Mildred Brown's observations on transsexual motivations

Many people who have experienced transsexualism consider True Selves to be one of the finest and most readable overviews on the topic for those who are unfamiliar with the issues. The authors, Dr. Mildred Brown and Chloe Rounsley, make some interesting observations on transsexual motivation which are worth sharing in the context of the Bailey assertion that there are two "types" of transsexuals.

Traditionally recognized transsexual motivation

As we learned in Causes of transsexualism: current findings, twenty experts in the field state the prevailing view about gender dysphoria:

The most extreme form, in which individuals need to adapt their phenotype with hormones and surgery to make it congruent with their gender identity, is called transsexualism.

Other possibilities besides the traditionally recognized transsexual motivation:

As the experts note, transsexualism is the most extreme form of gender dysphoria, but it is clearly not the only reason someone might seek feminization or masculinization.

Dr. Brown has observed in her clinical experience several other motivations. In addition to the traditionally recognized reason for seeking feminization and living as women (to bring mind and body into congruence), Brown notes at least 10 other potential motivations. Pages 106-107 of her book list some alternate motivations that may occur:

1. Gay men and lesbians who confuse their sexual orientation with the desire to change sex.

2. Cross-dressers who discover that they enjoy the clothes of the other sex so much that they want to become the other sex.

3. Men and women who are uncomfortable with the gender-personalities and sex-roles assigned by society because of their sex.

4. Men with severe erection problems: Because they cannot have sex as men, some want to become women.

5. Victims of sexual assault or abuse, who therefore want to distance themselves as much as possible from the bodies in which they were victimized. If one result of the sexual abuse is that they cannot function sexually as the sex in which they were born, they hope that becoming the other sex will put all the trauma behind them.

6. Persons who dislike the behavior they have fallen into in their original sex —e.g. rape, child-molestation, exhibitionism, and other anti-social or criminal behavior. They want to get rid of the parts of their bodies —usually penises—that have led them astray.

7. Criminals who wish to change their identities to escape capture by the police.

8. Munchausen syndrome: People who crave medical attention, even though there is nothing wrong with them.

9. Individuals with psychiatric disorders, who have delusions that they are the other sex.

10. Individuals with multiple personality disorder. At least one personality believes it is the other sex. But a sex-change could create serious problems for the other personalities.

Those with non-traditional motivations often desire to be seen as "transsexual" as well.

Some people who seek feminization or masculinization for one of the 10 alternative reasons above are deeply invested in getting grouped with those who do it for the traditionally recognized reason. They self-identify as transsexuals and describe themselves as "real transsexuals," even though their motivations and behavior seem to fall outside what is traditionally considered "transsexual" by medical experts.

For many years, those seeking feminization who were not traditionally-recognized transsexuals were denied medical services. For this reason, people with non-traditional motivations have considerable interest in claiming that anyone seeking feminization is "transsexual." It's more socially acceptable than to say you have a paraphilia or other reason for seeking feminization.

One strategy some people like Anne Lawrence have used for gaining more social acceptance has been to expand the term "transsexual" to include the motivations listed above, and to lump these motivations using a made-up term they believe covers almost anyone seeking feminization: "autogynephilia."

As time goes on, I will explain how this concept comes in conflict with traditionally recognized transsexual motivation. I'll also explain why many experts and transsexual women consider this term, and what it supposedly describes, to be vague and inaccurate.

Other resources on True Selves

WEB LINK: True Selves, with customer reviews (on Amazon website)

WEB LINK: True Selves, with reader comments (on IFGE website)

WEB LINK: Book Review: True Selves (on Press For Change website)