Over the last few decades, a dramatic change has occurred both in social and cultural arenas. During that time, such terms as transsexuals and transvestites have been defined. Nowadays almost everybody talks about transsexualism, but who really understands what it is all about? This notion remains an enigma even in the modern highly developed world. In fact, mass media makes nothing to clarify the most important issues that underline the question. Consequently, there appears a great variety of assumptions and observations concerning the definition of transsexualism. The most general statement is that nowadays a woman can change into a man and vice versa. The truth is that only appearances are changed if the law of a given country permits it. Such individual is granted the ability to live as a man or as a woman, as a person of the sex opposite to the one he or she was assigned at birth. All this leads to the basic questions, namely “What is a man?” and “What is a woman?” Society does not provide the same status to men and women. Nevertheless, in transsexualism social condition is not the issue of vital importance; however, identity matters a lot. Identity states that each one of the transsexuals is different from all the others and each has his own way of life. This paper is aimed at defining the main reasons as well as features of transsexualism in the contemporary world.
Transsexualism is not a recent discovery. Different variations in human gender have been traced since antiquity. In some cultures, transsexual individuals had a right to live their lives as women. Moreover, in some cultures individuals underwent surgeries to transform their bodies, that is to say, to change their sex. By undergoing such procedures, transsexuals changed their appearance and genitals. Due to female sex hormones, transsexual individuals could live like women.
From the psychological point of view, disorders of sexual gender identity were described in psychiatric nosography at the beginning of the twentieth century according to the criterion that was predominantly descriptive and phenomenological. A difference was made between two notions, namely transvestism and transsexualism. Both of them were placed in the category of perversions.
In fact, the great Freudian revolution strongly influenced the scientific and cultural statute of the perversions. “Being the “hereditary taint”, “crime”, or “sin” of the pre-psychoanalytic age, perversions were traced back to the fountainhead of the infancy and of everyday life, even though they were the pathological outcome of drive conflicts in the confrontation with the Oedipal crossroads” (Ambrosio, 2009). As a result, there followed the axioms saying that the child was a little perverse polymorph; perversion was the “negative” neurosis; and there was the absence of perversions in the female sex. A great variety of perversions was the result of pregenital sexuality that was partially undeveloped and unrepressed and distorted by protective mechanisms. Therefore, pregenital sexuality influenced adult sexual organization.
Actually, psychoanalysis observed the psychosexual structure back to the evolution of every individual and diminished to zero those biological factors that have been underlined in the past. It was revived by those who appealed to laws of nature and those who wanted to correct a mistake of nature respectively. Consequently, there appeared a vast majority of psychologists who defined the notion of transsexualism in several ways. Some treated it as a precursor of transvestism or homosexuality; others considered it as a narcissistic disorder or borderline disorder. Ultimately, all the psychologists tended to think that transsexualism is the desire of a man to change into a woman, whatever the cost. It cannot be denied that in order to understand the process of gender changing it is necessary to clarify the gender itself.
Sex and Gender
Without doubt, many people do not clearly distinguish between sex and gender. Some consider sex as a particular type of genitalia and gender as social sex. Nevertheless, these two notions are totally different and each of them consists of great variety of quantities that depict the peculiarities of male and female nature. According to Meyerowitz, there exist the following dimensions: “chromosomal, genetic, anatomical, legal, gonadal, germinal, endocrine, psychological, and – also – the social sex, usually based on the sex of rearing” (Meyerowitz, 2002). In fact, all the quantities mentioned above are in comparative agreement, but according to transsexualism the psychological quantity objects to other quantities. Consequently, the general definition of both sex and gender breaks down. That is why it is vitally important to find out the right explanation of sex and gender in order to understand transsexualism in every aspect.
Basically, sex is defined as the biological differences between males and females and gender is the manner in which culture defines and constrains these differences. These are differences not only in the way the women live their lives but also in the manner in which individuals view both themselves and others. Moreover, gender appeals to social relationships, behaviors, values and influence which society places on two sexes. On the other hand, sex is established by “genetic and anatomical characteristics, gender is an acquired identity that is learned, changes over time, and varies widely within and across cultures. Gender is relational and refers not simply to women or men but to the relationship between them” (Esplen & Jolly, 2006). Sexual distinction is absolute. A great number of biologists have emphasized that not everyone fits into the categories of male and female as once was assumed. Nevertheless, we can say without doubt that both sex and gender are terms that describe the biological peculiarities of both sexes and their identity respectively.
Transsexualism is understood as the gender identity disorder. It is used to define rigorous gender identity disorders in grown-ups. Judging all possible perspectives accessible, transsexualism can be comprehended using various models, namely clinical, medical, socio-political and socio-cultural.
Transsexuals raise a burning issue, aimed at weakening strict sex roles and providing men and women with more freedom to handle everything in ways that have generally been labeled as masculine and feminine. “For by their instance on surgery – which gives them the form if not always the function of the sexual apparatus they desire – transsexuals seem to reassert the primacy of genital forms in defining sex and gender” (Alegre, 2006).
Transsexualism is a state in which an individual experiences imbalance between his or her stamped sex and what he or she feels about his or her real gender. For instance, an individual who was determined as female after the birth and brought up as a girl may feel that her “self” corresponds with male. If this feeling is strong enough, this individual may think over making others conceive her as a man. That is to say, transsexuals may try to live in a way that suits their inner gender. The term transsexualism was carried in the researches of Harry Benjamin. Moreover, the attention to this term was paid when the press revealed the transsexual transition of Christine Jorgensen. There were also some other sensationalized cases, namely Renee Richards (previously Richard Raskind) and Roberta Cowell (previously Robert). There is a preoperative or preoperated transsexual, who is actually a transsexual but has not undergone any reassignment surgery. The individual may undergo hormonal replacement therapy (HRT) and facial surgery. Some years ago Thai culture counted transsexualism, which is generally known as Kathoey ( a word originally used to denote hermaphrodites), Sao Prapet Song or Tut ( as in “Tootside”) as low class citizens, dirty dressing and had to hide in a dark corner selling their services as prostitutes. Nowadays, transsexual operations are conducted in several countries like the UK, Japan, Denmark, the USA, Thailand and the Philippines. A great variety of Filipino transsexuals works as dancers, actors, and singers in Japan. The rest are fashion designers or engage in professions that are connected with gays.
The term transsexual is commonly associated with gender identity disorders. The question “What is the prevalence of transsexualism?” appeared. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders suggested the following information: approximately 1 per 30,000 grown-ups males and 1 per 100,000 adult females attempt sex-reassignment surgery. Nevertheless, it is impossible to determine the acute number of transsexuals because these numbers do not reflect the number of individuals who have some experience of gender destitution. Some transsexuals will be unrecognizable since they may not be ready to reveal themselves in order to be identified as women. There are transvestites who very seldom treat themselves as transsexuals, but, in fact, they understand that they are not. Furthermore, some homosexuals present themselves originally as transsexuals and feel that they are women in the personal understanding of their sexual orientation. Researches state that transsexuals are not the only ones who attempt to undergo sexual reassignment surgery. There exist a number of subtypes among those individuals seeking sex change surgery that may not necessarily be true transsexuals. Among those subtypes there were some patients who were eager to punish themselves with the help of self-mutilation, approved sadomasochists who receive sexual pleasure from causing physical pain. A clear distinction should be made between those patients with reported psychotic features and transsexuals, because it is not necessary to treat such patients as transsexuals. These people need different psychological treatment as their disease is totally different in comparison with transsexualism phenomenon.
One more relevant issue that should be taken into consideration is the main reasons for transsexualism. Among the most obvious ones are the absence of a parent, especially father and the presence of a dominant. When speaking about the first cause, it is believed that the father plays an important role in rising up his children, mainly boys. The father is a man who can understand male’s behavior as well as the way of their thinking. He can provide necessary information and advice that will help to solves problems. Moreover, fathers understand and feel the state of the inner world of their sons and it is extremely important when their sons become interested in the individuals of opposite sex. That is why the boy who is risen up without a father cannot find the appropriate person who could help him to solve some internal problems, a person who could understand him. In some cases, these boys get excessive mother’s love that can lead to transsexualism.
It has also been proposed that modeling and behavior reinforcement could also be a cause of transsexualism particularly on the development of feminine behavior in boys and masculine behavior in girls. Basically, parents are the model for the child and other people, namely playmates, schoolmates, neighbors. They become the basis of imitation. Consequently, these factors influence the further development of the concept of femininity and masculinity. Thus, it is important to keep control of the children and their friends, classmates, their likes and dislikes in order to prevent the unpredictable results. Moreover, parents should understand that children’s psyche develops in the family depending on the relationship between parents and children. That is why in order to develop it in the right direction, it will be desirable to provide children with support and understanding.
To sum up, transsexualism can be defined from different perspectives, but the main one states that transsexualism is a gender identity disorder that is closely connected with biological as well as psychological development of the individual. In fact, it is a kind of perplexity when someone cannot feel comfortable in his own body and tries to find the reason for it. Transsexualism rejects biological factor and simultaneously use biology to present the verity of the demand.
Transsexualism is quite a complicated notion which needs a deep analysis. It is vitally important to realize the main causes of transsexualism in order to prevent it. Parents are the only ones who can help children not to stray from the right path in life. They can help them overcome various problems concerning studying, relationship with friends etc. If parents understand the importance of care and support, it will be possible for them to prevent any undesirable consequences in the future.
About the author: Jessica Sanders is a bachelor in English philology and sociology at California University. Jessica is currently working as one of the best writers at premier essay writers She also studies feminine psychology.