What this is about
Gender dysphoria and being transgender.
Gender dysphoria is a condition in which a person feels that there is a mismatch between their biological sex and their gender identity. This mismatch can cause feelings of discomfort that are called gender dysphoria. It is a recognised medical condition for which treatment is sometimes appropriate. It is not a mental illness.
Between 300,000 and 500,000 people in the UK have gender dysphoria but only 7,500 have had surgery.
Some people with gender dysphoria have a strong and persistent desire to live according to their gender identity, not their biological sex. These people are called transsexual people (trans people). Some trans people undergo treatment so that their physical appearance is more consistent with their gender identity. In the UK there are an estimated 4,000 people receiving medical help for gender dysphoria. However there may be many more people with the condition who have yet to seek help.
On average five times as many men are diagnosed with gender dysphoria than women. It is a rare condition, but the number of people being diagnosed with gender dysphoria is on the increase due to growing awareness about the condition.
Treatment for gender dysphoria aims to help people to remove that feeling of a mismatch. This can mean different things for different people. For some people it means dressing and living as their preferred gender. For others it may mean taking hormones or having surgery that changes their physical appearance.
The UK minimum age for gender reassignment surgery is 18, with a long period of assessment prior to approval. The age is set at 18 because the NHS considers that many patients who acquire gender dysphoria in their early teens no longer have the condition by the time they reach 18. If the operation, which costs £10,000, is approved, patients have to live in their preferred sex for a year. Then there are 18 months of hormone treatment and therapy before the operation.
It is possible to have the operation at a younger age in other countries.
A transexual person is a person who feels they are the wrong sex and wishes to change to the other, eg a male-to-female transexual. Transexuals are therefore different from intersexed and intergendered persons. An intersexed person shares the physical attributes of both the male and female body. An intergendered person is a person whose sexual identity – their gender – comes somewhere between male and female.
Children can feel that they are the wrong sex. Gender solidifies at about age 3 to 6, when girls gravitate to girl things and boys to boy things. It’s also the age when a child whose gender orientation is at odds with his or her biology may begin expressing that disconnect. “Something went wrong while I was in your tummy, mummy.” The medical profession call it “gender identity disorder in children”.
The number of younger people seeking gender reassignment surgery in the UK has reached record levels. The Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust says the number referred to them for assessment has risen from 97 in 2009 to 208 last year. Gay Activist is sad to learn that so many young people find it difficult to live with their bodies and attempt suicide while still at school.
Gay Activist’s understanding from speaking to trans people is that the preferred word for all transexual and transgendered persons is “trans”. (Please let us know if the situation has changed.) The number of trans people in the UK is estimated to be in the range of 10,000 to 20,000, although some estimate that as high as 1% of the population may be trans.
The number of people medically changing their sex is growing at a rate of around 15 per cent every year: 1,200 people now undergo gender realignment procedures annually. In 2010, there were 357 incidents of hate crime against transgender people, up 14 per cent from 2009.
a:Gender, a UK support group for trans people in the civil service, discovered that during its first year of operation 50% of the membership of one of their local groups committed suicide within six months of coming out as trans. That stark statistic is a frightening measure of the level of stress and problems trans people go through and they deserve our support. A:Gender can be contacted on 020 7035 4253.
Under the sex discrimination (gender reassignment) regulations 1999 it is unlawful to discriminate against or harass anyone on the grounds that the person intends to undergo, is undergoing, or has undergone, treatment to change their biological sex.
The DTI pubished an “Employers’ Guide to gender reassignment”.
The Gender Recognition Act permits ‘gender recognition certificate’, but does not affect pension rights. So someone who transed from male to female at the age of 64 would have to wait until 65 for their pension, but if it had been the other way, would have qualified at 60, under the current rules. Pension ages are changing but the current rules have been ruled as discriminatory by the EU court, which stated that the situation did not comply with European laws on equal treatment.
In December 2011, The Home Office announced longer jail sentences for murders motivated by hostility to a trans person. The starting point used by the judge to set the tariff – or minimum term – will double from 15 to 30 years. An amendment to this effect will be added to the Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill. Justice Secretary Ken Clarke said: “Hate crimes are abhorrent, they leave sections of society living in fear and at risk of unprovoked violence. These proposals make clear offenders should be in no doubt that they face a more severe sentence for these unacceptable crimes.”
Gay Activist welcomes this development.
A recent poll of young transgender people in France found that 34% said they have attempted suicide, while 19% have been disowned by their family.
According to the US National Transgender Discrimination Survey of 2011, 26% of transgender people lose their jobs following an announcement of their transition. And 52% reported incidents of discrimination with 19% finding themselves homeless as a result.
Equality Act 2010
Thanks to Cindy, Gay Activist is now aware that the Equality Act 2010 is now fully effective. The act extends the full protection from discrimination in many aspects of life to trans people and to all people undertaking gender reassignment.
Young people who have gender identity issues can contact Mermaids UK.
BBC | Independent | Gay Star News | The Gender Recognition Act 2004 | The Sex Discrimination (Gender Reassignment) regulations, 1999 | The National Gay Lesbian and Transgender Task Force: Opening the door to the inclusion of transgender people in gay organisations (Downloads pdf) | Transgender Zone | BBC News item on trans phobic crime | Washington Post: gender identity disorder in children | Corresponsales clave | a:Gender | Mermaids UK | Report a transphobic hate crime | The Guardian: Transgender rights movement gaining momentum |
Links updated 23 April 2013