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Transgenderism, transsexualism, and gender identity

Its prevalence

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Measurement of the prevalence of transsexuality:

Its prevalence is measured or estimated in various ways, based on the number of:

bulletPersons experiencing gender dysphoria.
bulletPersons who have socially transitioned to their perceived gender.
bulletTranssexual people who have sought help.
bulletPatients who have undergone hormone therapy.
bullet Patients who would like to have Gender Reassignment Surgery (GRS)
bullet The number of patients who have actually undergone GRS.

Unfortunately, these criteria give very different results.

As society becomes more tolerant and understanding of transsexuality, as treatments progress, and as GRS and hormone treatments become more generally available, more existing transsexuals will probably come out of the closet and be counted. Thus the apparent number of transsexuals will probably increase over time.

Estimates of the prevalence of transsexuality:

One obvious factor is the rapid rise in the prevelance of transsexuality over time, as specialists realize that the condition is far more common that was originally believed.

bullet J Walinder made the first systematic study of transsexualism in 1968 . He concluded that the "... minimum total of transsexuals in Sweden on DEC-31, 1965" was 1:37,000 male to female transsexuals and 1:103,000 female to male transsexuals. However, he noted that his estimates may well be grossly underestimated because there was no generally accepted definition of "transsexual," only small sample sizes were available, available treatments were fairly recent when compared to a person's life span, and the difficulty of gathering data because many transsexual people had not approached therapists. 5

bullet Wikipedia reports:

"There are no reliable statistics on the prevalence of transsexualism. The DSM-IV (1994) quotes prevalence of roughly 1 in 30,000 assigned males and 1 in 100,000 assigned females seek gender reassignment surgery in the USA."

"One detailed estimate of the incidence of transsexuality is from the Amsterdam Gender Dysphoria Clinic. The data, spanning more than four decades in which the clinic has treated roughly 95% of Dutch transsexuals, gives figures of 1:10,000 birth-assigned males and 1:30,000 assigned females."

"Other bodies report figures of between 1:1000 or even 1:500."

"No consensus has been agreed upon. Some interest groups maintain this is probably because of various governments' unwillingness to fund treatment accordingly." 1

bulletP. Wilson, et al. conducted a study among all general practitioners in Scotland during the late 1990s. Among patients over the age of 15, the study found a prevalence of 1 per 12,200 patients with an approximate sex-ratio of 4 MTF (male-to-female) to each FTM (female-to-male) patient. They noted that:

"One-third of gender-dysphoric patients known to practices had registered in the preceding 12 months, suggesting that patients with this condition are increasingly likely to present for medical care." 2

bulletF. Olyslager and L. Conway attempted to obtain a reliable estimate of the prevalence of MTF transsexualism -- the most common type. Their analysis of past studies came up with an estimated prevalence of:

bullet Prevalance of GRS: 1 in 4,500 to 1 in 2,000

bullet Prevalence of persons who want GRS: 1 in 2,000 to 1 in 1,000

But their analysis of more recent reports found:

bullet 1 in 500 individuals want GRS!

They concluded that: "Transsexuality is not that uncommon!" and that it is important that these data be generally recognized in order to improve health care for transgender people. 3

During 2007-SEP, Olyslager and Conway presented a paper at the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) international symposium in Chicago IL. The abstract of the paper states:

The most-cited estimates of the prevalence of transsexualism are based on counts of gender reassignments
in European clinics many years ago. Observing that reassignments have been in a 'start-up transient,' we extend those results by recalculating prevalence from the accumulating incidence data, taking into account birth, reassignment and death rates -- and then based on age-distributions of reassignment data, we determine the inherent number of persons who at some point inlife will undergo reassignment.

From this reanalysis of those early reports, we determine lower-bounds on the prevalence of the underlying condition of transsexualism to be between 1:1000 and 1:2000, using these reports' own data. We then present more recent incidence data and alternative methods for estimating the prevalence of transsexualism, all of which indicate that the lower bound on the prevalence of transexualism is at least 1:500, and possibly higher." 4

References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Transsexualism," Wikipedia, at:
  2. P. Wilson, et al., "The prevalence of gender dysphoria in Scotland: a primary care study," British Journal of General Practice, Vol. 49, #449, 1999-DEC, Pages 991-992, at:
  3. F. Olyslager & Lynn Conway, "On the calculation of the prevalence of transsexualism," at: This is a PowerPoint slide presentation.
  4. F. Olyslager & Lynn Conway, "On the calculation of the prevalence of transsexualism," at:
  5. J. Walinder, "Transsexualism: Definition, prevalence and sex distribution," Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, Vol. 203, Pages 255-257, 1968.

Copyright © 2007 to 2011 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Original posting: 2007-JUN-08
Latest update: 2011-APR-19
Author: B.A. Robinson

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