The challenges ahead and current status of the Mexican Transsexual Movement

(en español)

Transsexual people exist and they can be found, as any other person, in every field of the human sphere, both public and private. They are housewives, students, aviation pilots, company owners, dancers, fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, brothers and sisters, neighbors and related others. Men and women with an imposed label, human beings just as any other except in regard of their gender/sexual identity variance.

This is because, unlike the majority of the population, in which their physical body matches fully with their self-identification as man or woman, in the transsexual population the body does not match with their brain-determined sex. That is why turns out to be necessary not a change of sex, but an adjustment that enables a match between the body and the brain in order to achieve a minimum of harmony and peace with their true sexual identity. In other words, the appearance (genitalia and other characteristics) and the outerly-labeled gender aside, transsexual individuals develop from their very gestation a sexual differentiation in their brains distinct to what their anatomy indicates, reason why from their inner self they claim out loud to match their true nature with what results as a false appearance.

Sexual Identity must not be mistaken with Sexual Orientation. The former refers to the feeling of being either man or woman; the latter, to the attraction or preference towards men or women. Both concepts are related to sexuality but they are independent.

But let us clarify some more the terms at stake here. Worth to notice are the latest research in regard of the gender identity disorders (headed by Netherlands Institute for Brain Research and Free University Hospital’s Department of Endocrinology, both in Amsterdam), which go back to 1995 and even continue to the present date. The studies have demonstrated reiteratively that the upheavals in gender identity could develop as a result of an altered interaction between genetic factors, the development of the brain and the action of the sexual hormones.

The fact is that among transsexual people persists a disarray between the brain sex and the phenotypic sex. This has been shown with measurements of the nucleus of the stria terminalis (BST), which is found in the hypothalamus and is one of the sexually-dimorphic brain nucleus (an essential brain area for sexual behavior) in the human being. The studies have proved that the volume of the central subdivision of the bed nucleus of the BST (BSTc) is larger in men than in women. A female-sized BSTc was found in male-to-female transsexuals (which measures nearly half the size of male´s). The size of the BSTc was not influenced by sex hormones in adulthood and was independent of sexual orientation. This shows a female brain structure in genetically male transsexuals and supports the hypothesis that gender identity develops as a result of an interaction between the developing brain and sex hormones [see: http://www.symposion.com/ijt/ijtc0106.htm]. Posterior studies also proved the opposite in the same fashion: male-sized BSTc was found in female-to-male transsexuals.

Male-to-female transsexuals have a typically female’s brain, and vice versa in the case of female-to-male transsexuals, with all the likes/dislikes and ways of perceiving and interacting with the world that their gender usually carries with it. In Mexico however, persons who embody the also called "Gender Dysphoria" found themselves virtually alone and enclosed in a perdurable existential anguish due to countless circumstances that converge against them.

In many occasions even the very authorities –destined to preserve the equality and law enforcement– in different situations evoke the controversial "public moral" (cited in a number of Penal Codes as part of a conservative, backward macho society) in order to harass and discriminate this sector of the population. Ignorance over the image of a ´feminine man´ or a ´masculine woman´ may instigate fear with the worst possible consequences not too rarely happening. Not taken into account is the real issue at stake here: to exert (in various degrees) the free use of sexuality and the possibility of developing what is human from a physical, political and sex-genitally perspective, which happens to be different from the socially accepted expectations.

For every person, life is made of challenges to overcome, but for transsexual people in particular those handicaps (even within a country with so many urgent needs) seem even more insurmountable. In first instance their situation is insufferable because they are invisible and silenced (either by action or omission) by all kinds of institutions, laws and social customs. What most people take for granted as part of their routine, as cashing a check, asking for a phone line, entering a public sanitary or even walking down the streets, usually implies a lot of stress, anxiety and suffering for gender variant people.

That is why the Mexican transsexual movement demands the establishment of institutions (both public and private) which propose a serious, effective and integral transition plan, for male-to-female and female-to-male transsexuals, trough a complete, professional rehabilitation of their beings. This would involve a multidisciplinary and multidimensional intevention in fields such as: sexology, psychology/psychiatry, endocrinology/urology (hormones and surgeries), not to mention other societal relevant areas which could frame the before mentioned such as juridical, political and economical adequacies.

Organizations such as Sociedad Mexicana de Sexología Humanista Integral (SOMESHI), Caleidoscopía or the Instituto Mexicano de Sexología, pioneers in the attention of Gender Dysphoria in Mexico (not properly rehabilitation by the HBIGDA standards, see: http://www.hbigda.org/) deserve a special recognition for their work. Nevertheless, even those only have a handful of specialists in the area, so is indispensable to increase their professional body and its knowledge on the latest rehabilitation techniques and, on the other hand, such models of intervention should be extended beyond the isolated individuals and within the city capital, to the society and country at large, in order to fight back the marginality, stigmatization and atomization of a large population in need of proper rehabilitation and/or reintegration –not mere self-medication. More, better and coordinated actions from other associations and collectives with convergent purposes would help in the promotion of a legal and social change, which can result in this population’s integration as members with full rights in its society as people of distinct gender.

It is appropriate to administer a hormone replacement therapy to modify the general appearance of the body in order to match it with the mental sex (because it leads to an interaction with the world as part of the gender to which they truly belong and enhances the individual´s emotional stability and development), but maybe the most important step comes next. In this point is crucial for the transsexual person to have at hand a comprehensive structure (familiar, institutional, legal) which facilitates a reintegration towards every field of action and psychosocial development, specially taking into consideration a social discriminatory environment –which is pervasive not only vis-à-vis this sector of the population but in respect of the entire ´sexual diversity´ and other minorities in general.

Looking for or even keeping a job in front of the challenge of the gender reassignment (in accordance to the previously acquired studies, experience and capacities), counting upon social security and medical assistance, not to mention marrying with whoever person anyone may decide or having/adopting children –all of these legally, of course– are matters out of hand for this unjustly and unjustifiably marginalized population. They have rights, as any citizen of this country and of the world, but when ignored (many times even by themselves) they oftenly get at the mercy of groups and individuals who mistreat and discriminate them, both at the institutional and private levels.

It is clear that Mexico, its society and its institutions must start paying back and compensating all the systematic mistakes committed against its vulnerable groups, and among other measures the juridical framework and the public policies must be updated and adapted to the transsexual population’s needs, specially in regard of health, employment and security.

Based on the most recent statistics by the Ministry of Health of the Netherlands (1993), one of the most reliable and concerned in the world, the prevalence of the gender identity disorders, only for male-to-female transsexuals, could be as large as 1 in each 11,900 persons; however, is also known that the figures could be bigger if we notice that not every person that carries the characteristics of the said dysphoria requests professional care (both because they may not be fully aware/informed, and because even if they are they cannot be properly attended in their places of origin), not to mention that with the passage of the years there is a growing permissiveness, even in developed countries [for instance, back in 1968 the US statistics showed a prevalence of M-t-F trans in the number of 1/100,000. Given this considerations an approximate number of gender variant people in Mexico could be around 15,000 people.

The finding of the biological etiology mentioned earlier (a feminine differentiation of the male-to-female transsexuals and, vice versa) could symbolize a crucial new way to comprehend transsexuality in many respects. First, from the medical point of view: transsexuals could be rehabilitated, passing from ´mental patients´ to victims of a sexual differentiation disorder. Second, medical insurance companies could be (legally) obliged to cover the expenses of the sex reassignment, as in other cases of intersexuality. It could be demanded from the legal system that the public health care system takes care of transsexuals as it already does with other forms of intersexuality. The general public could change its attitude toward this amazing, but historic phenomenon. Even the different religious institutions could stop labeling the transsexualism as a sort of ´sin´ but as a condition.

Hence the members of the transsexual collective possess from their very birth, as any other Mexican citizen, the right to have a plentiful and happy life, and at least to have the chance of getting their self realization and let aside the invisibility in the eyes of the State, its government and society. Let us remember that what makes truly rich and diverse any human group is its diversity and plurality inborn via its people.

The debt with the Mexican transsexual collective must be justly and expeditiously resolved. The political class must appropriate these demands as truly popular representatives, in order to forge a legal framework in which all levels of government and relevant institutions take part in coordinated public policies shaped for this particular group.

The acknowledgment of the Sexual/Gender Identity through an appropriate legislation (in the spirit of a universal trend scientifically studied, legally administered, and socially accepted and comprehended) has become a priority in multiple aspects for our country at this moment in history, and must become a reality if we are to take part in a beyond doubt  (post) modern, free and democratic republic.

Sincerely,

Mexican Transsexual Movement.
February 2006