What exactly is Transsexuality?
Let's examined the history, definition, statistics, and biology of the condition.
A transsexual is a person in which the sex-related structures of the brain that define gender identity are exactly opposite the physical sex organs of the body.
Put even more simply, a transsexual is a mind that is literally, physically, trapped in a body of the opposite sex.
Gender and Sex are very separate things, though the terms are often considered interchangeable by the less aware. Sex is physical form and function while Gender is a component of identity. There can be considered to be some legitimate overlap in that the brain is structured in many sex-differentiated ways, and the brain is the seat of identity. However, with regard to the dilemma of the transsexual, the difference between sex and gender are at the very core of the issue.
A transsexual person, born to all appearance within a given physical sex, is aware of being of a gender opposite to that physical sex. This conflict, between gender identity and physical sex, is almost always manifest from earliest awareness, and is the cause of enormous suffering. It is common for transsexuals to be aware of their condition at preschool ages.
This agony can and does lead to self destruction unless treated. The incredible difficulties that surround achieving treatment are themselves often agonizing, the sum total of which can play havoc with the lives of the gender dysphoric. Indeed, it is apparent that some fifty percent of transsexuals die by age 30, usually by their own hand. This morbidity is known as the
Transsexuality occurs roughly equally in both physical males and physical females, and is caused by factors (such as a critically timed hormonal release caused by stress in the mother, or by the presence of hormone mimicking chemicals present during critical development) which interfere with fetal development.
Although transsexuality is not the same thing as homosexuality, the two can sometimes occur in conjunction with each other, and there is evidence that both are created by the similar mechanisms, in utero.
Transsexuality differs greatly from the commonly - and erroneously - associated terms "Crossdressing" or "Transvestitism", as well as "Transgenderism".
Whereas transsexuality is concerned primarily with gender identity and the correction of physical form to fit that identity, transvestitism is primarily a sexual fetish that occurs after puberty, and the transvestite has no desperation to redress a physical incongruity. The transvestite gains satisfaction from appearing as the opposite sex only, and the behavior is apparently not rooted in a biological, pre-natal basis, but is learned. Transvestitism, unlike transsexuality, primarily is the activity of males.
A recent term in usage is "Transgenderism", essentially an empty word conjured up as a neutral label for any individual not conforming to common social rules of gender expression. The term was created to help unite very disparate individuals under a vague commonality of interest in gender, in order to provide a basis for mutual benefit and support within an often violently antagonistic society.
Transgenderism can refer to those who crossdress, those who are intersexed, those who live in the opposite societal role of their physical sex, those who play with gender expression for any purpose whatsoever, and transsexuals as well. While there is potentially great survival benefit in this mutual association labeled as 'transgenderism', the primary function is social and political, and not clinical, despite the efforts of some to legitimize this essentially meaningless term.
The exact number of transsexuals in any given population will probably never be accurately known (the best current estimate is one per 30,000). Because transsexuality is most commonly caused by stress-related hormonal changes in the womb, the number of transsexuals in any society would logically flux, based on the current state of affairs within a generation. There is evidence that more transsexuals are born during times during or following war, for instance. Even so, the condition is fairly rare.
Several interesting physical and mental indications have been statistically shown to occur in relation to transsexuality. One factor is intelligence, the transsexual is on average two standard deviations in intellect greater than the base population, and one standard deviation higher than those defined as homosexual. This probability of high intelligence is currently not explained, though there are suggestions that it may be the result of the unique and somewhat mixed brain 'wiring' of the transsexual, who may benefit from a combination of male and female structures or functions.
Another curious correlation is creativity, transsexuals tend to possess a high degree of artistic and general creative ability.
Transsexuals commonly show some physical indications of their condition that may cause trouble for them from parents or peers.
The male-to-female transsexual may be slow to develop male sex characteristics such as body hair, voice change, and overall physical development compared to the general population. The Female-to-Male Transsexual may display evidence of masculinization of bone structure, hair, or voice. These traits are generally very subtle, but often present.
There is tremendous social bigotry -and often outright violence- expressed towards the transsexual, and this often makes the life of the transsexual very difficult. Some transsexuals who have completely successful in transition to the appropriate sex therefore choose varying degrees of secrecy about their state and history. Other transsexuals never succeed in transforming physically to the point of being undetectable as transsexuals, and tend to suffer accordingly.
Transsexuals suffer many hurdles to achieve their required correction of the error of their birth. They must face society, the medical establishment, the common loss of all family and friends, the cost of treatment, the extreme difficulty of the required 'half-way' phase of transition which may last up to two years, and the inner turmoil of self-doubt and conditioned self loathing of their condition. It has been estimated (in 1981) that about 50% do not survive the malady, ending up dead by the age of 30, usually by their own hand. Almost all of this morbidity is attributed to the additional burden caused by the violent unacceptance of society, the rejection of family and friends, and the inability to find decent care.
The drive that motivates the transsexual is essentially a matter of life and death.