Transsexualism – Intro

A very brief introduction to transsexualism …

Male and female bodies.jpgSex


Humans, as well as many animals, have physical sex characteristics and psychological sex characteristics.

When referring to the body, one talks about sex; when things are related to the brain, one talks about gender or gender identity. Sex and gender are not the same.

They do match in most people, but not in all. Since gender identity and physical sex characteristics in humans develop by different processes and at different times, it is possible that they are not aligned.

People with a mismatch of sex and gender are called transsexual.

If you understand the simple concepts of sex and gender, you probably know already more than most people.

Our gender identity seems to get fixed very early in life, probably at birth, or even before, in the womb. One cannot change it by simply wishing to do so, by training or therapy. It is hard-wired into the brain.

People who have a mismatch between sex and gender experience severe discomfort with their physical sex. Usually, they seek to live in the gender role that fits their psychological gender, and even modify their physical sex as much as possible to reduce that mismatch between sex and gender. 

For instance, a baby might be born with normal male sex characteristics (it has a penis!) at birth and is therefore assigned the male gender role (it’s a boy!) at birth. During childhood or puberty, it emerges this boy has a female gender identity and needs to live as a girl in a normal female gender role. The child or adolescent in this example is a typical male-to-female transsexual.

Identity is a very powerful force in humans – you cannot change who you are by will. If you try to live a life as a different person from who you really are, if you force yourself to ignore your own personality, you will experience misery. All that transsexuals want is peace of mind, be who they are, be open and honest and true to themselves and others. Living in a gender role that is opposite of one’s psychological gender means pretending, hiding one’s real self, ignoring one’s own personality, and results in having difficulties in relationships with others. A person under such pressure can hardly experience happiness or fulfilment.

The discomfort resulting from the mismatch between sex and gender is called gender dysphoria. Gender dysphoria “is a feeling of depression mixed with anxiety, like the sense of being lost on the wrong road.”[1][2][3]

Transsexualism has nothing to do with sexual orientation, gender behaviour or sexual practice. It is about gender identity, the self of a person.[4]

The concept of transsexualism is not very intuitive to cisgendered people (that’s how non-transgendered people are called). For most people, physical sex characteristics, psychological gender and the assigned gender role match. This match comes so naturally that usually the distinction between different factors of one’s sexual identity (such as sex, gender, gender role) isn’t even needed. That’s why most people don’t have to think about their sexual identity and are often not even aware that they have a subconscious gender identity as a distinct phenomenon. This makes it sometimes difficult for cisgendered people to empathise with transsexuals.

However, please remember – in the age of information, ignorance is a choice. Transgender people have a right to expect others not to discriminate, voice public opinions or make decisions when they have not considered the facts.

That is really all one has to know ☺

Hmm, but if you think that was too simple... or don’t quite believe me... or are saying but, but, but… what about that other theory I heard about… and you are not yet sure about transsexual people… or if you say your own gender and sex are the same – why should you believe it’s different for other people… well… then read on for some more details. ☺

The scientific details can be found on the four main reference pages on this website:

What is transsexualism? | What causes transsexualism? | What helps?

More evidence: Disorders of sex development (DSD)

A summary of the findings of the reference pages is given here: Summary

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[1] I love this quote from Jamie Faye Fenton. It really describes my feelings well. The entire paragraph reads: “As someone with this condition matures, they become aware that their body does not match their mind, which creates a negative feeling called Gender Identity Dysphoria (GID). GID is a feeling of depression mixed with anxiety, like the sense of being lost on the wrong road. The pain of GID thus motivates TGs to proceed through the transition process.” I know that Jamie doesn’t seem to agree with this standard model. (See – downloaded in 2009).

[2] Laura Amato writes about gender dysphoria as: “Meanwhile you are hurting inside being eaten up by a brain and emotions that don't match, you have anxiety, distress and confusion.” (See – downloaded in 2010).

[3] Wikipedia about gender dysphoria: It “may manifest as depression or inability to work and form healthy relationships with others.” (See – downloaded in 2010). The point about the healthy relationships is true – how do you keep a circle of intimate friends when you are not yourself, when not even your closest friends know the real you?

[4] Sarah Seton puts it succinctly: “Transsexualism is an identity disorder that happens to involve gender concomitantly. It has nothing whatever to do with sexual preference or life-style as with homosexuality.”