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After "The Transsexual Phenomenon"

On January 9th, 1967 Harry Benjamin published a paper in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) called "Transvestism and Transsexualism". Here is the abstract:

“I have seen and examined more than 300 transvestites and transsexuals during the past 14 years, and am at present engaged in active research on this problem with a number of collaborators, under a grant from the Erickson Educational Foundation. I have just published the first medical book on the subject, The Transsexual Phenomenon (Julian Press, New York 1966).

Dr. Hastings has given a clear and comprehensive summary, especially as to the management of transsexualism (197:599, 1966). Dr. Barker is right in differentiating transvestism from transsexualism (198:488, 1966), but he did not emphasize the fact that transvestism can be merely a symptom of transsexualism, which is a psychopathological condition, based on a disturbance of gender role orientation. According to recent animal experiments by Seymour Levine and Roger Gorski, transsexualism may indeed have a neuro-endocrine, prenatal origin, with transvestism as its most frequent symptom in later life”

This article re-emphasizes two findings that Benjamin espoused and which showed up in the “Transsexual Phenomenon”. Namely that:

1) Transvestism and transsexualism are likely related to one another.
2) What we now term gender dysphoria is likely a prenatally determined condition.

We shouldn't be despondent that Benjamin, like other researchers today, saw this condition as psychopathological because in fact it is. Its just that people suffering from it don't perceive it that way any more than the schizophrenic off his meds often doesn't realize he suffers from a condition. The myth one uses here is that "I am a woman therefore I must transition" which is literally untrue but which helps us rationalize something as dramatic as a physical transformation.

However, if the remedy works for some people and they are happy then what difference does it make? the problem only comes for those who opt for this course of treatment and then regret what they have done. But this is why there are so many safety gates before it is approved.

I will try to post excerpts from this paper in the near future.

Comments

  1. This article re-emphasizes two findings that Benjamin espoused and which showed up in the “Transsexual Phenomenon”. Namely that:

    1) Transvestism and transsexualism are likely related to one another.


    Please forgive me if I disagree, neither this paper nor the book infer that transsexualism is related to transvestism, what they say is that transvestism is often an indicator (symptom) displayed by a transsexual.

    That is NOT the same as saying, they are related to one and other

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    Replies
    1. I repeat Blanchard's analysis from the excerpt in my recent post:

      "The various similarities between transvestism and heterosexual transsexualism suggest that these conditions may be basically one and the same disorder. This notion is reinforced by the fact that many cases of heterosexual transsexualism seem to have developed out of transvestism. This apparent progression was described in memorable, if somewhat lurid, terms by Lukianowicz (1959): "a hitherto typical case of transvestism becomes acutely disturbed, ... turns, as it were, malignant, and degenerates into a full-blown picture of transsexualism with its gloomy prognosis" (p. 52).

      The relationship between these two conditions obviously requires some explanation. One view proposes, in essence, that heterosexual transsexualism arises as a complication of transvestism (Lukianowicz 1959; Meyer 1974; Person and Ovesey 1974). There is no objective evidence for this view, which is based entirely on clinical impressions; one might just as well turn this interpretation on its head and propose that transvestism is an arrested form of heterosexual transsexualism. A third plausible hypothesis is that transvestism and heterosexual transsexualism are related syndromes that share one or more etiological elements; that transvestism in its purest form does not follow a progressive course, whereas heterosexual transsexualism does; and that heterosexual men who become acutely gender dysphoric in adulthood were probably somewhat different from pure transvestites from the beginning. Because we do not actually know the etiological factors in either condition, it is quite difficult to sort out these various interpretations at present."

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    2. and now Harry Benjamin himself:

      ""The relationship between transvestism (TVism) and transsexualism (TSism) deserves further scrutiny and reflection. Both can be considered symptoms or syndromes of the same underlying psychopathological condition, that of a sex or gender role disorientation and indecision. Transvestism is the minor though the more frequent, transsexualism the much more serious although rarer disorder.

      Cross-dressing exists (with few exceptions) in practically all transsexuals, while transsexual desires are not evident (although possibly latent) in most transvestites. It seems to depend upon how deeply and for what congenital or acquired reasons the sex and gender orientation is disturbed, whether the clinical picture of transvestism or transsexualism will emerge. The picture of TSism may first appear to be merely TVism, but whether this indicates a progressive character is by no means certain. (See chapter 4, "The Male Transsexual").

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  2. You said that we must not consider this condition a mental disease.
    I could agree, how can we know if a person is sane or not?! (mentally)
    But do you know that now is emerging a new condition exactly like transsexualism but with a different target... it is called BIID...

    Some months ago I found a site in which there was a post about BIID. Under that post, there were a lot of comments from who had this condition. They were saying that they have the right to do whatever they want to be happy, even cutting they arms if necessary. They said they're not mentally disturbed, they0re sane... as transsexual people!... so what? Must we always obey?!
    If tomorrow I feel "cat", could I have the permission for surgery?

    How can i distinguish if it is a serious condition or not? Basing on the "numbers"? If they're a lot then is serious and is not an illness?!

    These problems will be resolved one day with the study of the brain and, especially, with the development of virtual reality. (I am serious)

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    Replies
    1. Mario I am not advocating surgery quite the opposite. I am arguing that gender dysphorics should be careful about an operation that they may potentially regret down the line. It is an illness in the sense that the brain likely did not develop normally and it has not been exposed to the right endocrine blend (perhaps not enough androgen exposure). I think that we should develop alternate treatments when at all possible but it has been shown that the most extreme cases only respond to full transition.

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    2. I am perfectly sane but understand that I have a condition that I must manage. To think "I am a woman therefore I must transition" is a false premise because there is no evidence for it. But I treat my condition with something that works for me otherwise the anxiety would be too great. Please read more of Anne Vitale and what she has to say on the topic of gender expression deprivation anxiety. I will post more in this in the near future

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