What do gender identity and transgender mean?
The term gender identity refers to which gender or genders someone identifies with. People whose gender identity violates our culture’s norms are called transgender people, which may be abbreviated as trans.
Transgender is a broad concept, which covers more than just a particular lifestyle. It can mean anything from someone who wants to wear clothes that are not considered to belong to their gender (cross dresser, transvestite), someone who does not feel like a woman or man (non-binary, bigender) to people who feel they were born in the wrong body (transsexualism). There are no requirements to be a certain way; rather, each person decides whether to call themselves transgender.
Being a trans person is nothing you choose, it is something you are born with. A supportive social network can mean a lot, especially in the younger years when confusion can be the greatest.
Trans says nothing about a person’s sexual orientation. Who you want to have sex with or fall in love with does not depend on what gender you define yourself as. A transgender person may be gay, heterosexual, bisexual, or anything else that describes their sexual identity, just like anyone else.
What effect may this have on someone’s life?
Many trans people discover already as children that their gender does not feel right. To suffer from the feeling that one’s gender identity and body do not match is called gender dysphoria. The fact that other people do not see one as one is inside can cause anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts.
Many transgender people enjoy mental well-being and do not suffer because of their gender identity. But at the group level, studies show that transgender people, especially young ones, have greater mental illness problems than the rest of the population. Depression and feeling down are common. 40 percent of young trans people have tried to commit suicide at some point.
Feeling different and lost is hard, and feelings such as shame, alienation and feeling unsafe are common. One trans person in five has experienced violence because of their gender identity, and half have been victims of abusive treatment. Being transgender is not always socially accepted in our society, and much work remains to be done to increase tolerance and combat prejudice.
What kind of help is available?
If someone experiences mental illness due to their gender identity, they should seek help. Everyone has the right to be themselves and to enjoy mental well-being. Contact your healthcare center or Allmänpsykiatrin, the mental health services, if you or a relative feel down or depressed or are otherwise feeling bad. People who want to correct their bodies can also receive further guidance from these services.
What is a gender study?
In order to receive a gender correction and potentially change one’s legal gender as well, a person needs to go through a gender study. This process takes at least two years, and is intended to establish a diagnosis and then find out what change would suit the person and their body the best.
A referral is required initially. You can receive a referral by contacting a healthcare centre or Allmänpsykiatrin, the mental health services. Seeking care does not mean that a person is ill, but that they need the expertise of the healthcare service. A person does not need to be sure of their gender identity or know what sort of change they want before requesting a gender study.