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Introduction to Transgender Psychology
Types of Transgender People
The term transgender can be used to refer to people who dress, behave or identify in ways counter to societal expectations for the gender they were assigned at birth. This presentation, behavior or gender identity may be with a binary gender (masculine/feminine or male/female), or it may be a mixture of genders (genderqueer or other non-binary associations), or it could be an absence of gender (androgyny).
Not all people who are seen as transgressing gender norms will consider themselves transgender, however. It's largely based on self-identification, as well how narrow gender roles are defined in one's given society. Women wearing trousers and engaging in male dominated careers are not generally seen as transgender in any way. Some men who cross-dress may not consider themselves transgender either.
Gender Identity Disorder
People who suffer from significant distress over their assigned gender are said to suffer from gender dysphoria, owing to the presence of gender identity disorder. This is a formal diagnosis associated with transsexualism, which is one of the most extreme forms of gender dysphoria. GID can also describe transgender people who never feel the need to transition as transsexuals. The majority of children who are diagnosed with GID will outgrow it, while the majority of adults diagnosed with it will not.
Causes of Transgenderism
The root cause behind why some people are transgender and the vast majority of people are not has yet to be agreed upon by science, and perhaps hasn't even been theorized yet. The psychological theories regarding the origins of transgenderism tend to focus on two schools of thought.
One is that it's the result of a misplaced sex drive, typified by Ray Blanchard's theory of autogynephilia. This theory suggests that male-to-female transvestism begins as a sexual fantasy of a man seeing himself as a woman, which then progresses to transsexuality when the man desires to become a woman in order to realize this sexual fantasies. While this description is embraced by some cross-dressers, it's generally seen as insulting and unhelpful to transsexuals. This is especially true because it only describes male-to-female transsexuals.
The second, older school of thought is that transgenderism is caused by rearing and/or childhood trauma. The theory goes that the influence of parents or some traumatic event caused the child to withdraw from his or her assigned gender. The experiences of intersex individuals as well as others who were forcibly reared as the opposite sex have strongly pointed to this being unlikely. Instead, current evidence points to gender identity being largely internal and not subject to external forces, though gender expression may be influenced.
Future psychological theories for transgenderism may be able to account for these flaws. Alternately, a purely physical or genetic cause may be found.
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