Basic TG Info
The Transgendered Phenomenon, An Introduction of Transgendered Individuals
What is Transgender?
The majority of the population believes gender identity and biological gender are the same. Webster’s Dictionary defines gender as: the behavioral, cultural, or psychological traits typically associated with one sex. A small although significant part of society believes gender is related to how one feels about him- or herself, regardless of biological gender. Members of this group (approximately 2% of the population) classify themselves as transgendered.
The majority of textbooks consider this transgendered group to be comprised predominately of genetic males. I believe that an equal number of females would fall into this group if society were not accepting of females pursuing male roles, dressing in male-styled clothing, participating in predominately male hobbies, etc.
I have seen many varying definitions on the web and in publications of the following words and have even tried to define them myself. Rather than put my own interpretation on them, I consulted Webster’s Dictionary. All of the following are part of the trans-community.
Transgender - exhibiting the appearance and behavioral characteristics of the opposite sex
Gender-benders - A person who dresses and behaves like a member of the opposite sex
Transvestite - a person and especially a male who adopts the dress and often the behavior typical of the opposite sex, especially for purposes of emotional or sexual gratification
Transsexual - A person with a psychological urge to belong to the opposite sex that may be carried to the point of undergoing surgery to modify the sex organs to mimic the opposite sex
Crossdressing - The wearing of clothes designed for the opposite sex
Drag queen - A male homosexual who dresses as a woman
Intersex - An individual having intermediate sexual characters between a typical male and a typical female (Hey, ask Webster.)
Hermaphrodite - An animal or plant having both male and female reproductive organs
Androgyne - An individual having the characteristics or nature of both male and female
The APA (American Psychological Association) classifies the above gender identity disorders or Transvestic Fetishism when the individual develops obsessive-compulsive tendencies and has significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning. Transvestic Fetishism is categorized under paraphilias, not under gender identity disorders.
The transgender community has generally divided itself into a few classifications: transsexuals, crossdressers, drag queens and hermaphrodites. Although this makes for a simple classification, in reality it is much murkier.
Excluding drag queens and hermaphrodites, we are left with over 95% of the transgender community. The two classifications, crossdressers and transsexual, will include everyone from the man who wears pantyhose under his suit pants when he goes to work on Wall Street to the post-op transsexual living full time, unnoticed, as a female. It is important to recognize that these two categories are on a continuum, with the individuals separated only by degree of involvement. In other words, not all transsexuals have a final goal of becoming a woman, and not all crossdressers sporadically don a dress.
Once an individual decides where s/he is on this spectrum, s/he will then be more prepared to deal with the problems that face transgendered individuals. Am I the only one who feels this way and does this? Why do I crossdress? Am I gay? Why do I feel guilty or embarrassed about crossdressing? Should I go out in public? Should I come out to anyone, and if so, to whom should I come out? How far should I go? Should I pursue surgery? What thoughts should remain fantasies? Which restroom should I use?
Am I a transgender?
A question that plagues many transgendered individuals is, Why do I feel a need to wear women’s clothing? or Why do I feel I am in the wrong body? Crossdressing usually starts at a very early age. Most transgendered report their earliest awareness of gender identity as being six to eight years old. However for clinically referred children, onset of cross-gender interest and activities is usually between ages 2 and 4, and some parents report that their child has always had cross-gender interest. (DSM-IV) This would tend to indicate that for the group as a whole, the six to eight range is only age of awareness, not the age at which cross-gender interest begins.
It is human nature to look for a reason, and a transgendered individual will usually try to determine if something in the past has caused this behavior. Even if some justification is rationalized, it doesn’t change one’s behavior. Throughout life, crossdressers often think it is just a fetish or a habit and try to quit, only to come back weeks, months, or years later. Quitting is often referred to as purging. Something will happen, such as being caught or almost caught and a crossdresser will decide to quit. He will dispose of all his female clothing and makeup. I hate to think of all the times I did this in the past. After a period of time--a few days to several months--he will go a buying binge and re-acquire clothing and makeup. In rare cases, a crossdresser may go several years or quit entirely. There are advantages to purging--makeup stays fresh and clothing will be in style. On a more serious note, family and social life may benefit, but each individual has to decide what the emotional toll of trying to quit will be on him.
Some recent studies on male-to-female transsexuals indicate that the hypothalamus in the brain is more like that of a woman than a man. Perhaps this is true in varying degrees for all transgendered. Whatever the reason, transgendered individuals crossdress because they do. This is probably not the answer one is looking for, but the fact is that there is not a definitive answer.
The idea that transgendered are gay is a common misconception. There is no relationship between gender identity and sexual preference. There are gay and bisexual transgendered individuals, but the majority of the transgendered community is heterosexual. So why are gay bars the bar of choice for transgendered? Thank the drag queens for this. Drag entertainment has been associated with the gay community for many years, so crossdressing is a familiar sight. Also, the gay community has had many of the same prejudices that the transgendered community suffers from. The gay community as a whole is accepting, but don’t expect this to carry through on an individual basis. Many gay men, also, just don’t understand that gender identity and sexual preference are unrelated terms.
Being mistaken as gay can at times work to the advantage of a transgendered individual. A tg has very little protection under the law against discrimination (employment, housing, etc.) or hate crimes(some states including Missouri now include transgender in their hate crime sentencing provisions and new laws and regulations have been enacted 2000-2010, so check the internet for latest updates.), unlike members of the gay community, and to be mistaken as gay may provide some needed protection in these areas. Another advantage is that women tend to be more open because they do not feel threatened by a gay man. If you are planning on getting out, shopping or to a straight bar, it is nice to meet some friendly people, so don’t be to quick to dispel their misconception.
Guilt and Fears
Guilt is an emotional struggle that many transgendered suffer from. What actions have caused the guilt? You are not the only one who is transgendered. There is nothing wrong with being transgendered, or crossdressing. Repeat that to yourself often, like an affirmation. Some actions taken to hide it may be wrong and will probably cause more guilt and anxiety.
|So you've been a naughty little boy, putting on your mother's (sister's, wife's) shoes. Well maybe you have been naughty--why don't you go out and get your own shoes?|
This is not to say that everyone should know you are transgendered, but depending upon your involvement, some other people may have a right to know. (On a personal note I have had extraordinarily good fortune in coming out, and now my only feeling of guilt is that I am having too much fun.) Unfortunately, society has only just begun to accept the transgendered. Many people don’t approve; many are indifferent. Find a transgender support group or social group and talk with other transgendered. This can help to overcome the feelings of guilt and anxiety.
Fear is another emotion that TG’s have to deal with. Many fears are very real and should not be taken lightly: fear of violence, job loss, disruptions or loss of relationships, loss of credibility, etc. As mentioned before, there are very few laws protecting transgendered from discrimination or hate crimes. Other fears are not associated with a tangible loss: being ridiculed or rebuffed by strangers or sales clerks. For some additional thoughts on fears, follow this link.
The most frequent reason an individual seeks psychological help is to determine whether he should come out to a loved one. Two excellent articles are linked here: Acceptance? Try to see it from the other side and Why Bother Coming Out? (Remember the Spectrum.) There are numerous articles on the web about coming out; most are positive some are not. Consider who is writing an article and remember it is always easier to write about a success story. Coming out involves a great deal of risk, but so does hiding one's feelings. Each individual is different, has different circumstances and must determine what is best for him and his family. Again depending on involvement (where an individual is on the transgender spectrum), support can be important. Look for support through clubs , trusted friends, Internet, etc.
Is sexual reassignment surgery (SRS) the answer? At some point in many transgender individuals' lives, they consider surgery as an option to making their life feel right. For some this is just a fantasy, for others an obsession and eventually a reality. Some of these individuals are transsexual, some are crossdressers. The line between the two groups can become quite blurred at times because very few individuals fit neatly into the rigid definitions. Before proceeding down this path, gather as much information as possible. There is an abundance of information on the web written by transsexuals and therapist. Examine your inner self, see a therapist, and be honest with yourself and others.
Check out Lynn Conway's or Madeline H. Wyndzen's site. Excellent websites for more in-depth articles on the topic of transsexual/transgender. Two stories of success. Unfortunately, to give a true perspective of transitioning it would be informative to hear accounts from the other side of the spectrum. But, how many want to write about their failures.
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