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Ask the Experts

Question:

Is gender identity disorder treatable? After treatment, will a person who suffers from this disorder ever be able to live a normal life, like someone else who doesn't have this disorder? I have gone through the APA website, and it clearly states : "Nothing can change sexual orientation." This implies that it is inborn and remains as it is till death. Is this true? Other websites/organizations claim treatment is available to change sexual orientation - I am terribly confused!!! It would be great if you can throw some light into this very important and serious problem in my life!

Answered by: Richard Krueger

It is treatable. Gender identity disorder is different than sexual orientation. Sexual orientation usually refers to being gay or straight. Some would say that it could also involve defiant or unconventional sexual behavior, such as an interest in sexual behaivor with children, or with other forms of arousal, sexual sadism, masochism, etc. All of these are difficult to change, and success depends on the strength of a person's arousal pattern and the existance of arousal to other targets or behaviors.

Gender identity disorder refers to a feeling that, were the patient is a male, that one is a woman or feels like a woman, and it would not refer to any particiular sexual orientation. For a woman, it would mean that this woman has felt that she is a man inside a woman's body. These disorders usually begin in childhood, and are well-described in the DSM-IV-TR.

The available treatment consists of changing hormonally and surgically to the body of what someone feels they are, so that men would become feminized.

This is a whole area of speciality in sexology in itself, and I am not expert in it. There are therapists who work with such individuals to give them help with the transition and to assess if this is a desirable change or not, along with plastic surgeons and others.