Beginner's guide to GENDER part 2/2: identity, dysphoria, transexualism, sex reassignment

"Kawan-kawan semua anggap saya lelaki... tapi hati saya kata saya perempuan! Naluri dan jiwa saya pun rasa kewanitaan. Jadi saya terpaksa berlakon. Saya takut orang hina saya. Saya takut orang lain kata saya berdosa!"

"Saya pernah rasa nak bunuh diri sebab orang semua suka hina lelaki lembut. Tapi buat macam mana? Ini memang diri saya. Saya selalu rungsing. Kadang-kadang saya berfantasi tentang lelaki lain. Tapi saya macam minat dekat perempuan juga. Tolonglah saya!"

"My friends thought I was just one of the guys. But I couldn’t tell them how I was really feeling. The only way I could survive was to pretend all the time."

"I was feeling so depressed and frustrated, so I decided to take a risk and tell my family I was a transsexual. At first they didn’t believe me; they thought I was joking. Once they got over the initial shock, they have been understanding and supportive."

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Understanding transsexualism

A transsexual is a man or woman who has a lifelong feeling of being trapped in the wrong body. The sense of belonging to the opposite sex is so strong, they feel the only way to achieve peace is to change their body to match their mind.

Some go through the process of living in their chosen gender role, with the help of hormones, eventually leading to gender reassignment surgery. Others seek counselling or therapy to help them to cope with their confusion or discomfort.

The act of cross-dressing

Some young people and adults with gender dysphoria problems have an enduring desire to dress as the opposite sex. Some of them simply fantasise about it, but others put it into practice.

This is not something they do because it’s sexually exciting. Nor is there any desire to change their bodies to make them more feminine or masculine.

How common is gender dysphoria?

There’s no recent research on this, but referrals to gender clinics in the UK suggest that one in 30,000 men and one in 100,000 women seek gender reassignment surgery.

However, the Gender identity Research and Education Society (GiRES) estimates that there are about 15,000 people in the UK receiving some form of medical help for gender dysphoria, which is about one in 4,000 of the whole population.

More men than women experience gender dysphoria, (two or three men for every one woman). Boys with gender dysphoria outnumber girls by approximately five to one. This may be partly to do with the greater stigma attached to cross-gender behaviour in boys.

What are the causes of gender dysphoria?

Little is known about the causes. One theory is that changes in the brain before birth cause certain parts of it to develop the opposite pattern to their sex.

Significant proportions of male transsexuals have abnormally low levels of HY antigen. HY assists in the masculinising effect of the Y chromosome in men.

Research done in the Netherlands also suggests that the problem arises in the hypothalamus in the brain. This is involved in the early development of sexual differences within the brain, and controls the production of sex hormones throughout life.

Others believe that experiences, especially in early childhood, affect the outward expressions of gender behaviour.

People learn early on in life how to behave appropriately for their gender, and society places great store by this. People who don’t conform may be reprimanded and even punished!

The problems arise, therefore, from society’s attitude rather than in the person. The fact that psychiatry labels people as having a ‘disorder’ because they find they can’t ‘fit in’ with sexual stereotypes is a case in point.

There are no identifiable physical characteristics for gender dysphoria, and there is no ‘test’ for the condition.

Note on transexuals and hemaphrodites

Transsexuals by the way, have normal male (XY) or female (XX) chromosomes for their sex. There are no identifiable physical characteristics for gender dysphoria, and there is no ‘test’ for the condition.

Hermaphrodites and others with ambiguous sexual characteristics at birth are not transsexuals, and don’t necessarily experience gender dysphoria.
What are the common signs of gender dysphoria?

During childhood:

Boys may show a marked interest in traditionally feminine activities. They may prefer dressing in girls’ or women’s clothes.

A boy who openly admits wanting to be a girl is likely to be ‘corrected’, made fun of, told off severely or even punished. He is expected to grow out of it quickly.

A girl who wants to be a boy and expresses this is less likely to invite such criticism. She may be labelled as a tomboy, but is still expected to grow out of it.

Often, children do grow out of gender dysphoria. Only a small number of children continue to feel the same way in later adolescence.

Some children live openly in their chosen gender role, but have to endure the taunts of their peers as well as pressure from their parents.

Others cope by hiding their feelings and learning to play the gender role assigned to them, meanwhile going deeper into a private world of cross-gender fantasy and desire.

During adolescence:

At this stage in life, coping with gender dysphoria becomes far more complex, and different pressures are brought to bear on the different genders.

With puberty, hormones start to trigger body changes. A higher level of testosterone in a boy leads to a deeper voice, beard growth and more body hair.

Girls grow breasts and start their periods. This can all be highly distressing and confusing to young people with gender dysphoria!

Others may be attracted to heterosexual men and don’t think of themselves as homosexual. Anyone can go through a period of sexual experimentation, and people with gender dysphoria are no exception.

They may well try out transvestite or homosexual behaviour. A transvestite, or transvestic fetishist, will dress as a member of the opposite sex and will often get sexual excitement from it.

Transvestism is quite different from transsexualism and other forms of gender dysphoria. Transvestites don’t feel that they belong to the opposite sex or alienated from their own bodies or sexual organs.

* Untuk perbincangan lebih lanjut tentang isu-isu lelaki dan gender, sindrom disforia gender dan label-label sosial kontemporari seperti 'lelaki lembut', 'pondan' dan sebagainya, sila rujuk beberapa bab berkaitan dalam buku 'Menjejak Sang Neomaskulin' terbitan Buku Prima (2008).


This is but one posting in a series of postings regarding gender, gender dysphoria, gender identity disorder, male to female transexualism and the controversal issue of sex reassignment surgeries.

You might like to start your journey into gender discovery or affirmation by reading the concise but informative postings below (in chronological order). In time, more postings will follow!

Beginner's guide to GENDER part 1/2

Beginner's guide to GENDER part 2/2

Beginner's guide to GENDER (addendum)

Reitz Gender Test part 01 - Introduction

Reitz Gender Test part 02 - test items 1 to 16

Reitz Gender Test part 03 - test items 17 to 32

Reitz Gender Test part 04 - test items 33 to 48

Reitz Gender Test part 05 - test items 49 to 65

Reitz Gender Test part 06 - Typical Male classification

Reitz Gender Test part 07 - Feminine Male classification

Reitz Gender Test part 08 - Androgyne classification

Reitz Gender Test part 09 - Probable Transexual classification

Reitz Gender Test part 10 - Classic Transexual classification


Anonymous said...

what treatment can you give a person with GID, psychologically without any medication/drug/hormones.. -does it work-

Teech Airil Haimi said...

The answer to this question is mixed, at best.

Generally, counselling and therapy are both useful in the long run.

However, as with other psycho-type interventions, the onus is on the client to change her/his own behaviour - something that might be difficult for people with GID.

To make a long story short - how would you 'change' and try to become 'normal' when the feelings of confusion and being 'trapped in the wrong body' are extremely strong?

Hope my answer helped, whoever you might be.


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