Transsexualism is the disruption of a person’s sexual self-identification whereby a person views himself as a member of the gender opposite to the one assigned to him at birth. Transsexualism often manifests itself as a dysphoria or anxiety and discomfort toward one’s biological birth sex, and a feeling of being completely out of place in terms of sexual role. The condition occurs despite the proper development of a person’s sexual glands and secondary sexual characteristics.
The sexual characteristics are divided into the primary sexual characteristics associated with the endocrine glands that secrete male and female sex hormones, and the secondary ones e.g. penis, beard and a general masculine appearance in men; vagina, mammary glands and a general appearance in women. A transsexual person believes that his primary and secondary sexual characteristics are developed in the wrong way. Hence a feeling of self-loathing with regard to one’s sex organs and body.
Transsexualism is accompanied by a persistent desire to get rid of one’s secondary sexual characteristics and acquire those of the opposite gender. A transsexual person also wishes to be recognized by society as a fully functional member of the opposite gender.
A difference in brain structure (primarily hypothalamus) is thought to be one of the causes of transsexualism. The neurological condition results in the distortion of sexual identification and a feeling of being assigned to the opposite gender. A certain concentration of the fetus’ androgens (male sex hormones) and its lasting effects are required for the proper formation of a brain structure differentiation process in men. The fetus must be also devoid of estrogens (female sex hormones). A disrupted correlation between the above hormones may bring about changes in the brain’s sexual differentiation.
According to another theory, the use of hormonal therapy by pregnant women may cause transsexualism by disrupting normal brain differentiation of the fetus. Besides, the brain differentiation disruptions may arise from damage caused to the fetus during its intrauterine development. Damage may be caused by the use of some medicines.
American psychiatrists Sadock and Kaplan believe that transsexualism is largely caused by certain factors of one’s upbringing. The factors include the opposite gender behavioral stereotypes that are either encouraged or enforced by parents on their offspring (situation occurs frequently if parents had dreamed of a girl but a boy was born instead). The parents may instill character traits of the opposite gender by encouraging obedience, softness and delicacy in boys since their early childhood. Likewise, girls may develop habits and tastes traditionally considered masculine if their parents place special emphasis on resolve and vigor. Dressing boys as girls and vice versa may also contribute to the development of transsexualism. However, Russian sexologists Vasilchenko, Maslov et al. believe that it would be too late to apply any educational methods once a child’s sexual self-identification takes shape and manifestations of his transsexualism become seen as pathological by the public. Secondly, any major behavioral and gender role changes will require lots of time and effort on the part of a patient in terms of educational methods.
One should differentiate transsexualism from transvestic fetishism. A transvestite puts on clothes of the opposite gender to enhance his sexual arousal though he has not an aversion to his own gender nor he ever dreams of sex reassignment therapy. On the contrary, a transsexual person experiences a peak of his aversion to his own gender during puberty after the development of secondary sexual characteristics and genitalia has been complete and sex urge took is in place.
A feeling of being assigned to the opposite gender while having to play by the “wrong” set of rules can become real torture for a transsexual person as his sex glands start producing sex hormones.
The development of sex organs and secondary sexual characteristics is a very sensitive issue for transsexual people. They see the above as clear signs of their assignment to the “wrong” gender. Transsexual teenagers claim that their penises and testes are simply abhorrent, and therefore they would be better off without them. Some transsexual people bind or tie their genitalia using a complex array of bandages for the purpose. About 18% of male transsexual teenagers opt on the practice of self-castration i.e. amputation of both the penis and testes.
Young girls and girls in their teens with transsexual tendencies refuse to urinate while sitting down. They prefer to do it while standing. They are strongly opposed to menstruation. They see the onset of their menses as a very stressful psychological trauma. They are concerned about the growth of their breasts, and therefore they tie them up tightly on a regular basis, they put ice to them at night and use ethyl chloride for freezing them up. They say they would like to grow a penis. Both transsexual teenager boys and girls wear only clothes of the opposite gender. The sex urge of transsexual people correspond with their sexual self-identification i.e. adult transsexual men are attracted to men while transsexual women are attracted to women.
Translated by Guerman Grachev