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Gender identity disorder treatment includes psychotherapy, hormonal injections and/or surgery to change the body to the opposite sex. The types of treatments available depend on age and the individual’s desires. Additionally, for children and teens, an important part of gender identity disorder treatment is parent involvement and acceptance of the child’s condition. Not all families do participate because of negative religious or cultural beliefs about gender identity disorder (GID).
The different types of gender identity disorder treatment are often broken up by age. In kids and teens, a preference to belong to the other sex or denial and distress about the assigned gender may or may continue into adulthood. Since children and teens are still growing, there is an understandable hesitancy to interfere with growth by giving hormone treatments or to make permanent surgical changes to the body. Instead, children and teens are referred to psychotherapists who should have strong experience in pediatrics and GID.
These specialists will work with children or adolescents on their expressed gender preferences and the many difficulties that may surround their feelings. The goal is to provide a calm presence for children to process their feelings of distress at their own gender or to express their desire to switch genders. Very often, the same therapists also work with families on ways they can present the least judgmental front to children.
Flexible parenting that allows children to express their preferences is advised. In social environments, children are already likely to receive significant negative attention. Thus, minimizing guilt or shame at home can give kids a safe place to be.
Some families believe GID represents sinful or wrong thinking that should be discouraged. This attitude may be greatly harmful and represents rejection of the child, according to many transgendered and transsexual activists and mainstream mental health professionals. Still, there are some psychotherapists who argue in favor of trying to convince children out of GID beliefs. The question is how to do this in a way that does not promote guilt and shame. Also, if this approach is correct, there is a question of what happens to the kids who remain unconvinced.
For adults, gender identity disorder treatment is also initially psychotherapy. This helps clients articulate their issues surrounding gender and come to mature decisions on how to proceed. While still receiving therapy, clients may decide to receive hormone treatments that may make features more masculine or feminine. Those who are considering a surgical sex change might also be encouraged to live as a member of the other sex for a year or more. Many clinics make this a requirement of surgery, and they often request that individuals have letters from doctors or psychotherapists testifying to their mental fitness.
While a sex change surgery is often seen as a curative gender identity disorder treatment, it seldom completely frees the client of all mental and emotional challenges. Given ongoing risks of depression and feelings of disappointment that may accompany surgery, continued work with a therapist is advised. The time after surgery can be highly transitional and most people need continued support. Patients are strongly encouraged to follow Western medicine treatment guidelines if they choose to have surgery abroad in less expensive locales. These areas may have more relaxed pre- and post-operative requirements that are not to the client’s benefit.