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Some words from Harry Benjamin...

I wanted to post a rather brilliant excerpt from Harry Benjamin’s Transsexual Phenomenon published in 1966. This particular part speaks much to my own confusion in centering where I am in the spectrum of things and why I need to fine tune my thinking in order to find my own balance:

“Coming back to the differences between transvestism and transsexualism., another simpler and more unifying concept and a corresponding definition may have to be considered. That is, that transvestites with their more or less pronounced sex and gender indecision may actually all be transsexuals, but in varying degrees of intensity. A low degree of largely unconscious transsexualism can be appeased through cross-dressing and demands no other therapy for emotional comfort. These are transvestites (Group 1).

A medium degree of transsexualism makes greater demands in order to restore or maintain an emotional balance. The identification with the female cannot be satisfied by wearing her clothes alone. Some physical changes, especially breast development, are requirements for easing the emotional tension. Some of these patients waver between transvestitic indulgences and transsexual demands for transformation (Group 2). For patients of a high degree of transsexualism (the "true and full-fledged transsexual"), a conversion operation is the all-consuming urge, as mentioned earlier and as a later chapter will show still more fully. Cross-dressing is an insufficient help, as aspirin for a brain tumor headache would be (Group 3). It must be left to further observations and investigations in greater depth to decide whether or not transvestitic desires may really be transsexual in nature and origin. Many probably are, but the frequent fetishistic transvestites may have to be excluded.

If these attempts to define and classify the transvestite and the transsexual appear vague and unsatisfactory, it is because a sharp and scientific separation of the two syndromes is not possible. We have as yet no objective diagnostic methods at our disposal to differentiate between the two. We - often - have to take the statement of an emotionally disturbed individual, whose attitude may change like a mood or who is inclined to tell the doctor what he believes the doctor wants to hear. Furthermore, nature does not abide by rigid systems. The vicissitudes of life and love cause ebbs and flows in the emotions so that fixed boundaries cannot be drawn.

It is true that the request for a conversion operation is typical only for the transsexual and can actually serve as definition. It is also true that the transvestite looks at his sex organ as an organ of pleasure, while the transsexual turns from it in disgust. Yet, even this is not clearly defined in every instance and no two cases are ever alike. An overlapping and blurring of types or groups is certainly frequent”

When you are not positive about where you stand you just have to dig a little deeper....


  1. It is all in the terminology, isn't it. You can read that just any way you want. The bottom line is what works for you.

    Another thing that is of note in Benjamin's work, is that nowhere in his thinking are the words, "hierarchy" or "better than". There are several references to "different" or "difference".

  2. Absolutely and my conondrum if you will is that I am the equivalent of a transvestite with just enough transsexual tendencies to make my balancing act more than a little tricky. These are the waters I must navigate.

  3. I am appreciating more than ever the simplicity of benjamin's writing and lack of jargon. You have been right to stick with it as one of best references for people searching although ultimately it is up to you.

  4. Thank you for that. I would encourage you to read the study thoroughly, including the appendixes. There is a lot of good stuff in there. However, while knowing who you are is paramount in figuring out how to deal with your dilemma, the bottom line remains what you do about it. AND...How that effects the rest of your life and those you love and that love you.


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