The single defining characteristic of transsexual syndrome is the complete and total rejection of the of one’s reproductive sex. Specifically, the physical “markers” caused by male- or female-typical hormone milieus as a person matures cause a feeling of horror and revulsion. The most important “marker” of course being the genitalia. This is why there can be no such thing as a “non op” transsexual. If a person does not experience the symptom of having a problematic physical condition, i.e. rejecting the “markers” on their body, then it is not transsexualism. This is also why phrases like “woman trapped in a man’s body” do not really make sense to the person suffering from transsexualism: It is my body, I am a woman… things are just messed up and need to be fixed. Phrases designed for gay men 100 years ago should be cast aside.
There has been great difficulty in isolating this syndrome in the brain up until recently. There have been some interesting differences found in the hypothalamus, which point to biological causation. There have also been some recent in vivo studies done with the emerging fMRI technology that show the actual operation of the brain as being “cross sexed” with respect to reproductive sex. But the answer remains elusive because we continue to remain mired in the gender paradigm.
The problem is that even though these scientists are approaching the issue from a neurological perspective, they overlay social concepts of “gender” onto the results and indeed even predicate some of the work on it. In certain cases, they look for “gender markers” in the brain and seek out behavioral roots in white and gray matter. While this may be fascinating in a general sense to understand the differences between men and women, it does little to help a diagnosis of transsexualism.
There is so much overlap in many of the aspects of the brain between the (reproductive) sexes and without a more laser-like focus on specifics it is unlikely we will see anything like a “man brain” or “woman brain” model developed for quite some time. Without looking at what makes the brains truly dichotomous, and instead focusing on broad cognitive factors that exhibit themselves as behavior, we are stuck at the level of regarding everything on a sliding scale. This of course feeds into the less-than-helpful gender paradigm.
The fMRI technology can be put to more interesting uses in this area. Recently, a researcher hypothesized that the rejection of the primary “sex marker”, the penis, by “MtF transsexuals” was due to its not having a representation in the brain. Post operatively, transsexual women do not experience “phantom limb” after correction. This is a common characteristic of all those who experience “true”, or “classic” transsexualism. The findings indicate quite simply that the penis is not recognized by the brain as it is in males, giving us our first clue about the real transsexual condition. This of course could lead to all sorts of problems such as the perception of deformity, etc. This is transsexualism in a nutshell.
Using this as the fundamental diagnostic criterion a series of studies could be done to model the rest of the “transsexual brain” to look for other commonalities and finally unlock the truth behind transsexual syndrome. A more comprehensive model of the brain would follow, exposing areas that are closer to absolute in their dimorphism and leaving aside those with too much overlap to be of use. This could be carried out in conjunction with post-mortem studies cross referenced to relate the function being observed to physical structures being cataloged in a laboratory setting.
In the meantime, knowledge of this test could be used to aid diagnosis and fast track those who need surgery. Having a physiological test for a (now) physiological problem would have a greatly beneficial effect on efforts to have transsexualism removed from the mental disorder category. We completely remove the identity paradigm from our situation. No more hack sexologists trying to rule us.
Medical practitioners could use this one-to-one relationship of test-to-surgical-need to change the nature of how transsexualism is treated by insurance companies, reinforcing the stance that the AMA recently took. In doing this, they open the pathway for broad reimbursement of treatment as we now have a physical test for a physical malady. This is a strong case for insurance coverage.
In the process of placing it squarely in the medical realm, we also remove transsexualism completely from the gay world. Everyone will finally be able to see that this is not a “gender” or sexual orientation issue, because being gay does not require any treatment.
The association of natural sexual orientation with the physiological pathology of transsexualism has been entirely harmful to the equal rights movement for lesbian women and gay men. As a further result, the discovery of the real transsexual condition by medicine would stop the co-option of Intersex by the remains of the discredited gay lobby, as the wall of separation comes crashing down and it becomes politically impossible to reach through TS to get to IS. This should help spur the creation of a new rights movement to replace the GLBT with something that works. Achieving this separate state stands to benefit everybody involved in the politics here.
Those who do show this “representation of the penis” in the brain when tested could still access “gender change” through existing GID protocols, up to and including surgery if indicated by psychiatrists and psychologists. Or as more and more “classic transsexual” people have been forced to do, via “elective” surgery overseas.
It is time that those of us who were born to difference once again become the focus of the treatment designed to help us. Catering to the needs of non-transsexual people has wreaked havoc on our already-poor public image and has decimated the system put in place to help us. We have done enough tearing down over the years. Now it’s time to start building again.