Posts Tagged ‘transsexualism’

Written by:
Wendi Friend

Have you ever felt like you were in the wrong place at the wrong time? Everything logical tells you that your being there is right, but internal alarms are sounding that something is out of kilter. Have you ever tried on an outfit and replied, “No, this just isn’t me” and been relieved to slip back into a wardrobe that best reflects your personality? These situations are an easy fix – you can always leave a place where you feel uncomfortable, and you can easily change your clothing. But what if these internal alarms were much more severe – what if you knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that it wasn’t just the wrong place or the wrong outfit, but that you’d been born into the wrong body?

Can a penis or vagina be considered a birth defect to be corrected with surgery and hormones? Is it scientifically possible for a boy to be born into a girl’s body or vice versa? Or, are transgender persons suffering from some form of mental disorder in which they simply perceive themselves as having been born into the wrong body? Can it be that rearing can play a role in gender confusion? Are transgender persons considered gay?

We may be familiar with the stories of adults who “come out” to their spouses, employers, children, and friends when they can no longer live a life untrue to their nature. It’s one thing to announce that you’re gay, but it’s an entirely different situation when you desire to physically alter your body to transform from one gender to another. In such cases, you’re not just asking that loved ones and society accept who you choose as your partner, but you’re instead announcing to them that you are a completely different person than what they knew and loved. In a sense, it’s like death. One gender must die so the other gender can live in peace.

In adults, this may be hard for us to accept, and even harder for the transgender adult to endure, but what about when transgender confusion strikes in children?

How young is too young to define yourself as transgender? How old does a person need to be in order to confidently state they feel they’ve been born into the wrong body? Can we accept an eleven-year-old girl who lives her life as a boy, already taking hormones to stop the female cycle and enhance a male appearance? Can we understand the six-year-old who has suicidal tendencies because she feels her female body betrays her male heart and mind? Can we relate to the four year old boy who wants his penis to fall off so he can be the girl he sees himself as inside? What response is the right response by society, doctors, parents, and loved ones when a child is insistent that they were born into the wrong body? Do we accept, support, and encourage – or do we try to stop or change the “behavior” of the child?

When entering the realm of gender dysphoria (dysphoria defined as unhappiness), the questions are plenty and controversy prevails.

On her website (http://www.avitale.com), Anne Vitale Ph.D. answers some of the most difficult questions related to transgender dysphoria. In regard to whether or not gender confusion is a mental disorder she states, “Although gender dysphoria is listed in the DSM IV as Gender Identity Disorder, most mental health practitioners do not consider transsexualism to be a mental illness per se. However, due to the discrimination and prejudice they face, many transsexuals do suffer from mental health issues secondary to their GID. Some of the most common are clinically significant levels of depression, anxiety, depersonalization and substance abuse/dependence.”

If gender confusion is not a mental disorder, then what is it? Is gender dysphoria genetic? The answer is no. Parents are not responsible for passing on DNA that causes gender confusion. In addition, it is generally accepted that how a child is reared has little or no relevance on whether or not the child feels they are not of the sex they were born into. Parents, therefore, are not to be blamed for their child being born with gender dysphoria. However, there are theories suggesting that gender dysphoria is congenital – meaning a form of birth defect. It has been suggested that transgender cases actually develop during the first trimester of pregnancy in which the brain begins to develop as one sex while the body develops as the opposite sex. If this is the case, it becomes clear that gender dysphoria is not a conscious choice. No one chooses to suffer from gender confusion.

Parents are encouraged to be supportive, but not drastic in their reactions toward gender confused children because three results are possible before the child reaches adulthood. The child could grow up to be gay (yet content with their own sexual assignment); the child may grow up to seek gender reassignment surgery, or the child may outgrow the feelings associated with gender confusion as they age. Since any outcome is possible, no one can predict what the long term outcome of a gender confused child would be. Each case is different.

Those suffering from gender dysphoria do not believe themselves to be gay or lesbian. It would be natural for us, as outsiders, to assume that if a physical woman is attracted to another physical woman, there’s a lesbian nature to the relationship. But we cannot lose sight of the fact that the transgender woman does not see herself as female, but as a male trapped in a female body. Forming relationships, for this reason, can be extremely difficult for gender confused persons, particularly prior to gender reassignment surgery.

Gender reassignment surgery is not an easy process. Prior to being eligible for such surgery, one must first undergo long periods of intense counseling, insuring that they’re not suffering from other influential factors such as mental illness or substance abuse, among other things. Secondly, they must live their life for one to two years as the opposite sex. For example, a male who feels he’s a woman trapped in a man’s body must live and function in society as a woman, proving that a greater quality of life is possible as a woman than as a man. This can be quite complicated prior to surgery or hormones when physical build, voice, and other contributing factors make it difficult to appear convincingly as a member of the opposite sex. If a man looks like a man dressed as a woman, he’s not nearly as likely to find social acceptance as he would be if his body and voice reflected appropriate female qualities.

Once mental stability has been established, as well as the ability to live and function as a productive member of society while appearing as the opposite sex, then hormone treatments can begin, leading ultimately to complete surgical gender reassignment. The path is neither quick nor simple. Years of struggle and probable ridicule and rejection must first be surpassed.

The legal system now supports transgender reassignment, making it possible to obtain a new birth certificate which helps avoid discrimination, as well as recognizing legal marriage following reassignment surgery, unlike the current controversy and legal battles surrounding the rights for gays and lesbians to marry.

Psychology, science, and law all seem to support, in part, the concept that gender confusion is not a mental illness or a lifestyle lived by choice, but can be described as a birth defect with no known cause or cure. Is this truly a “defect”, or is it possible for a soul to be born into the wrong body? What’s your opinion?

Sources Used:


Supporting Families

An Oprah Article

Read Full Post »