Introduction to transgenderism, transsexualism, & gender identity
Conflicting quotations. What exactly is gender?
The term "LGBT" is an acronym for "Lesbians,
transgender persons/transsexuals. Sometimes, additional letters
added, like "Q" for Queer or questioning, "I" for Intersexual.
Two conflicting quotations:
- "As long as the promise of equality for all remains unfulfilled, all Americans are affected. If we can work together to advance the principles upon which our Nation was founded, every American will benefit. During LGBT Pride Month, I call upon the LGBT community, the Congress, and the American people to work together to promote equal rights for all, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity." Barack Obama, 2010-JUN-01. 1
- "This is a man -- and by the way he is a man; he's not a woman -- who is one of the leaders in crusading for so-called 'civil rights' based on gender-confused behavior. ... Obama is supporting ENDA -- the Employment Non-Discrimination Act -- with a transsexual provision, meaning that if that version of the bill gets through and Obama signs it, we will have businesses being forced to accommodate gender-confused individuals in the name of civil rights." Peter LaBarbera of Americans for Truth About Homosexuality, discussing the appointment of Amanda Simpson to a post in the Commerce Department. 2
What exactly is gender? How is it defined?
Most people believe that they live in a binary world as far gender is concerned. They divide the human race into two genders: female and male. Men and women are viewed very differently; they are expected to behave differently; many people feel that males and females have specific roles to play within families, at work, within a faith group, etc.
But what exactly is gender? It seems that gender is a more complex phenomenon than most people realize.
A person's gender can be defined in at least three ways; there may be more that three:
- One's physical or birth-identified gender: how we are classified as either male or female at birth because of the design of our primary and secondary sexual characteristics.
- One's genetic gender as defined by the sex chromosomes in every cell in one's body. Most people have either a XY or XX pair of chromosomes; XY for males and XX for female.
- One's gender identity: The gender that a person knows themselves to be. This is not defined by one's physical appearance. It is not determined by one's DNA. It is a function of one's brain structure. Researchers are just beginning to discover the specific areas of the brain that determine gender identity. 3
What is a transgender person and how many are there?
For the vast majority of adults -- in excess of 99.9% -- their physical gender, genetic gender and gender identity are the same. They are referred to as being "cisgendered."
That is, most people are either:
||Males. Their cells contain both an X and Y sex chromosome; they are mentally and emotionally certain that they are males; and they posses a penis, testicles, etc. or they are:|
||Females. Their cells contain two X sex chromosomes, they are firmly aware that they are female, and they possess ovaries, fallopian tubes, a uterus, vagina, etc.|
People are quite unable to change their gender identity, even if they
wanted to. They know that they are of a particular gender. They also know that
it is quite
impossible to change.
However, in rare cases, a mismatch happens.
One type of mismatch happens when a newborn's external genitalia and/or internal sex organs match neither the standard female or male design. They are referred to as intersexual.
A second type of mismatch is called
gender dysphoria in the medical, transgender, and liberal religious communities. Their perceived gender -- their gender identity -- does not match their birth-identified or genetic gender. Religious and social conservatives s often refer to this mismatch as "gender confusion." The latter term implies the common conservative Christian belief that individuals experiencing gender dysphoria can be cured through therapy.
Transgender persons will often describe themselves as having a unshakable feeling of being a
woman trapped in a man's body, or vice versa. Sometimes, the phrase having a "female soul in a male body" or "female brain in a male body," or vice-versa. Others describe themselves as being of neither or both genders. They can become profoundly
depressed. Their suicide rate is enormous when compared to the general population.
It appears that all attempts at therapy, counseling, and/or prayer have, in practice, had a zero success rate at resolving the
internal conflict of any transgender person. There is a widely held belief among transgender people that no transgender individual has ever been "cured" and become cisgendered.
It is a story of two kinds of conflicts:
||An internal, personal, body/mind conflict between a transgender person's appearance
and what they emotionally and mentally know their gender to be.
||Among transsexuals, medical researchers, social and religious conservatives, religious liberals, secularists,
and others about:|
||What determines a person's actual gender: their sex chromosomes, the appearance of their
genitals, their own perception of their gender, or some combination of the three?
||The cause(s) of transsexuality.
||Whether transsexuality can be "cured."
||How transsexuals should be treated in society in terms of guaranteed job security, protection from physical abuse, etc.
There is no universally accepted terminology. However, the term "transgender" is often used to refer to individuals who experience Gender Identity Disorder (a.k.a. GID, Gender Dysphoria, Disorder of Sexual Differentiation, or DSD).
The term "transsexual" is often used to refer to transgender individuals who
attempt to resolve their internal conflicts by undergoing hormone therapy and perhaps gender reassignment surgery (GRS).
These medications and procedures change their appearance so that they much more
closely resemble the gender that they know themselves to be. Success rates of this path are very
high, as long as proper treatment protocols are followed.
Jennifer Reitz of www.transsexual.org
comments that gender dysphoria:
"... occurs in humans and in other animals, such as apes, monkeys, dogs,
cats, rats, and mice, among those studied." 4
Unfortunately, much of the public is not well informed about gender identity
and gender dysphoria. Many people tend to fear and reject those that they do not
understand. When human sexuality is concerned, many people behave in very irrational ways
The following information source
was used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlink is not necessarily still active today.
- Barack Obama, "A Proclamation..." White House, 2009-JUN-01, at: http://www.whitehouse.gov/
- Charlie Butts and Jody Brown, "Obama appoints transgender LGBT activist," OneNewsNow.com. 2010-JAN-07, at: http://www.onenewsnow.com/
- Jessica Hamzelou, "Transsexual differences caught on brain scan," New Scientist, 2011-JAN, at: http://www.newscientist.com/
- Jennifer Reitz, "What transsexuality is," at: http://transsexual.org/
||Tom Murray produced and directed a video concerning transsexuality. It
is titled: "Almost Myself: Reflections on mending and transcending
gender." See: http://www.almostmyself.com/
Copyright © 2007 to 2011 by Ontario Consultants on
Original posting: 2007-JUN-08
Latest update and review: 2011-DEC-26
Author: B.A. Robinson