About Gender Identity
Gender identity is a significant part of our self-identity and how we relate to others. We see the world though the filter of our gender. Our Western culture is gender-polarized, and treats males and females very differently. Society allows or encourages certain activities and desires for one gender and disallows them for the other gender. Most people are conditioned to accept these restrictions as they grow and develop as either men or women. They see their gender as a given and expend little energy or conscious thought on it. When they think of themselves, they are simply “Sally” or “Ted” and identify as an individual. Their gender is secondary to that. They are comfortable with their assigned gender as it relates to their identity, and are just simply male or female.
However, those with Gender Identity Disorder (GID) are always aware of their gender. They relate most of their actions as in line with one gender or the other. This preoccupation with gender will often color their choices in activities or career. They purpose to engage in only those activites they feel match their gender. These people are constantly questioning their gender and so also their identity. A transgendered person rejects the gender identity assigned at birth (in large part) and the social restrictions that come with it. They find themselves being herded into one gender group while desiring to be associated with the other. Their sense of self is never fully affirmed because their gender is constantly being questioned.
Without a firm sense-of-self, it is difficult to relate to others or even God.
For the transgendered individual, the development of personhood beyond gender is the key to self-acceptance, social acceptance and personal growth. Befriending who you are now is important, even if you want to move ahead into something new.
About Gender Identity Disorder (GID)
Gender identity disorder (GID) and transsexualism is defined by strong, persistent feelings of identification with the opposite gender and discomfort with one’s own assigned gender. People with GID desire to live as members of the opposite gender and often dress and use mannerisms associated with the other gender. For instance, a person identified as a boy may feel and act like a girl. The causes of this condition are varied but the discomfort with one’s perceived gender can be equally as real in all instances. The three main causes are:
1. Those born with ambiguous genitalia, or those who are inter-sexed (hermaphrodites).
This is by far the largest group diagnosed with GID. The natural processes of gender evolution in the womb that determines male and female traits proceeds with little regard to cultural acceptance.
2. Those that have brain development skewed from normal genitalia development.
We all start off in the womb with feminine traits. A few weeks into fetal development sexual differentiation occurs and we become distinctly male or female. However, some fetuses develop both sets of organs or have neither well defined. The end result to this physical development of the genitalia is what’s known as the birth gender.
Female and male brains are different. The determination of whether a fetus develops a typically female or male brain is influenced by a combination of factors. These are separate from those factors influencing the fetus’ physiological biology. The brain can develop a distinctively different “gender” from what is evidenced by the genitalia.
This process is natural and usually without health risks. Even so, society’s ridged gender models may lead a person who demonstrates a physical and psychological gender incongruity to develop gender identity disorder.
3. Those who have suffered emotional or physical trauma.
Although this is listed here as a reason for GID, the medical community does not recognize trauma or abuse as a cause for GID. GID is seen mainly as a pre-natal condition. However, personal or social trauma, especially related to gender can be causes for cross dressing (which relates mostly to fetish behavior). Most diagnoses of GID focuses on how a person feels and acts. There is no conclusive medical test or evidence for a GID diagnosis. Diagnosis of GID is often determined by observation and an individual’s declaration that they are gender-incongruent. As a result, trauma as a cause for cross dressing is sometimes diagnosed and treated as gender identity disorder.
The medical community views GID as a medical condition that needs to be fixed. Treatment for this condition includes psychological counseling, hormones, and for some, sexual reassignment surgery (SRS). This diagnosis is based on a strict adherance to the polarized gender model of male and female. Those who seek SRS feel they will be more comfortable in their new bodies and wish society to relate to them in the gender they have pursued. Although some view this desire to be the “opposite” gender as a rejection of societal norms, it in fact embraces the “norms” of polarized gender.
Light in the Closet recognizes that the polarized gender model is where we live now, but it does not advocate this model. Another gender model is currently being explored that recommends personhood over gender. This model attempts to reflect a more modern social concept of gender as a “spectrum.” This gender spectrum celebrates personal dignity and an acceptance of diversity.
For more information about GID you can log on at:
The information on these web sites is a good starting point to find out about Gender Identity Disorder. Although good research has already been done regarding GID, this research is fairly recent and incomplete. The subject of a person’s gender, and how that gender impacts a person’s role in society, is open to much debate. No emphatic statement declaring absolutes should be given much consideration.
Our society is evolving and changing and how we relate to it through our gender identity is in flux as well. Some feel that the words, “gender identity” should not be linked to the word “disorder.” They would advocate that to view a psychological, sociological or physical gender inconsistency as a “disorder” is a mistake of the highest order. Many feel that they do not need to be “fixed” at all, but instead have focused their energies on promoting change in our society to gain social and self-acceptance. No one has all the answers, and it is only through an open and honest dialogue that some relevant truths will be reached. It is for this reason that Light in the Closet supports an individual’s right to prayerfully choose whichever path they follow.