Psychology and Gender Identity Disorder
After finishing the reading by Sandy Stone I felt quite irked by the large number of sweeping statements about transsexual individuals that she reports. While I was reading through, it appeared to me that the definitions of transsexual and transsexuality that is used, both in the quotations that she addresses and sometimes in her own writing, seem a little narrow at times. What about the people who don’t want the genital surgery, the people who want the genital surgery but can’t get it, the people who don’t try to pass all of the time but who might still identify as transsexual? Curious about the extent of the possible differences in definitions I did a quick search online.
From a Google search with the key words “define:transsexual” (the underlining are mine)
Definitions of transsexual on the Web:
- a person who has undergone a sex change operation
- a person whose sexual identification is entirely with the opposite sex
- transsexual(a): overwhelmingly desirous of being, or completely identifying with, the opposite sex
- Transsexualism is a condition in which a person identifies with a physical sex different from the one that they were born with or assigned in cases where ambiguity of the child’s sex organs led to assigning them a physical sex. …
- transsexualism – condition in which a person assumes the identity and permanently acts the part of the gender opposite to his or her biological sex
- transsexuality – The state, condition, or properties of being transsexual; The psychological diagnosis of gender identity disorder
- An individual who is committed to altering his or her physical appearance—through cosmetics, hormones and, in some cases, surgery—to resemble the opposite sex.
- An individual whose gender identity does not match the sex that was assigned to them at birth. Many transsexual people will seek hormonal and/or …
- A person who believes that he or she is psychologically akin to the opposite gender and feels trapped in one’s biological sex. …
- Someone who feels he or she is the opposite of his or her biological sex. They may or may not want to change their body to correspond to how they …
- A condition where a person strongly feels a belonging to the opposite biological sex sometimes described as being trapped in a wrong body from birth. Want to correct their body into the desired sex and want to “change sex” in a social, medical and legal sense. …
- transsexuality – is a profound form of gender dysphoria where there is a conviction of being “trapped in the wrong body” and the need to express oneself …
- transsexualism – A term used to describe a male or female that feels a strong identification with the opposite sex and experiences considerable distress because of …
While the genre of all of the definitions appears very similar, each definition has some little quirk that not all of the other definitions necessarily addressed or agreed with. Sometimes the definition necessitates a sex change operation, other times it is simply the desire to be the opposite sex. This brings up a question about children who have been assigned a sex at birth through surgery for one reason or another. If they are not cognizant of it and can’t consciously desire it are they transsexuals? If, later in life, they disagree with the assignment and wish to return to their “original” sex (whichever way that is measured) are they then transsexuals? Although I do feel that identities should only come from the personal labeling of the individual, it is no secret that the larger world labels others with or without their permission as well. One example of this is the need for the surgeons to develop some sort of criteria and diagnosis for the individuals who came to them for sex reassignment surgery.
Thinking in this vein, my thoughts moved on to my Abnormal Psychology class. I wondered what the DSM-IV-TR (the manual for psychologists that lists all of the criteria for diagnosable behaviors, etc.) had to say on all of this. To avoid making this an even longer post I’ll just link to the DSM entry for Gender Identity Disorder that includes transsexualism that I found online. Click here. The criteria seem to have advanced since the surgeons’ first attempts in Stone’s piece, but I still think that something doesn’t quite feel right about it, especially the use of so much stereotyping.