Transsexual people find it so painful to live in their sexed bodies, they seek out medical intervention - surgery and hormone treatment - in order to make their bodies more closely resemble those of the opposite sex.
I call this condition "sex dysmorphia" because that seems more accurate than "gender dysphoria," as we're talking specifically about physical bodies, and severe distress rather than generalized discomfort.
[Note 1: Sex is chromosome-deep and expressed in physical morphology beyond that of the genitals and breasts. It is not possible to change one's sex, any more than it is possible to change one's genetic ancestry through plastic surgery and skin/hair treatments. I'm not saying this to be cruel, this is just reality. We need to be able to face reality.]
[Note 2: This blog does focus on transwomen rather than transmen, not because I don't care about transmen, but because my concern here is the harm caused by men using transwomen to force their way into women's spaces and silence women's voices.]
I count many transsexual people as my friends, but even if I did not I would still feel sympathy for anyone who feels "trapped in the wrong body;" which sounds harrowing. I would want them to get caring and effective treatment, just as I would wish for someone suffering from anorexia nervosa or a dissociative disorder or body integrity identity disorder, or who, like me, experiences suicidal depression without prescription medication - just to name a handful of the many painful psychiatric conditions from which otherwise wonderful and worthwhile people can suffer. What causes sex dysmorphia and what constitutes caring and effective treatment are areas of contention into which I shall not delve deeply. I will, instead, point out five things:
1) In the backstories of so many transsexual people, male and female, lies horrendous abuse, physical and/or emotional, within the family, and long-term bullying outside the family. Is this the sole cause of their pain at living in their sexed bodies? I do not claim to know. But if we create a world that doesn't force gender roles/sex stereotypes on kids, doesn't appease bullies, and doesn't tolerate men acting out their desire for sexual dominance on children, that couldn't hurt the general emotional health of our kids. Right?
The Inconvenient Truth about Teena Brandon
Things radical feminism did not do to me, a transsexual woman
2) The history of transsexualism is deeply homophobic and misogynistic:
"Sexual reassignment surgery" was pioneered by Nazi scientists, as a cure for homosexuality, and founded on the theory that real men should behave violently toward women. (In modern day Iran, gay men and lesbians are put to death, unless they claim to have been "born in the wrong body" and agree to undergo sex reassignment surgery.)
3) Sex dysmorphia is a very rare condition. This article compiles the results of 11 studies from 8 countries; the average ratio of males seeking treatment for sex dysmorphia was 1 in 33,000 (or .003 percent) and the average ratio of females seeking treatment for sex dysmorphia was 1 in 119,000 (or .0008 percent). Even if 100 times more people experience sex dysmorphia than seek treatment for it, that would still not describe even one percent of the population.
4) Generally we do not normalize rare and painful psychiatric conditions. The people who have those conditions, yes - let's not stigmatize them! The conditions themselves, problems in need of treatment. And as a rare and painful psychiatric condition which causes individuals to seek out extensive surgical intervention and lifelong drug treatment, sex dysmorphia is really not comparable to homosexuality (no matter how often the two are conflated) or race/ethnicity, or any other non-medical basis for discrimination - no matter how much privileged mainstream Lefties enjoy the convenience of having one big "Unknowable Other" box to point at offhandedly, supposedly in demonstration of their coolness/tolerance but actually in demonstration of their intellectual laziness.
5) Treating transsexual people (or any other marginalized group) with abject pity does not help anyone.
If you have been caught up in the dominant narrative of transgender identity politics, this may come as a shock, but transsexual people are capable of building happy lives for themselves. We're all whole entire people, not just our medical conditions. Just as clinical depression doesn't circumscribe my existence, nor does sex dysmorphia circumscribe the lives of my transsexual friends, who crack wise about philosophy and pop culture, complain about their co-workers, share their love of music and animals, volunteer for charities, make me drool with twitpics of their latest culinary masterpieces, et cetera et cetera.
When you view transsexual people as people - rather than delicate glass creatures about whom you mustn't think too much - you can approach the problems they face in a rational manner. Thus, clear-eyed feminists have already offered reasonable compromises for the protection of transsexual males, who face discrimination and male violence due to their gender non-conformity. See Elizabeth Hungerford's work on sex discrimination as a legal strategy and access to female spaces via medical documentation of sex dysmorphia. Other feminists support the creation of safe third spaces. These kinds of compromises are appreciated by some transwomen, but branded unacceptable by transgender activists because they do not care about the safety of transsexual people, only about weaponizing the transsexual condition in order to destroy women's boundaries.
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