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Gender variance

The Scottish Transgender Alliance views gender variance as simply one aspect of the wide range of human diversity which ensures that human societies are interesting, innovative and strong.  We believe that societies function best when all their members have their unique skills, personalities and perspectives valued and supported by each other.  We want Scottish society to recognise that there is nothing intrinsically wrong with gender variance and to value transgender people simply being themselves.

Our cultural assumptions and stereotypes about gender are based on averages not universals.  For example, the average height for a woman is shorter than the average height for a man but this does not mean there is anything wrong with being a taller than average woman or a shorter than average man.  When an individual man’s height is compared with an individual woman’s height, either one of them may turn out to be the taller person.  Just because on more occasions it will be the man who is taller than the woman does not mean there should be any panic on those occasions when the woman is taller than the man.  Our hope is that other gender variance will become viewed in a similar non-pathological manner.

A person who finds that current gender stereotypes and averages do not fit with their individual gender identity and gender expression is simply varying from the average.  They are not wrong or ill or disturbed.  Provided that they are personally happy with their life then no change is necessary in regard to their gender variance. Someone’s gender variance is not harmful to others; instead it can be helpful for society as it can provide greater originality and reveal otherwise unrecognised gender-based discrimination.

For this reason, the Scottish Transgender Alliance never uses the term Gender Identity Disorder. We are of the view that nobody should have such an innate part of themselves as their personal gender identity described as disordered simply because it differs from average expectations.  However, the Scottish Transgender Alliance does use the term Gender Dysphoria.

Gender Dysphoria is a recognised medical issue for which gender reassignment treatment is available on the National Health Service in Scotland.  Gender dysphoria is when someone experiences significant and long-standing distress, unhappiness and/or discomfort about their physical body not fully matching their gender identity.  Transsexual people usually experience intense gender dysphoria which is significantly reduced or even eliminated by transitioning to live as their self-identified gender and by taking hormones and perhaps getting surgery to make their physical bodies match their gender identity and gender expression better.  Other types of transgender people may also experience various degrees of gender dysphoria, especially when unable socially to fully express their gender identity.

The Scottish Transgender Alliance considers it to be essential to recognise that experiencing gender dysphoria does not mean that there is anything wrong with a person’s gender identity.  It merely means that the person is experiencing a personally distressing disparity between their gender identity and the gender-related characteristics of their physical body.  Throughout medical history, attempts to alter someone’s inherent gender identity have proven futile and such attempts have often caused intense psychological suffering to people because a person’s gender identity is such a fundamental part of who they are.  The method of relieving gender dysphoria which has proven successful is to modify the gender-related characteristics of the person’s physical appearance so that their appearance better reflects their gender identity enabling them to more easily live as their self-identified gender.

Once a person has been able to modify their physical appearance through hormones and/or surgery and is able to live their life fully in accordance with their gender identity, they will usually no longer experience gender dysphoria.  Therefore, the aim of NHS treatment with hormones and possibly surgery is to reduce and ideally eliminate the patient’s gender dysphoria.

If someone has only mild or intermittent feelings of gender dysphoria then usually hormonal and surgical interventions will not be necessary.  Instead their mild gender dysphoria may be able to be relieved simply by presenting an appearance more reflective of their gender variance through their use of clothing, hairstyles and accessories and also spending some of their social time with friends who are supportive of gender diversity.

The Scottish Transgender Alliance recognises that being gender variant does not mean that someone will necessarily experience any gender dysphoria.  A person may have a gender identity or gender expression which others feel does not match with that person’s physical body. However, so long as that person themselves feels content with their physical body in relation to their gender identity and does not experience distress or discomfort about it, then they do not have gender dysphoria and should not be pressurised to undergo any hormonal or surgical treatment.