Gender identity refers to the identification with a sex. Most children develop an appropriate attachment to their own sex. In some cases, however, children or adolescents—sometimes even those as young as 3 or 4 years old—believe that they have been trapped in a body of the wrong sex.Gender identity disorder (GID, or transsexualism) is diagnosed when the individual displays a repeated and strong desireto betheother sex, apersistent discomfort with one’s sex, and a belief that onewas born the wrong sex, accompanied bysignificant dysfunction and distress. GID usually appears in adolescence or adulthood and may intensify over time (Bower, 2001). 1 Since many cultures strongly disapprove of cross-gender behavior, it often results in significant problems for affected persons and those in close relationships with them.
Gender identity disorder is rare, occurring only in about 1 in every 12,000 males and 1 in every 30,000 females (Olsson & Möller, 2003). 2 The causes of GID are as of yet unknown, although they seem to be related in part to the amount of testosterone and other hormones in the uterus (Kraemer, Noll, Delsignore, Milos, Schnyder, & Hepp, 2009). 3
The classification of GID as a mental disorder has been challenged because people who suffer from GID do not regard their own cross-gender feelings and behaviors as a disorder a nd do not feel that they are distressed or dysfunctional. People suffering from GID often argue that a “normal” gender identity may not necessarily involve an identification with one’s own biological sex. GID represents another example, then, of how culture defines disorder, and the next edition of the DSMmay change the categorizations used in this domain accordingly.