Understanding Gender Dysphoria- Why Trans People Opt for Surgery

It might come across as a disturbing thought for the larger society that someone wants to go for sex reassignment surgery (SRS). In common parlance people call it sex change operation, but it is sex reassignment, or gender reconfirmation surgery. Some people argue that it is against nature or God. Why are some people not comfortable in the gender and sex assigned to them at birth? Why do some people feel that they are ‘trapped in the wrong body’?

Sometimes transgender people focus a lot on surgery and they forget to talk about one of the main issues that many trans people go through, and thereby opt for surgery. It is Gender dysphoria. Even in groups maintained by trans people, there is hardly any discussion on Gender dysphoria and this leads to spreading of misinformation in the larger society.

According to APA (American psychiatric association), Gender dysphoriainvolves a conflict between a person’s physical or assigned gender and the gender with which he/she/they identify. People with gender dysphoria may be very uncomfortable with the gender they were assigned, sometimes described as being uncomfortable with their body (particularly developments during puberty) or being uncomfortable with the expected roles of their assigned gender. People with gender dysphoria may often experience significant distress and/or problems functioning associated with this conflict between the way they feel and think of themselves (referred to as experienced or expressed gender) and their physical or assigned gender.¹

Every trans person has different levels of dysphoria and it affects them in different ways. There are many transmen who are happy with their bodies, with little or no dysphoria. Some transmen are happy by just wearing “masculine” clothes, some just want to wear a binder, some want to opt for top surgery with or without hormones, some want to take only hormones, some want bottom surgery, someone’s gender expression might be feminine, someone’s masculine. There is never one way to be trans. No one in the Universe can tell or predict your Gender Identity but YOU.

There are many misconceptions in the larger society around surgery and dysphoria. People have gone to the extent of saying: “What is the use of surgery, and you can still choose to live like a Man”. The issue is not about living or not living like a ‘man’. The issue is about being comfortable in my own body- what I feel inside should reflect on my external body. I have also heard from people that “It’s all in your head”. Gender dysphoria is real! It can be related to anything; it can be when someone calls you with your assigned name or treat you as a girl, while going through security checks in the women’s queue and being asked questions about your assigned gender, when they run their hands all over your body to confirm if you have breasts or not, when they check what you have in your pants, while looking at our bodies or avoiding looking in the mirror while wearing “Female” clothes. This Gender dysphoria affects you so much that you face problems in your day to day life

For me, dysphoria is focussed around my chest area, on my skin, the lack of facial hair, what I have in my pants, when someone intentionally or unintentionally misgenders me.. It gives me immense distress at times, making me anxious. I struggle with these and many things like these in my daily life. Many a times gender dysphoria may cause anxiety and depression in many trans people.

In a recent article on The Quint, titled- Rajveer And Shivangi’s Unique Love Story Will Make You Tear Up, the journalist mentioned how a transman wanted to do gender reassignment to marry his love. These kind of news create misconception amongst the general public that we want to opt for surgery because we want to marry someone, or we want to take care of our ailing parents. NO, we don’t want to opt for surgery for all these reasons cited in the article, we want to do it because of dysphoria. It’s for this simple and yet not so simple reason that we go for SRS.

It is a suggestion to all the media persons wanting to do a piece on transmen, please understand Gender Dsyphoria. Secondly, you don’t need to mention the assigned name of the transperson to do a story on transmen. Talk to different transmen and understand their issues. As I have said there is no one definition of how a transperson will look like. Above all, open to learning and understand gender dysphoria.

Jamal Siddiqui