The gender delusion theory

September 27, 2010 at 7:08 am Leave a comment

“I feel like a lizard trapped in a human body. Somebody help turn me into a lizard!” This sarcastic comment reveals a deep distrust among some critics about the legitimacy of the transsexual’s condition. This commentator is also likely to compare us transsexuals to a psychotic person who believes that he/she is god. Society classifies the psychotic person as mentally ill and usually treats him or her with anti-psychotic medication and talk therapy. As transsexuals, however, we are treated with hormone therapy and often undergo major surgery to align our body with our gender “delusion”. To our critics, this is outrageous. But what these critics seem to disregard is that in the scientific studies performed on transsexuals, psychotherapy and the administration of drugs have not proven effective in helping us.

In previous posts I have spoken about the existence of intersex individuals: these are people who do not have the luxury of being born with a clearly gendered body. People with androgen insensitivity syndrome (AIS), for example, may live their early years thinking they are a girl only to discover later on, usually when they try to have children, that their chromosomal makeup is in fact male (XY). Their condition is the result of their body not being able to process testosterone. As a consequence, they do not experience the masculinizing effects that boys go through: a deepening of the voice, hair growth, development of a full-grown penis, dropped testicles. The majority of people with AIS live out their lives as women despite their “male” chromosomes. They get married, have jobs and live fulfilling lives as contributing members of society. Their sense of themselves as women is not a delusion but the combined consequence of the syndrome they were born with and their upbringing as girls.

A Japanese Canadian who lived in Canada during the Second World – a time when Canada gathered up Japanese men, women and children and sent them to internment camps – told me that my transsexualism reminded him of his own dilemma during his teenage years. The hate he experienced from Caucasian Canadians during WW II made him hate his own Japanese skin. If there was a surgery that could have made him white, he told me, he would have jumped at the chance. The difference is that for me as a female-to-male transsexual, there is a surgery available. Implied in his statement is that there is an element of choice involved in my decision to transition. After all, I could just as easily have decided to live as a masculine woman rather than going male. Really?

Transsexualism is not a lifestyle choice. It’s true, I did choose to transition from being perceived socially as female to being perceived as male. But it was a choice born out of necessity. Imagine getting up each day and having to conceal who you are day in, day out, in perpetuity. Imagine the emotional toll that would take on you. I tried to deny who I was, tried to learn the social cues associated with being a woman, but the more I tried, the more I felt disconnected from myself. I sank into a deep, very serious depression that took me to the brink of sanity. I went into therapy. I drank pills. Nothing helped. I was making myself ill by denying who I was.

I was at a crossroads. The choice was between death and life – death as a failed woman, or life as a transsexual man. I chose life. It took time but eventually my depression subsided. Today, I no longer need antidepressants. And I no longer self harm. Transitioning is not a panacea – all my problems didn’t disappear overnight, but it allowed me to move forward with living rather than slipping closer toward death.

Gender is a continuum. Some people experience mild gender dysphoria, i.e. a discomfort with their assigned gender role, but find that they are able to express their gender-transgressive feelings without resorting to hormone treatments or surgery. Others feel that they do not associate with the gender binary at all but fall outside of it. They may or may not request hormone therapy but rarely resort to surgery. These people may refer to themselves as genderqueer or transgender. Further along the gender continuum, we find the transsexual. The dysphoria present in transsexuals is so strong that medical intervention is the only solution we know to be effective. Until we find another way to dial down the dysphoria in transsexual patients who present for treatment, I suggest critics back off and let us be.

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Entry filed under: Gender, Masculinity, Mental Health, Transgender. Tags: , , , , , .

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