer, but getting a referral from a GP can be faster and means the GDC will have access to your medical history.

You don’t need any prior mental health assessments in order to be referred. Referrals for children and young people up to 18 years will be to the Gender Identity Development Service for children and adolescents.

It's important to note that waiting times can be long for GDCs, due to a high number of people seeking support in this area. Once you are assessed at a GDC, a treatment plan will be agreed on. For many, acceptance and understanding is the only treatment they need. For others, bigger changes may prove helpful, such as hormone treatment, surgery, or therapy.