What Is Gender Dysphoria? A Critical Systematic Narrative Review




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Mary Ann Liebert



Peer reviewed


In the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the American Psychiatric Association has changed the diagnosis of gender identity disorder to gender dysphoria (GD). In this critical narrative review we ask: What is gender dysphoria? We report on some of the inconsistencies in the articles that foreground distress while obfuscating the fact that not all trans and intersex people suffer stress or impaired functioning, and the inappropriate referencing to intersex people in the diagnostic criterion, claims about the GD diagnosis contributing to the depathologization of and reducing stigma surrounding trans people, the conceptualizations of ‘‘gender dysphoric’’ research subjects, and finally we question the etiological approaches using GD as a conceptual framework. We further suggest that there are a number of methodological issues that need to be resolved to be able to claim that the GD diagnosis can be validated. To shed light on these paradoxes and methodological issues in the DSM-5, we report on the content validity of GD by reviewing research articles postdiagnostic inception. These findings will contribute to the debate about the validity of GD as a diagnosis for the 21st century for those people who need to live a different gender to that assigned at birth.


open access article


gender dysphoria, diagnostic controversies, trans people, intersex, DSM-5


Davy, Z. and Toze, M (2018) What Is Gender Dysphoria? A Critical Systematic Narrative Review. Transgender Health, 4 (1),


Research Institute

Institute of Health, Health Policy and Social Care