From Gender Dysphoria to Euphoria: How Gen Z is Reclaiming Trans Identity

by Nikki Naser (they/them)

Trans identities have been defined and rule-bound by the healthcare industry for decades.

Our bodies, minds, gender expression, and intentions for transitioning have been scrutinized and labeled, from the days of transsexualism to the more recent gender dysphoria. We’ve been subjected to checklists of criteria to be “diagnosed” with different disorders, once used to invalidate the lived experience of trans people, now used in order to receive gender-affirming care with insurance coverage.

But trans identity is much more complex than this. For decades, trans and nonbinary people have fought to color in their own identities on a prepainted, dismal canvas. Younger generations are now in a position to expand trans identity even further, from using the pronouns that fit who they are to coining a range of new gender identities and shifting the focus from gender dysphoria to euphoria.

Coming to Terms: From Transsexualism to Gender Dysphoria 

In the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), the focus of trans identity has always been on what’s wrong that needs to be set right. There have been updates to the terminology along the way, but the simple fact that being trans or nonbinary is still in a book of psychological disorders is telling. Here’s the timeline:

Around 1950: The term “transsexual” is first used by a sexologist.

1965: The term “transgender” is first coined by a psychiatrist at Columbia University.

1980: The DSM III adds entries for Transsexualism and Gender Identity Disorder (only used for children under Psycho-Sexual Disorders).

1994: In the DSM IV, GID replaces Transsexualism and is placed under Sexual Disorders. 

2013: In the DSM V, Gender Dysphoria replaces GID and is separated from sexual dysfunctions. 

Trans Identity as a Journey

Ever since the word “transgender” was first coined in 1965, it’s continually been set up as a journey from point A to point B. The starting point is usually labeled as confusion or dysphoria about a person’s assigned sex at birth, and the endpoint is some sort of physical transition to the “right” gender. 

But as early as the ‘70s and ‘80s, people in the trans community started using transgender as an umbrella term for a wider range of identities. Then, terms like androgyne or genderqueer were embraced in an attempt to expand trans identity and terminology.

We resigned ourselves to “gender identity disorder” if we wanted insurance to cover hormones or surgeries. And then we tried on “gender dysphoria,” and yes, it fit better than some of the other hand-me-downs, but something was still missing. 

We were still confined to a path where we had to prove that we have suffered as our assigned sex and wanted to “change” our bodies physically to be happy. It still seemed like we were only telling one side of the story, the feeling of unhappiness. 

Embracing Gender Euphoria, New Terms, and New Journeys

So where are we now? Who gets to define the trans identity? 

As previously stated, gender dysphoria still has its place as a diagnosis for insurance companies to fund any gender-affirming procedures or hormones–and many of us do struggle with this feeling of distress from the mismatch between our assigned sex at birth and our true gender identity.

But instead of believing that we need to be on a certain path toward transitioning, you can find us proclaiming “we don’t owe you a transition.” Trans and nonbinary people don’t need to have surgery or take hormones in order to transition to the “other” gender. We can even microdose hormones to get the effects that feel right, and/or have surgery or not.

Older generations have paved the way so that all of us, especially Gen Z, can now embrace how we also feel “gender euphoria” instead of only talking about dysphoria

A quick look on any social media platform, from TikTok and Reddit to Facebook and Instagram reveals trans and nonbinary folx celebrating moments of #transjoy and #gendereuphoria. And yes, some have to do with transition, but they are also about getting gender-affirming haircuts or clothing, or just having a moment of joy about their gender.

Trans identity is no longer a clinically prescribed path from one point to another–it is a space in which individuals can explore and cultivate and create and uncover who they are. With Gen Z’s step into this liberating space comes tons of new trans and nonbinary identities and terms–ones we’ve coined ourselves instead of being diagnosed with: demiguy, demigirl, genderfluid, agender, nonbinary/enby, transmasculine, transfeminine, bigender, neutrois, and the list goes on and on.

No matter how you identify, 26Health offers the healthcare and support you need with the respect you deserve.