In his first televised interview since coming out as transgender, Elliot Page opened up about his experience with gender dysphoria.
He told Oprah Winfrey about panic attacks he struggled with at movie premieres pre-transition, including a moment where he “collapsed” at an after-party for the 2010 film “Inception.”
“There was so much press, so many premieres all around the world,” he recalled. “I was wearing dresses and heels to pretty much every single event.”
Page said his manager “really believed” she was helping by providing dress options, but the actor, 34, says it did the opposite.
“We got back to the room and she was like ‘I have a surprise.’ I already had to wear a dress I already had picked out and I went in and there were three dresses laid out, like new dresses to maybe see, and I just like, I lost it,” Page said.
Gender dysphoria can manifest in many ways and can include physical symptoms like the ones described by Page. We’ve broken down what you need to know about gender dysphoria.
What is gender dysphoria?
Gender dysphoria is a discomfort or distress caused by a discrepancy between a person’s gender identity and sex assigned at birth.
The battle is not atypical for transgender people, who account for about 1.4 million American adults, according to a 2016 report by a UCLA think tank.
How does gender dysphoria manifest?
The distress caused by gender dysphoria can manifest in many ways.
Page described collapsing the night after the premiere for “Inception.”
“That was something that’s happened frequently in my life, usually corresponding with a panic attack,” he added.
For Grayson Russo, who spoke to USA TODAY in 2018 about the gender dysphoria they experienced, physical symptoms also occurred.
Russo was desperately looking to get top surgery, but it took more than three years of fighting to just get approval for the procedure.
After years of refusals, Russo almost gave up. The stress of repeatedly changing insurance providers and doctors led to heart palpitations and triggered panic attacks.
“It messes up your life when there’s this thing about your body that isn’t your body,” Russo says. “It’s hard to get intimate. It’s hard to shower, to sleep.”
Shannon McGinty told USA TODAY that getting top surgery gave them their confidence back.
“It’s improved my depression and anxiety. I feel like I’m able to do all these things that I haven’t been able to do for a while and that I was meant to do because I’m not getting these intrusive, crippling feelings of dysphoria anymore,” McGinty said.
Is there a gender dysphoria treatment?
Organizations such as the American Medical Association recognize treatment for gender dysphoria as medically necessary, including options such as gender-affirming surgery, hormone therapy and mental health support.
Johanna Olson-Kennedy, the medical director at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles Center for Transyouth Health and Development, told USA TODAY, “These are lifesaving procedures, and to deny somebody a lifesaving procedure is malpractice.”
For transgender youth, medical treatment for dysphoria can include puberty blockers, which a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study found reduces risks for mental health problems and suicide, which 35% of transgender youth attempt. Prepubescent minors may decide to socially transition before requesting treatment, experts said, by seeing how changing their style and name makes them feel.
Is gender dysphoria in the DSM-5?
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition, or the DSM-5, includes gender dysphoria.
This was an update from a previous diagnostic name of “gender identity disorder.”
Jack Drescher, a New York psychiatrist who was part of the American Psychiatric Association’s work group on gender identity, which revised the latest manual, says the challenge was to reduce stigma and yet maintain access to medical care.
Contributing: Sharon Jayson
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