|Notes on Gender Role Transition|
Anne Vitale PhD
Although it is a complex and only partially understood phenomenon, transsexualism is generally defined in simplistic terms. For example: The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition defines a transsexual as:
1. One who wishes to be considered by society as a member of the opposite sex.
2. One who has undergone a sex change.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary defines it this way:
1. The state of being a transsexual.
2. The desire to change one's anatomic sexual characteristics to conform physically with one's perception of self as a member of the opposite sex.
WordNet, an online lexical reference system expands the definition somewhat: Transsexualism--n : condition in which a person assumes the identity and permanently acts the part of the gender opposite to his or her biological sex
The medical definition comes from an earlier edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders III (DSM III) (APA, 1987). (See Note 1)
The essential features of this heterogeneous disorder are a persistent sense of discomfort and inappropriateness about ones anatomic sex and a persistent wish to be rid ones genitals and to live as a member of the other sex. The diagnosis is made only if the disturbance has been continuous (not limited to periods of stress) for at least two years, is not due to another mental disorder, such as Schizophrenia and is not associated with physical intersex or genetic abnormality.
Although stinted and decidedly psychopathological in its tone, it does an accurate job describing only a portion of what it means to be transsexual. What it and the preceeding definitions lack is the more meaningful, life defining, implication being transsexual entails. It is similar to describing married life by only describing the courtship and the wedding ceremony. Clearly we know that there is more to being married than just wanting and then getting married.
************* Note 1, Transsexualism was replaced in DSM IV (1994) with the term Gender Identity Disorder. *************
Note 1, Transsexualism was replaced in DSM IV (1994) with the term Gender Identity Disorder.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition,Copyright © 2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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