Coping with gender dysphoria

Have you ever felt wrong in your own body, wished to be born as the opposite sex, or felt uncomfortable being referred to with the pronouns and honorifics of your birth sex? Transgender individuals, whose gender identity differ from their sex assigned at birth, often experience gender dysphoria at varying levels. Gender dysphoria is the discomfort or distress from feeling that one’s gender is different from one’s birth sex . For example, someone born as a female, with female “parts”, may not identify with the female gender, but rather identify as male.

Gender dysphoria can be experienced in different domains.

This may manifest as being averse, or wanting to get rid of your sex characteristics, wishing you had body features of the opposite sex, or imagining being born as the opposite sex. People who experience disconnection from their body are also likely to have lower self esteem and insecurities about their bodies. Some ways to cope with the distress is to find items or clothing that help affirm your gender, such as chest binders, padded underwear, or accessories. Showering with dim lighting can also help in avoiding looking at your body. Some people may choose to undergo hormone replacement therapy (HRT) or have sex reassignment surgery in order to physically transition to their identified gender . In Hong Kong, details about the process for HRT and sex reassignment surgery can be referenced here:

This includes feeling discomfort from being referred to with pronouns, honorifics, or nicknames that do not align with your gender identity. You may also feel a sense of relief, comfort, or even happiness, when being treated as the gender you identify as. To cope with this, you may ask your friends, teachers, colleagues, or parents to use a gender-affirming name and pronouns, this is called social transition. If your environment does not allow for that, using a gender-affirming alias in online spaces can help reaffirm your identity. Some people may also want to change the gender marker and name on their identity card. In Hong Kong, although legally changing your name is fairly straightforward, unfortunately it is not possible to change the gender on your identity card without undergoing sex reassignment surgery.

Hong Kong is admittedly rather conservative in its policies for transgender healthcare. Transgender people are generally at higher risk of discrimination especially from people in the older generations, who tend to hold conservative or misjudged views against transgender individuals and mistakenly believe them to be perverse or mentally ill. Thus, if you experience gender dysphoria, it can be hard to balance your mental health with your environment. If you are in an unsafe environment to express your gender identity, it might be best to wait until you are more independent or in a better environment to alleviate your gender dysphoria. In the meantime, it is important to practise self care and affirm yourself, such as finding hobbies, exercising, or talking to friends. Additionally, it is important to find supportive and affirming communities. This can be our friend groups (if they are supportive of our identity), or reaching out to LGBTQ+ support groups and organisations that are LGBTQ+ supportive. 

Lastly, if you are struggling with your mental health because of feelings of isolation or anxiety about your gender identity or sexual orientation, please reachout for support. Mental health struggles can manifest in low mood, feelings of isolation, loss of pleasure, anxious feelings, anger, loss of sleep, appetite changes, use of addictive behaviours/substance to deal with difficult feelings/thoughts, as well as self-harm and suicidality. If you find you are experiencing any of these, please seek support from a trusted and supportive adult in your life or a helpline.

The Pride Line is an LGBTQ+ support line you can turn to: