In the education ministry’s first-ever survey on gender identity disorder, schools across the country reported a total of 606 children with the disorder. Those numbers may seem small compared to the many issues schools have to contend with, but it is a significant number of children who deserve, and greatly need, attention and care.

The first survey, like the first ones on bullying years ago, hardly begins to uncover the full extent of the situation. The survey found 110 cases among middle school students and 403 among high school students. However, the survey covered only 37,000 special, elementary, middle, and high schools across the country. The total number of students with GID is certainly much higher.

Gender identity disorder, as it is most commonly called, is the discontent or confusion resulting from the disconnection between the sex and gender people are assigned at birth and the way people genuinely feel and act.

A newer term, gender dysphoria, perhaps better captures the psychological aspects of the condition and how the confusion over gender roles causes extreme discomfort for individuals pressured to conform to socially assigned roles that simply do not fit them.

However it is labeled, gender identity disorder can cause tremendous difficulties for children. It can result in many distressing and troubling issues if it is not identified and treated. If left undiagnosed, and children try to suppress the symptoms, it often leads to anxiety disorder, depression and suicidal thoughts. Other surveys have noted that children with GID are often bullied and ignored by peers.

The condition can be treated. Individual and family counseling is recommended. Sex reassignment and hormonal therapy are other options, though the exact treatment plan depends on many factors. The causes can be psychological, but also genetic, hormonal and neural in origin. Professionals have started to find better ways of treating children who manifest symptoms at younger ages, so it is important that schools help to direct children toward the help they need.

Early treatment is extremely important, so teachers and parents need to know the signs and symptoms and how best to take care of children who express the desire to be the opposite sex or insist that they will grow up to be the opposite sex.

Many children feel strong disgust with their own body and have extreme reactions to changes during puberty.

Surely many children are struggling with the disorder, and many cases went unreported in this first survey. Teachers need to support such students, but they also need enough knowledge and awareness about what to do.

It is extremely important for teachers, as well as parents, to identify the condition and for children who need it to receive counseling and acceptance. The education ministry’s survey is just the first, but it is a step in the right direction.

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