Last year, 48 people in Sweden applied to change gender after undergoing therapy to confirm that they belonged psychologically to the opposite sex. This compared to only 16 applications ten years ago. A total of 600 Swedes have changed sex.
“It’s hard to know why more people are applying for sex changes,” said Cecilia Dhejne, consultant at a centre for gender reassignment therapy at the Karolinska University Hospital in Huddinge.
“It could be that the condition is becoming more common for reasons we do not know. But it could be that it has become more well-known, which means that more people who identify themselves as transgendered realise that they can get help.”
Gender identity disorder is now widely accepted as a medical condition.
“It’s not some little whim that people get. The current hypothesis is that it is something biological and that social and psychological factors don’t play any role,” Dhjene said.
But scientists still don’t know exactly why some people feel trapped in the wrong body, and feel that their genitals are a deformity that need to be corrected.
“It would be great if we could use blood tests or x-rays to decide if someone was the wrong sex. But currently we have to carry out evaluations, and most patients feel the evaluations are a kind of extended suffering, in which we question them instead of giving them support.”
In order to be allowed to change sex, the applicant has to be over 18 and a Swedish citizen. They may not be married and must also be sterilized or for other reasons be unable to reproduce.
People who have been diagnosed as transsexual then have to go through a trial period of least one year, living in the new gender. Hormone therapy and other treatments can often then start.
At this point people often have plastic surgery on the face and breasts. Only after the trial year can the evaluation team approve an application to change sex.
After the surgery the person can apply for official documents to be changed to take note of their new gender.