An Overview of Transsexuality

Essay by moviegirl1974College, UndergraduateA+, April 2004

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What is gender? It seems like a simple question. Most people would agree that there are two genders, male and female, and your gender is chosen by your genitals at birth. Unfortunately, this definition has little to do with true gender.

Gender can be more properly defined as "a societally constructed status to which one is assigned (boy or girl, woman or man)". Unlike sex, which refers specifically to one's anatomy, gender reflects attitudes, behaviors and characteristics that are associated with sex. A person who speaks quietly, wears dresses, and tends to cry during romantic movies is displaying the traits associated with the female gender, while a loud, boisterous sports player is more readily associated with the male gender.

Typically, one's sex and gender are congruent. Girls will behave as girls, and boys will behave as boys, doing so with little conscious thought and no difficulty. However, some have great difficulty adapting to the gender role which is appropriate for their sex.

When this difficulty begins to disrupt the person's ability to function, it is called Gender Dysphoria.

Gender Dysphoria is a widely misunderstood condition. Gender dysphoria is often confused with sexual orientation, chromosomal abnormalities, or paraphilias. In actuality, gender dysphoria has little to do with any of these things.

Gender dysphoria is listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, a listing of categories of mental disturbances and their characteristics. According to the DSM-IV, gender dysphoria is identified by "strong and persistent cross-gender identification", and "persistent discomfort" about one's assigned sex. In addition, there must be no physical intersex conditions present (an intersex condition is one in which the physical sex of the patient is not easily discerned, as in pseudohermaphroditism or androgen insensitivity syndrome)

Gender dysphoria has little to do with sexual orientation. Sexual orientation refers to one's...