The idea of gender variance challenges widely held assumptions that children born male will act like ‘boys’ and children born female will act like ‘girls’. It confronts social norms that suggest everyone who is male, for example, should act the same, want the same things and feel the same about their gender.

Gender variance is expressed in nonconforming dress, behaviour or preferences for activities, toys etc; however, it is worth noting that diversity in gender expression and sexual formation is a naturally occurring phenomenon.

Transgender is the umbrella term that includes the greatest diversity of people with gender variance. Transsexual is a term used to describe people who seek medical intervention to change their primary and secondary sexual characteristics. Some interventions, such as puberty-delaying hormone treatments that prevent the appearance of certain sexual characteristics at puberty, are completely reversible.

People with transgender issues often feel considerable distress, as family members, health professionals and others question them about whether their dissatisfaction is based on the body, or social expectations. Due to the effects of this questioning, the individual may develop anxiety, depression, or other symptoms as a result of the denial of their internal experiences. This pressure to conform to gender stereotypes creates suffering not only in childhood, but also through adolescence and into adulthood. Supportive family and community responses to gender variance contribute to improved mental health and resilience.

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