Transgender:The Challenges Ahead
Confusingterminologies Associated with Transgender
TheAmerican Psychological Association has a special definition of theword transgender preferring to define it as an umbrella word thatstand for the gender identities, expressions, and behaviours ofpeople in any given community. Such behaviours are inconsistent withthe widely accepted sexual identities and actions that societyassigns people. From this classification, one can easily believe thatthe word is just a simple term that does not demand an extra inquiryin the form of research. In order to understand the complexities thatthe term brings in the world of research, various other terms, sex,sexual identity, and general usage of the word transgender have to bedefined1.This section of the paper dedicates itself to the definition of someof these terms, as well as profiling the historical evolution of theconcept transgender. The medical fraternity in the United States hasmade some tremendous steps to facilitate shifts in classificationsand definition of the confusing word. This section, therefore, triesto explain what transgender is by exploring the views of others andthe common misconceptions.
Beforemoving on to offer a clear understanding of the word transgender,differences among the confusing words namely, sex, gender, as wellas sexual identity, will be explored. Stryker (2008) puts it that,gender is never similar as sex and his analysis confirms that the twoterms are often conflated while some researchers tend to use theminterchangeably2.The World Health Organization defines sex simply as a biological andphysiological feature that differentiates a man from a woman. In thesame way, the American Psychological Association tends to support thedefinition offered since it notes that sex is all about anindividual’s status that categorizes him or her as male, female, orintersex. In the two definitions, the word biological is a constantand it, therefore, means that the biological sex is likely to beidentified at birth3.Gender, on the other hand, is a social construction of society, whichis based on the roles assigned to the person, the general behaviours,day-to-day activities, and certain special attributes that areassociated with either men or women. In the traditional society, thewoman was expected to be a caregiver in any family setup whose majorroles were related to the home, such as cooking, looking after thechildren, and various types of cleaning. Men were supposed to be theproviders of the family and as such, they would go outside to work incompanies in order to provide for the family. However, thesetraditional views are no longer acceptable in the modern society dueto the presence of feminism groups.
Currentstudies, especially the one conducted by Shively and DeCecco (2010),suggest that at least four types of sexual identities exist, andthese comprise of biological sex, social sex-role, gender identity,as well as sexual orientation. The modern scholars, together with theAmerican Psychological Association, view gender identity as a conceptrepresenting the way in which an individual perceives him or herself.For instance, some members of society prefer identifying themselvesas male while others as females. Others prefer to use the wordtransgender, and this suggests that gender identity is verydissimilar from biological sex. As Shively and DeCecco would argue,gender identity is person’s basic confidence of being either maleor female4. The American Psychological Association goes on to give an additionalvariety of gender identity, especially when there is a conflictbetween biological sex and gender identity. The APA observes thatpeople identify themselves as transsexual, which is just a variety oftransgender. As the two scholars observe, gender is not an equivalentof gender identity because gender is closely related to the socialsex roles, which are the roles that individuals are forced to take upin order to be accepted as members of society. Sexual orientationperhaps is the most controversial because it refers to anindividual’s attraction (physical or sexual), which might be eitherway meaning either to a man or a woman irrespective of the sex.Explanation of these terminologies is critical to the understandingof the functionality of the individual in society, as this capturesclearly the biological usage, the identity preference, the socialviews, and attraction.
Evolutionof Transgender Phenomenon
Transgenderis not a new word to many researchers because Drescher and et al.(2012) notes that 19th-centuryscholars had already started looking at some issues surrounding theconcept. However, the scholars admit that the occurrence of thephenomena was minimal forcing the medical practitioners to term it asa disorder5.Psychopathology, which means the analysis of the brain defects andmental distress, was the field of a study mandated with theresponsibility of understanding the anomalies associated with genderat the time. Those who claimed to be transgender were considered sickand mental examination was recommended to help diagnose the diseasethat would be encouraging them to change their gender identities. Inthe late 19thcentury, studies focused on understanding some of the reasons thatwould force an individual to live a life contrary to his or hersexual type. Even in the mid 20thcentury, reported cases on transgender were will be categorized asabnormal and individuals suffering from the condition were referredto experts for guiding and counselling. Until then, transgender wasstill viewed in the same way as homosexuality, but Hirschfieldcarried out a study to dispel this misconception. The first sexreassignment surgery was undertaken in the 1920s in Europe.
Inthe United States, the first case was reported in 1952 when thetranssexual woman returned from Denmark after undergoing successfulsurgery. This individual had served in the Army as a draftee forquite some time before seeking to transform to a woman. The incidentserved as a wake-up call to the media, the medical fraternity, andthe public in general and intense medical examinations were performedafterwards. The medical practitioners were overwhelmed with thenumber of people wishing to change their sex to the opposite one andan entire medical training facility was set up in New York to trainenough practitioners to address the new challenge. Stigmatization wasrife in the public because people seeking to change identifies oridentify themselves with members of the opposite sex were vieweddifferently. Publications on the new trends in medical research wenton, but the issue has always been under tight scrutiny with itsmembers undergoing various challenges. The leading universities inthe United States, including John Hopkins, Stanford, Texas, andMinnesota tended to support those intending to change theiridentities. These institutions of high learning promised to identifythrough research the people wishing to be switch over through genitalsurgery and hormone treatment. The US media declared this concertedeffort by the universities a big science of transgender history. Inthe current international society, an individual has no issueundergoing a process that would help him or her convert to the genderhe or she prefers because specific guidelines exist.
Studiesindicate that transgender as a concept has undergone tremendousdevelopments, and the major one is the changes in definitions. TheWorld Health Organization came to the realization that the usage ofthe word disorder to refer to the transgender persons was wrong, andit gave the green light for the revision of the entire document thatreferred to this category of the population as sick. Sexuality andgender have been given a new classification after a rigorous reviewof clinical data and extensive research into the issue. Consequently,transgender is no longer viewed as a disease instead people havecome to appreciate the reality that it is a condition that is likelyto face any person in life. Initially, the usage of words, such asshe-male, he-she, shim, and gender-bender were common, but nowadays,these are derogatory words that are unacceptable, and if found using,one is likely to encounter a court battle resulting in harshpunishment. Any transgender person should only be referred by thegender in which he or she prefers, and any other reference is notallowed meaning their rights are appreciated in society. This doesnot depend on whether their bodies have been altered in anysignificant way. Pressure is on the US military to accept reality andimitate what is taking place in the society.
Sitterly,Daniel. TransgenderSeparation Decision Authority.Official Guidance Memorandum, Washington: Department of Defense,2015.
AmericanPsychological Association. (2011). Definitionsof terms: Sex, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation. Retrievedfrom http://www.apa.org/search.aspx? query=definition of terms: sex,gender, gender identity sexual orientation
Drescher,J., Cohen-Kettenis, P., & Winter, S. (2012). Minding the body:Situating gender identity diagnoses in the ICD-11. InternationalReview of Psychiatry,568– 577.
Stryker,S. (2008). Transgenderhistory.Berkeley, CA: Seal Press.
Shively,M., & De Cecco, J. (2010). Components of sexual identity.Journal of homosexuality,3(1),41–18.
1Sitterly, Daniel. Transgender Separation Decision Authority. Official Guidance Memorandum, Washington: Department of Defense, 2015.
2 Stryker, S. (2008). Transgender history. Berkeley, CA: Seal Press.
3 American Psychological Association. (2011). Definitions of terms: Sex, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/search.aspx? query=definition of terms: sex, gender, gender identity sexual orientation
4 Shively, M., & De Cecco, J. (2010). Components of sexual identity. Journal of homosexuality, 3(1), 41–18.
5 Drescher, J., Cohen-Kettenis, P., & Winter, S. (2012). Minding the body: Situating gender identity diagnoses in the ICD-11. International Review of Psychiatry, 568– 577.