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Description: Gender Dysphoria is a diagnostic category in the DSM-5. You can find a description and the diagnostic criteria here: . The question of what sorts of variables contribute to an individual of one sex having feelings that they are actually another sex (and yes, I realize that speaking of sex in a binary fashion is an oversimplification) is a fascinating one. In addition to research challenges the question also raises ethical and policy issues about how we should think about and treat the idea of gender (if we are not going to stick with the idea of a biologically set binary). Putting aside (but NOT dismissing) for the moment the issues of population diversity and LGBTQ identification the article linked below examines a small part of this large issue in that it discusses the social consequences of research work done by one American researcher who noted a rapid jump in one sub-area of gender dysphoria. Specifically, Lisa Littman, at Brown University gathered data relating to what she came to call Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria which incorporated a generally observed dramatic jump in the number of post-puberty girls identifying as boys without having shown previous signs of childhood gender dysphoria (which are a whole other can of policy and practice worms). Before you read the article linked below stop a moment and think about what that sort of data might mean. What do you think about gender dysmorphia? Is it reflective of biological factors tied to sex identification? If so, how does the rapid onset of ROGD fit? What other sorts of factors might be involved? For example, might social factors be involved? Once you have reflected on these questions give the article a read and, while doing so be asking yourself what other research data might be needed in this area. Oh, and think too about whether the researcher whose work is discussed has been has been treated appropriately? (Be clear I am NOT pushing for any particular side in this).

Source: Why the surge is gender dysphoria among teenage girls? Margaret Wente, Opinion, The Globe and Mail.

Date: September 8, 2018

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So, you are likely not in a position to judge whether the scientific/methodological merits arguments leveled at the research in question are appropriate or fair (though re-reviewing a peer reviewed article is quite a strong step). The important policy/political issue that gender dysmorphic individuals could be seen as struggling with “who they are” and the related need for respect for the outcomes of those struggles are challenging for all involved. Is sex identification biological or social? That old dichotomy is similar to the old debate about whether IQ attributable to heredity or environment, it is overly simplistic yet surrounded with political and policy minefields. Even (or especially) including gender dysmorphia in the DSM 5 is challenging, though there is no commitment there to viewing people whose biological sex does not match the sex-identification as in need of repair. In this specific area the challenge is an epidemiological one. Where there is a rapid change in the prevalence of a disorder the search is on for either a “new” cause or for previously ignored or unseen precursors. The charged nature of these debates is hard on those who are struggling with their identification and on some of those trying to conduct research with them. Psychology IS about the real world in all its complexity and strong feelings and sometimes it is hard to step back and simply “do research”.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What is gender dysmorphia?
  2. What are the implication of the possible existence of a rapid onset version of gender dysphoria?
  3. What are some of the ethical and practice implications for psychologists who want to either conduct research or to engaging in clinical practice in gender dysphoria?

References (Read Further):

Littman, L. (2018). Rapid-onset gender dysphoria in adolescents and young adults: A study of parental reports. PloS one, 13(8), e0202330.

Littman, L. L. (2017). Rapid onset of gender dysphoria in adolescents and young adults: a descriptive study. Journal of Adolescent Health, 60(2), S95-S96.

Zucker, K. J. (2017). Epidemiology of gender dysphoria and transgender identity. Sexual health, 14(5), 404-411.

Turban, J. L., & Keuroghlian, A. S. (2018). Dynamic Gender Presentations: Understanding Transition and “De-Transition” Among Transgender Youth.