Transgender health and wellbeing

Trans and transgender are terms that are used to describe people who don’t conform to the traditional division of male and female.

Trans embraces many different types of people and lifestyles, including:

  • People who cross-dress (transvestite people). These people sometimes wear the clothing of the opposite sex, but don't want to live full-time as a member of the opposite sex.
  • People who feel that they're both male and female, or neither male nor female.
  • Drag queens, drag kings and other people who don’t appear conventionally masculine or feminine.
  • Transsexual people. These are people who have a strong and constant desire to live and be accepted as a member of the opposite sex. Many transsexual people have gender reassignment treatment to make their appearance more consistent with their preferred gender. This often involves hormone therapy and surgery.

Trans people often have complex gender identities (their idea of who they are), and their gender identity may change over time. For example, a man may begin by cross-dressing occasionally, then decide later in life that he wants to live full-time as a woman (which is called transitioning).

Some people who live full-time as the opposite gender prefer not to use the term "trans" at all. For example, a trans man (someone who has transitioned from female to male) may simply prefer to be called a man.

Transgender health and wellbeing

Trans people’s general health needs are the same as anyone else’s. They get colds, they need to see the dentist and they have long-term conditions, such as diabetes and arthritis. Being trans refers to a person's gender identity. It's not an illness. 

Trans people and their families do, however, have certain additional health and wellbeing needs.

Feeling uncomfortable or confused about your identity can affect your mental wellbeing in many ways. Trans people often feel isolated, and find it difficult to talk to others about how they feel.

Trans people can face discrimination and harassment. This can affect their personal relationships, their ability to obtain housing and healthcare, their employment opportunities and their safety.

For more information on some of the issues that affect trans people and their families, see:

• Coming out as trans
• Teenagers and gender identity
• Worried about a child with gender identity issues?
• Mental health issues for trans people
• Real story: living as a trans person
• Real story: 'My trans daughter'

Gender dysphoria

Gender dysphoria is the medical term used to describe the condition of feeling uncomfortable about your gender. Gender identity disorder is the medical term used to describe transsexualism – that is, the desire to live in the opposite gender to that assigned at birth. Find out more about gender dysphoria.

Gender reassignment (gender realignment or gender confirmation)

Many transsexual people receive gender reassignment treatment, which usually involves hormone therapy and surgery, to help them appear more masculine or feminine.

To receive this treatment on the NHS, you must first see your GP. Some GPs may then refer you directly to a gender specialist or a gender clinic. In other areas, you'll initially be referred to the local mental health team. Your GP can take the lead role in co-ordinating different therapies for you.

GPs and other health professionals may not have much experience with trans health issues or gender dysphoria. If you need to see a healthcare professional about your condition, it might be worth taking the latest guide to gender dysphoria services (PDF, 291kb) with you to your appointment.

This guide has been devised by doctors from gender identity clinics with input from interested groups, and it outlines current best practice regarding gender reassignment services in the NHS in England. You may also want to read this guide yourself to get a better understanding of what to expect from the NHS.

 

Transgender: Ruth's story

Ruth was born in a male body but felt that she was female. She first sought advice from her GP when she was 17. Learn about her hormone treatment and surgery, and how she feels now.

Media last reviewed: 21/01/2013

Next review due: 21/01/2015

Page last reviewed: 09/07/2013

Next review due: 09/07/2015

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