Gender dysphoria: prejudice from childhood to adulthood, but no impact on inflammation. A cross-sectional controlled study.
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INTRODUCTION: Gender dysphoria (GD) is characterized by a marked incongruence between experienced gender and one's gender assigned at birth. Transsexual individuals present a higher prevalence of psychiatric disorders when compared to non-transsexual populations, and it has been proposed that minority stress, i.e., discrimination or prejudice, has a relevant impact on these outcomes. Transsexuals also show increased chances of having experienced maltreatment during childhood. Interleukin (IL)-1β, IL-6, IL-10 and tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-α) are inflammatory cytokines that regulate our immune system. Imbalanced levels in such cytokines are linked to history of childhood maltreatment and psychiatric disorders. We compared differences in IL-1β, IL-6, IL-10 and TNF-α levels and exposure to traumatic events in childhood and adulthood in individuals with and without GD (DSM-5). METHODS: Cross-sectional controlled study comparing 34 transsexual women and 31 non-transsexual men. They underwent a thorough structured interview, assessing sociodemographic information, mood and anxiety symptoms, childhood maltreatment, explicit discrimination and suicidal ideation. Inflammatory cytokine levels (IL-1β, IL-6, IL-10 and TNF-α) were measured by multiplex immunoassay. RESULTS: Individuals with GD experienced more discrimination (p = 0.002) and childhood maltreatment (p = 0.046) than non-transsexual men. Higher suicidal ideation (p < 0.001) and previous suicide attempt (p = 0.001) rates were observed in transsexual women. However, no differences were observed in the levels of any cytokine. CONCLUSIONS: These results suggest that transsexual women are more exposed to stressful events from childhood to adulthood than non-transsexual men and that GD per se does not play a role in inflammatory markers.