Books on Transsexualism

Copyright © 2018 by James Leonard Park

Selected and reviewed by James Park.
The books are organized by quality, beginning with the best.
Red comments are the opinions of this reviewer.

1. Leslie Feinberg

Transgender Warriors:

Making History from Joan of Arc to RuPaul

(Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 1996)       212 pages
(ISBN: 0807079405; hardback)
(Library of Congress call number: HQ77.9.F45 1996)

Transgender Warriors:
Making History from Joan of Arc to Dennis Rodman

(Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 1997)       218 pages
(ISBN: 0807079413; paperback)
(Library of Congress call number: HQ77.9.F44 1996)

     This book embraces several variations of sex and gender:
(in order of importance) transsexuals; homosexuals; cross-dressers;
intersexuals; people with unusual gender-personalities;
and people who transcend conventional sex-roles.
All of these are called "transgender" persons.
But this term is mainly useful for the political project
of winning civil rights for persons with such variations.
Scientifically, the term "transgender" is far too broad and vague
because it lumps all variations of sex and gender together,
without regard to the causes or reasons behind each variation.
(This book casts no light on such possible causes or reasons.)

     The fundamental purposes of this collection
of pictures, stories, and myths of 'transgender' people
is to build a positive image (and self-image)
of all variations of sex and gender.
The author has combed history and pre-history,
looking for positive stories about people (and gods)
with some variation from standard sex and gender:
myths from the major cultures of the world;
indigenous peoples of the New World;
Roman Catholic saints; modern history.
Feinberg also explores tolerance and intolerance
of such variations around the world.

    Leslie Feinberg might like to be referred to as "he"
in any review of this book,
but the present reviewer, knowing her only thru the printed word,
feels that she is more a strong woman in personality than a man.
The author was born female but now lives as a man.
(For more details, read the book.)
The facts of her own life do not distort what she reports
—except in her selection of only positive role-models—
but her interest in the subject was doubtless personal.

     Transgender Warriors is not an objective history
of people with variations of sex and gender.
Only positive examples and stories are included.
All the 'transgendered' people who suffered internally
or even killed themselves are omitted.
The only suffering acknowledged here is caused by other people
and authorities, who oppressed everyone
who did not fit the standard patterns of sex and gender.
But the purpose of the book is to present positive role-models,
not to present all sides of 'transgenderism'.
The author wants to make the world safer
for all variations of sex and gender.
People should not have to classify themselves by sex or gender.
And they should not have to follow life-paths
dictated by such classifications.
Feinberg seems to believe that sex and gender are free choices.
And we should all have the civil right to live any way we please.

     Transgender Warriors is richly illustrated
with pictures on almost every page.
And the last section is over 30 pages of pictures and stories
of contemporary 'transgender' people.

     For years to come, this book will be a rich source
of stories and descriptions of variations of sex and gender.
Next, we need some careful, scientific analysis
of all phenomena related to sex and gender—and their variations.

2. Holly Devor

Female-to-Male Transsexuals in Society

(Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1997)       695 pages
(ISBN: 0-253-33631-7; hardback)
(ISBN: 0-253-21259-6; paperback, 1999)
(Library of Congress call number: HQ77.9.D49 1997)

     Careful sociologist, Holly Devor, interviewed 45 individuals
who were born as normal females but who later decided to become men
—socially, hormonally, & sometimes surgically.

     She begins her book with an historical review
of women who lived as men
long before sex-changes or transsexualism were invented.
These women had many different reasons for living as men.

     FTM contains several stunning pictures
of people who would always be taken for men:
beards, male-pattern balding, muscles, etc.
But all of these people were born female and later changed to men.
It is very hard to believe that these people ever lived as women
—or that they still have female genitals, which is usually the case.
Real first names are given with these pictures.

    But in order to protect their privacy,
the participants in this study were all given pseudonyms.
Thus it is not possible to connect the pictures with the stories.
The author informs me that some of the participants are pictured.
Maybe a follow-up book, two decades into the 21 century,
would find the participants more willing
to have their pictures used along with their stories.
Some books on transsexuals do include 'before' and 'after' pictures
of the individuals who have changed sex.

     Devor does not endorse any single theory
of why some people want to change sex.
She reviews the scientific theories
but remains open to newer explanations that might emerge in the future.
The participants showed a variety of pathways to becoming men.
Some decided relatively late in life,
whereas others knew from an early age that they wanted to be male.
Family background does not provide a comprehensive explanation.
But it is an obvious place to begin looking.
Holly Devor spends quite a few pages exploring
the family backgrounds of the participants.
However, dysfunctional families are very common everywhere.
And most families-with-problems do not produce children
who want to change sex in adulthood.
Additional factors beyond alcoholism in the family,
child abuse, abandonment, or tomboyism must be the reasons
—because millions of other girls had similar backgrounds,
without wanting to become men in adulthood.

     Most of the subjects had a phase of teen-age sex with males.
Some got married and lived as wives and mothers for many years
before deciding to become men.
Almost all had a phase of lesbian identity
(including sex with other women) before they became men.
After their (years-long) transition to living as men,
they were much more satisfied to call themselves
heterosexual men than lesbian women.
(Some had other self-concepts after becoming men, such as gay man.)
Most of them found changing sex to become men
(who could 'legitimately' have sex with straight women)
a much better self-concept than considering themselves lesbians.
Most wanted to fade into the male population
—being considered by everyone they met to be normal, everyday men.
However, their sex-partners knew that they still had female genitals.

     FTM includes full discussion of all the dimensions
of changing from women to men:
family, friends, psychological adjustments, new names,
clothes, manners, various hormonal and surgical treatments,
adjustments with sex-partners, etc.
Because they had lived at least a few years as women,
before they started living as men,
they rarely went to the extreme macho position or stereotype.
They were generally known as gentle and sensitive men.

    A very fundamental question remains:
Why did these (and other) women want to become men?
Surely they could have become more stable, deliberate,
self-confident, decisive, independent, autonomous,
courageous, disciplined, foresighted, & pragmatic
—several personality traits from the 'masculine', admirable column
of my Gender-Pattern Chart—without becoming men.
Many women do have these admirable personality characteristics.
So the desire to become the other sex
must be something more than the desire for personality change.

    Holly Devor does not believe that the motivation was primarily sexual
(in the sense of erotic fantasies, for example).
But we can still ask to what degree (or in which cases)
were these women motivated by their sexual yearnings?
Perhaps some found erotic responses deep within themselves
that told them that they already were men,
so they took the courageous step of radically changing their bodies
in order to match their imprinted sex-scripts.
(To learn more about this sex-script hypothesis, click those words.)

     From this perspective, perhaps this book could be seen
(at least in part) as a collection of stories about lesbian women
who decided to go "all the way"
—to become the-men-they-were in their sexual fantasies.
If we understood lesbianism—especially 'butch' lesbianism—better,
perhaps we would understand 'female-to-male transsexualism' better.
If we had a thousand 'butch' lesbians to study,
perhaps most would have sexual fantasies of themselves as men,
but only a few would want to become men.
And perhaps only a small number of these
would actually take the steps to begin living full-time as men.
(However, Holly Devor says that FTM
is definitely NOT a book about lesbians.)

     Even more broadly, this book might be a study of
45 individuals who were born as women
who later decided to live as men for a wide variety of reasons.
If we could have each story separate from the others,
the various reasons for wanting to live as men
might become more clear.
Will better public acceptance of lesbianism
(and other variations of sex and gender)
correspond with a decrease in the demand for sex-change?
Will some of the people studied in this book
later revert to a lesbian self-concept
instead of thinking of themselves as men?
Will same-sex marriage
also correlate with a decrease in 'transsexualism'?
In other words, as same-sex couples are more accepted by the public,
will fewer homosexuals feel the need to change sex?

     Here is a basic criticism of the book,
which can be corrected if Dr. Devor decides to do
follow-up studies 10 or 20 years later with these same participants:
Each woman-becoming-man should have a separate chapter.
This would have improved the narrative quality and interest of the book.
And it would have made the information
better raw material for other scientific analysis.
(The author does provide a Participant Index in the back of the book
that allows careful readers to trace
all mention of any individual throughout the book.
And frequent footnotes tell us
which specific participants are being discussed.)

    Because the author is a sociologist, she looked for general patterns,
especially in the family backgrounds of these women-becoming-men.
But because transsexualism is so extremely rare
—perhaps one person in 100,000—
collecting data about birth order, childhood trauma,
family structure and dynamics, etc.
contributes almost nothing to understanding
why these women decided to begin living as men.

     Statistical summaries and composite stories would make sense
for exploring a phenomenon that is quite common
—such as getting married or getting divorced—
but when bits and pieces from the lives of these 45 different individuals
are woven together into a composite FTM,
many useful facts might have been lost.
Because the author interviewed each subject personally,
she remembers each story separately.
But we—the readers—might find it difficult to remember
which pseudonym goes with which story.
The participants in this study might have had a wide variety
of highly individual reasons for wanting to live as men.
If so, these special reasons might have been lost in the attempt
to present a general picture of 'the female-to-male transsexual'.

     FTM: Female-to-Male Transsexuals in Society
presents only the positive dimensions of changing to live as men.
Social science will be very interested to learn
how these new men lived 10, 20, or 30 years after their changes.
(Of course, some of the participants
have already lived many years as men.)

    The study of transsexualism has been greatly advanced
by this major contribution from Dr. Devor.
But this might be just the beginning of the story.

3. Pat Califia

Sex Changes:

The Politics of Transgenderism

(San Francisco, CA: Cleis Press, 1997)      309 pages
(ISBN: 1-57344-072-8; paperback)
(Library of Congress call number: HQ77.9.C35 1997)

    Pat Califia has created the most useful summary to date
of all the facts and theories concerning transsexualism.
Sex Changes is based on a careful reading
of the most readily available books
and articles on transsexualism and related phenomena
—such as transvestism and homosexuality.

    Califia devotes chapters to:
the autobiographies of people who changed sex
(both the early, well-known books
and the more recent, less well-known);
scientific attempts to understand and 'treat' transsexualism;
problems in the feminist community
created by former men who have become women
—some now thinking of themselves as lesbians;
the sexual partners of transsexuals;
the political and social movements for acceptance
of all sex-and-gender minorities.

     Because of its comprehensive summaries
of all the background books,
Sex Changes is an excellent place to begin reading
about transsexualism and related phenomena.

4. Jason Cromwell

Transmen and FTMs:

Identities, Bodies, Genders, and Sexualities

(Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1999)       201 pages
(ISBN: 0-252-02439-7; hardcover)
(ISBN: 0-252-06825-4; paperback)
(Library of Congress call number: HQ77.9.C76 1999)

     This book describes the lives and problems
of women who have decided to live as men.
It is based on the author's own experience
and her extensive contacts with a few hundred
other FTM (female-to-male) transsexuals
—in FTM support groups beginning in 1983,
informal surveys, formal surveys, conferences for FTMs,
e-mail communications, phone conversations, etc.
The most concentrated work took place
in San Francisco in 1995-1998.

     This book was originally a PhD thesis,
so it contains comprehensive research into the history
of women who decided to pass as men for at least parts of their lives.
However, most of these women would not be considered transsexuals
by any of our modern conceptions.

     Cromwell strongly advocates the right to change sex
in whatever degree suits the individual.
And this book will be useful mainly to
other women who are thinking about living as men.
It is more advocacy and support than science.
In fact, Cromwell sees the clinicians who control the sex-change gate
mostly as opponents and oppressors of her subjects.
She affirms again and again that 'pathology', 'disease', & 'disorder'
are not the correct concepts for transsexualism.
But she does not offer any alternative scientific explanations.

     However, some scientific professionals are not hostile
toward people with variations of sex and/or gender.
It would be good if authors such as Cromwell
would make this distinction
and tell us which scientific theories they like best,
rather than rejecting all scientific approaches
and affirming whatever mythologies the variant individuals
embrace at any given time and place.

     Usually these born-females now living as men
made this decision long before they started
any exploration of the scientific literature.
Thus, they often had firmly-established mythologies
of their own making, which explained (to their own satisfaction)
why they needed to live as men.
And often they cling to their beliefs as if they were religious dogmas.

     In contrast to earlier generations of transsexuals,
most of the subjects of this book did not want to fade into
the general population as ordinary, everyday, unremarkable men.
Most had only a few surgeries to become more like men,
such as having their breasts removed.
They often enjoyed their freedom to be either sex
as suited the situation or that particular phase of their lives.
For example, some were known as men on the job
but as butch lesbians in their social relationships.
Others wanted to be known in public as transsexuals
or some form of 'transgender' individuals.
And some even wished to be created intersexual individuals,
people who were born as normal biological females
but who later decided to modify their bodies
to some degree in the male direction.

     Their self-concepts were largely shaped
within the FTM community of their time and place
—late 1990s San Francisco.
Ten or twenty years later,
they might have different explanations of who they are
and new concepts and/or labels for themselves.

     Transmen and FTMs definitely arises from
the grass-roots experience of hundreds of born-women
who for a variety of reasons decided
somewhere along the line they wanted to live as men.
This book is recommended both for people struggling
with such questions of sexual identity
and for professionals who are called upon to help them.
This book does not settle any questions of transsexualism,
but it is definitely an important part
of the literature about born-women who want to live as men.

5. Mildred L. Brown & Chloe Ann Rounsley

True Selves: Understanding Transsexualism
For Families, Friends, Coworkers,
and Helping Professionals

(San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1996)   271 pages
(ISBN: 0-7879-0271-3; hardback)
(Library of Congress call number: HQ77.9.B76 1996)

     Mildred Brown is a California therapist
who has spent more than 20 years
working with transsexuals and their families
—more than 400 transsexuals in all.
She remains positive, affirming, & accepting thru-out.
Brown is convinced that transsexualism is "a medical condition",
not a psychological or psychiatric problem.
She accepts the belief that transsexuals were born that way.

     True Selves is written mainly for laypeople
—transsexuals themselves, their families and friends,
coworkers, & helping professionals
who have dealt with few or no transsexuals before.
The main chapters cover:
childhood; teen years; adulthood; therapy;
explaining the sex-change to co-workers, friends, & family;
& medical and surgical helps.

     Altho she overwhelmingly believes transsexuals
who tell her that they were born into the wrong bodies,
she has encountered people
who have "other conditions and problems"
who are "not transsexuals at all".

    She gives one page (106-107)
to listing the following 10 conditions, 
which do not qualify as transsexualism:

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 woman.

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
—eg rape, child-molestation, exhibitionism,
and other anti-social and/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 tho 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.

     True Selves contains lots of practical advice
concerning all of the problems transsexuals will encounter
in the process of changing to the other sex:
announcing one's plans to family, friend, & co-workers,
being re-trained to behave as the other sex,
hormonal and surgical procedures, & financial problems.

     Altho this book does not advance
our scientific understanding of transsexualism,
it does deal comprehensively and compassionately
with the day-to-day problems encountered by people
who are changing from one sex to the other.

6. Jay Prosser  

Second Skins:

The Body Narratives of Transsexuality

(New York: Columbia University Press, 1998)       270 pages
(ISBN: 0-231-10934-2; hardcover)
(ISBN: 0-231-10935-0; paperback)
(Library of Congress call number: HQ77.9.P76 1998)

     Jay Prosser was born a female but now lives as a man.
The books discussed here were mostly written by radical feminists.
Besides advocating the same opportunities for women as granted to men,
Prosser also advocates the freedom to change sex
—or to present oneself as an intermediate sex between female and male.
Thus, this book grew out of a personal and passionate involvement
with the cause of sex-and-gender liberation.

     The background research for Second Skins was a reading of some 50
autobiographies of people who have changed from one sex to the other
—and some important works of transsexual fiction.
Jay Prosser is aware of the pressure to fabricate
a standard transsexual story
in order to convince the sex-change psychologists and surgeons.
And later these stories are elaborated into full-blown autobiographies,
but still with the purpose of justifying a sex-change.
Narratives are very important to transsexuals,
first because they must 'remember'
always wanting to be the other sex from childhood.

     Prosser avoids exploring the psychological reasons
for wanting to change sex.
And any discussion of the subjects' sexual orientations,
sexual responses, & sexual relationship is mostly absent.
Such an exploration might have revealed that most of the butch lesbians
discussed in this book were trying to understand
why they have sexual fantasies of themselves as male.
Early imprinting of sex-scripts might have been a better explanation
in many cases than 'transsexuality'.
A major gap in the research behind this book is modern scientific sexology.
The author does review old-fashioned explanations and some Freud.

     Prosser traces the changing models
of these variations of sex and gender:
In the early 1900s, these people were called "inverts"
meaning that they had "contrary sexual desires";
then they were "homosexuals";
finally some prefer to think of themselves as "transsexuals"
—and even later as "transgender persons".

     In the early days of 'transsexuality'—beginning in the middle 1900s—
most transsexuals wanted to become completely the other sex.
When this book was written—at the end of the 1990s—
a new self-concept was emerging:
"Transgender" people want to make
what used to be a transition into an identity.
These persons do not want to fade into the general population.
They want to be known publicly as "transgender"
—somewhere between the two sexes,
perhaps with the freedom to shift back and forth at will.
For a while they called themselves "preoperative transsexuals"
or "nonoperative transsexuals".
And they greatly outnumber the people
who have undergone sex-change surgery.

     Transsexual writers might not be the best people to consult
when trying to create a better model for these phenomena.
They might be too passionately involved in justifying their own choices.
But at least such autobiographies
provides lots of raw material for later scientific analysis.

     All in all, Second Skins is an important contribution
to the fast-growing literature of transsexualism and transgenderism.

7. Dallas Denny, editor

Current Concepts in Transgender Identity

(New York: Garland Publishing Inc., 1998)       452 pages
(ISBN: 0-8153-1793-X; hardcover)
(Library of Congress call number: HQ77.9.C87 1998)

    The editor reveals here for the first time in print
that she is a male-to-female transsexual.
She has been active in transsexual organizations
for over 10 years, perhaps 15.
And she dedicates this book to another women, Wendy.

    There are 25 chapters by 25 contributors,
all affirming the rightness and wisdom of changing one's sex.
No articles critical of 'transgender' identity or practice are included.
But, in contrast to many other books on transsexualism,
this one was put together by a transsexual herself.
And the purpose behind the book is to affirm as strongly as possible
the right of anyone to change sex.

    Future books on transsexuality should seek better definitions
and distinctions so that people who want to change sex
can be distinguished from a number of similar phenomena:
yimprinted sex-scripts for sexual partners of the same sex;
the desire to dress as the other sex for a variety of reasons;
incorrect imprinting of one's sex in infancy;
desire to sell sexual services as a particular sex;

    If the standard transsexual story is abandoned
as the only way to justify a sex-change,
then more open-minded research can be undertaken.
There might be a wide variety of reasons for wanting to change sex.
Clients will be able to communicate more honestly with their doctors,
rather than trying to show how similar they are to others
who have been given sex-change operations.

    Perhaps a year or more of living in neutral should be required.
This could be accomplished by hormone-treatments,
which are reversible if the subject decides against a sex-change.

Chapter 9: "FTM: An Emerging Voice" by Jamison Green

    A leader of the sub-culture of female-to-male transsexuals
tells the history and culture of this emerging sexual minority.

    They are not all alike, of course,
but most spent some time as lesbian feminists
before they decided to become men.
They felt that being men was more honest
than remaining butch lesbians.

    As new men, some remain attracted to women.
But others become gay men in their new identities as males.

    This chapter represents an insider's account of transsexualism.
Jamison Green is well aware of the standard transsexual story
that must be told to the doctors in order to get help changing sex.
Many examples are offered of positive achievements by FTMs.

Chapter 15: The sexual orientation of transsexuals by Ira Pauly

    Because of the necessity of telling the standard transsexual story,
the sexual orientation after sex-change surgery
was almost always projected to be heterosexual:
The new woman would be sexually attracted to men, heterosexual men.
The new man would be sexually attracted to women, heterosexual woman.

    But greater honesty about sexual orientation after sex-change
discloses that something in the range of half
define themselves as homosexual after the sex-change.
This means that the new woman will seek sexual relationships
(as a woman) with other women, who are usually lesbian themselves.
Likewise, the new man will seek sexual relationships
(as a man) with other men, who are usually gay themselves.

    This is totally confusing to psychiatrists consulted about sex-changes:
A biological male wants to become a woman.
But as this new woman, the patient wants to have sex with other women.
As a male, the patient can already have sex with women!
So why go to the trouble and expense of changing into a woman?

    Likewise, a biological woman requests being changed into a man.
But after the patient has a sex-change, becoming a new man,
he wants to have sex with other men.
As a normal female, without any change of sex,
she can already have sex with men.
So why undergo the social and physical changes to become a man
just in order to have sex with men?
Having sex with men
is the expected pattern for biological women.

    Imprinted sexual fantasies might be one explanation:
An adolescent boy (biologically unremarkable as a male)
somehow gets imprinted with the sexual fantasy
that he is a lesbian woman having sex with other women.
It feels right to be a female attracted to other females.
When the subject has sex with women,
he or she has fantasies of being a female with other females.

    Something similar might be happening for some FTM transsexuals:
As adolescents, these biological females
found themselves possessed by sexual fantasies
of themselves as men having sex with women.
This sexual imprinting was so strong
that they were not content to be butch lesbians.
Rather, they wanted to become men
so they could have sex with women.
In their sexual fantasies they are men having sex with women.

    They find that in their unplanned erotic dreams
these biological boys are lesbian woman.
But they cannot tell the doctors who must approve a sex-change
about this unusual orientation.
So they must lie about their reasons for wanting to change sex.
Most sex-change doctors believe that 'real' women
want to have sex with men.

    Likewise biological females might have erotic dreams
that depict themselves as men having sex with other men.
But they cannot explain that to the sex-change psychiatrist,
who sees that as females they can already have sex with men.
So why change into men in order to have sex with other men?
And some females with this imprinted sexual fantasy
of themselves as homosexual men
find it satisfactory to pretend to be men while having sex with men.
Their sex-partners might not be aware
of the need to fantasize being a man during sex.

    Perhaps a quarter to a third of people seeking sex-change
are bisexual in orientation,
meaning that they are sexually attracted to both sexes.

    Individuals who find themselves with both kinds of sexual fantasies
might wish to have bodies that can easily pretend to be either sex.
Depending on which kind of imprinted sexual fantasy they wish to enact,
they can dress and behave as whichever sex they wish to be at that time.
Such an individual might wish to have sex-organs of both sexes,
in order to shift from one fantasy to another at will.
But that has never been an option offered by sex-change surgeons,
who believe that everyone wants to be either one sex or the other.

    A prostitute who had both a vagina and a penis
might be in great demand
at least among some kinds of clients.
This would add to the sexual variations the seller of sex could offer.

    Most of the scientific books and papers on transsexualism
do not mention commercial sex.
But more of the writings created by transsexuals themselves
do acknowledge that some people seeking sex-change
are already engaged in sex-for-hire.
And having a sex-change (or some modifications)
would increase their earning-power.
This larger income would more than compensate
for the cost of surgery and hormones.

    Another factor shaping how a transsexual person
describes his or her sexual orientation
is the sexual orientation of his or her sex-partner. 

    If a male-to-female transsexual has sex with a heterosexual male,
then the heterosexual male will prefer to think of his partner as a female.
But if the regular sex-partners of the MTF transsexual
is a homosexual male, then this partner will keep remembering
that his sex-partner used to be a man.
If the sex-partner of the MTF transsexual is a lesbian,
then both will want to think of themselves as lesbians.
And they both will want to forget that the transsexual was ever a male.

    Female-to-male transsexuals are sometimes attracted to other men.
In other words, they become men in order to have gay sex with men.
In their original sex as women, they could have had sex with men
gay or straight men.
But perhaps their imprinted sex-scripts depicted them as gay men,
who want to have gay sex with other gay men.

    Maybe the sex-script hypothesis will clarify much confusion
now common in transsexual thinking
both lay and professional.
We know that many unusual elements can become parts of sex-scripts.
These variations for transsexuals are minor
when compared with some of the very strange stories
that some people must enact in order to get 'turned on'.

    When the popular literature and informal talk
first reports a 'new' phenomenon such as female-to-male transsexuals,
many people embrace the new concept for themselves.
It used to be thought that there were no female-to-male transsexuals.
Now there might be as many as the male-to-female transsexuals,
who used to be the overwhelming majority of transsexuals.

    This might be a part of the quest for a new label for oneself.
Whenever a new term is invented
—either by the professionals or by the transsexual sub-culture—
quite a few people adopt the new concept for themselves.

    The most recent examples have been
male-to-lesbian-female transsexuals,
now followed by female-to-gay-male transsexuals.
Once a new patterns has been described and named,
professionals and clients alike begin to 'see' it
where they never 'saw' it before. 

    Of course, this can also happen with bogus concepts,
like the once-popular "co-dependent".
At its peak, everyone was said to be co-dependent in some way.
Popular culture loved this label for a period of 10-20 years.
But then it slowly faded away.

    We can expect various concepts of transsexuality
to rise and fall as people strive to understand
their unusual sexual self-designation
and their uncommon sexual responses. 

    Some people love the clothes of the other sex so much
that they might as well become that other sex.
Then they can dress that way all the time without raising eyebrows.

    The reasons for cross-dressing might be quite complex.
But if wearing the clothes of the other sex
becomes a regular pattern of life,
then the cross-dresser might desire (for reasons not fully articulated)
to improve the illusion by having his or her body altered
more in the direction of the preferred sexual presentation.

    Women who want larger breasts
might be having a similar thought-process:
They want to be more sexually attractive as females,
so they seek cosmetic surgery that will make them even better females.

    Ira Pauly says that there are 1,000 homosexuals for every transsexual.
And especially for those who now call themselves transsexual
started their sex-lives as homosexuals,
they might have come to hate the concept of gay or lesbian so much
that they find it better to call themselves "transsexual". 
They feel better about themselves as the new sex they choose to be.
Whatever their sexual orientation in the new sex,
it seems to fit better with everything about themselves
and their sexual relationships.
Formally and informally—with professional help or without—
they embrace a new explanation and description of who they are.

Chapter 16: "Sexual Orientation, Identities, Attractions,
and Practices of Female-to-Male Transsexuals" by Holly Devor

    Where statistics have been kept,
a good percentage of people asking for sex-change surgery
have had homosexual relationships before the sex-change.
Re-conceiving themselves as the other sex
changed these encounters into heterosexual relationships,
which was generally more acceptable to these subjects. 

    Some of the people studied report
early sexual and romantic attractions to girls and women.
When they were told it was wrong for females to feel this way,
they sometimes re-thought the situation
and decided they wanted to be boys or men
so they could go on loving women. 

    If lesbianism had been felt as a more positive option,
would more of these women have chosen that self-concept?
These born-females were attracted to other females.
And perhaps they felt somewhat 'masculine' within themselves.
They could have called themselves butch lesbians.
But these one-in-a-thousand butch lesbians
decided to go further>—to become men in some degree.
Many did not get constructed penises,
but they were still able to have meaningful loving relationships
with women who accepted them as men even if they had no penises.

    Do the sex-partners of female-to-male transsexuals
think of themselves as heterosexual
(if their partners have completely transitioned to becoming men)?
Or do they think of themselves as lesbians
who love women who like to be considered men?

    But more rarely, some transsexuals wanted to be homosexual
after the sex-change.
But they generally did not share this plan with their doctors,
for fear of not getting the sex-change they wanted. 

    In this particular group of 45 women who became men,
none had a personal relationship that continued thru the transition.
They became men in the hope that
they would find women who would love them as men,
even if they were somewhat incomplete men.

    Most were attracted to women before they changed into men.
And after they became men, they continued to find women attractive.

    Do imprinted sexual fantasies survive after a sex-change?
This reviewer guesses that they would continue in the same mind.
For example, if a woman is 'turned on' by women's breasts,
he would continue to find breasts attractive after he became a man.
And it would be more expected and accepted that as a man
he would be interested in female breasts.
The changed person might be more comfortable
with this particular kind of imprinted sexual interest in breasts
because it is so common and expected among men.
And he can act on such interest more openly as a man
than when he was still a woman, with breasts of her own.

     Straight women will accept sexual interest in their bodies
much more easily from potential partners they believe to be men
than from partners who have been changed from women to men.
Many straight women would be 'turned off' to learn
that the man who is interested in her used to be a woman.

    This chapter includes accounts of women
who had to process the information about a sex-change
before they decided they loved the new man for himself
independent of his past life as a woman.

    If imprinted sexual fantasies are the reason for many sex-changes,
then we should not expect to find a uniform explanation
that explains in universal terms why some women become men.
Imprinted sexual fantasies are so individual
there might not be any common patterns to describe. 
So it might not be possible to provide
a generic explanation of the reasons for changing sex.
This also means that composite FTM transsexuals
will probably not provide much insight into the reasons
for the desire to become the other sex. 

    Some participants noticed their similarities to lesbians:
They still have female bodies, even if somewhat altered.
Usually they had no penis.
And they had no personal experience of using a penis for sex. 
But they definitely felt different from lesbian woman.
Their self-concepts worked better
when they thought of themselves as men

    Perhaps this is another way of saying
that their imprinted sexual fantasies depicted them as men.
And sex was more powerful when they believed they were men. 
The same objective sexual events could happen between two lesbians,
but the transsexual woman discovered that sex was more arousing
when the subject believed he was a man.
And when he had objectively changed his body to be more male,
then he had even better reasons
for feeling like a man having sex with a woman.

    The women who changed their sex to become men
were happy to discover that medical science
had a name, a description, and best of all a treatment
for their transsexualism.
Before they sought any professional help,
they had already developed 'street-level' concepts for themselves.
Usually they did not think of themselves as 'sick' in any sense.
Their interior feelings were not a pathology of any sort.

    For some of the subjects studied for this chapter,
the basic question in their own terms might have come down to:
"Am I a lesbian or am I a man?"
Complex psychological explanation,
which might require a graduate education to understand,
was not the way they felt about themselves
or how they felt about other people of either sex. 
Mostly they had to figure out their sexuality on their own,
or perhaps with the help of others with similar feelings. 
The gay community or the "gender community" as Holly Devor calls it,
might have helped them to consider various labels for themselves.
And none of these laypeople had any special knowledge about sex
that might have helped them to conceptualize their feelings.

    In primitive cultures, such feelings for other women
might have been explained by demon-possession:
"I was possessed by a man-demon."
Transsexualism says "I am a man inside."

    Is this fundamentally a mythological account?
But once the idea begins to circulate widely,
more people latch onto that concept for themselves.
In short, transsexuals have created a concept of transsexuality.
Some thinkers even go so far as to say
that homosexuality is a cultural construct.
We should never underestimate the power of an idea.

    Perhaps the new concept of imprinted sexual fantasies
will make more sense to some transsexuals.
Instead of saying that nature made a mistake
---that they are really men born into female bodies---
they might embrace the idea that they were imprinted
with sexual responses that made them think and feel this way.

    Thus, transsexuals are not very different from all others.
Everyone has been imprinted with various sexual responses.
And in the case of 'transsexuals', they have been imprinted
with strong sex-scripts that tell them that they are men.

    In those cases where the sex-script hypothesis explains more,
a hormone-neutralization test should help to resolve the issue.
When the same hormone-levels they had as children
are restored experimentally,
most hormone-driven interest in sex will disappear.
And if the imprinted sexual fantasies
were driving the urge to change sex,
then that impulse might also disappear.

    A year without any sexual urges or sexual behavior
could help them to sort out their sexual feelings
from any other reasons that might be pushing toward sex-change.
Lives that were out of control in some respects
might return to a more calm and rational level.
A year of celibacy, a year of introspection,
could help prospective transsexuals
examine their reasons for wanting to become the other sex.
It could be a year of transition to the new sex.
Or taking a year off, this individual might decide not to change sex.
This differs from the more common pattern
of trying to duplicate the hormone levels of the desired sex immediately.

    One of the strongest supports for female-to-male transsexuals
was having a sexual partner who affirmed that the transsexual
was 'really' a man, even when both were completely naked. 
If the sex-partner gets 'turned on' by affirming that the partner is a man,
then they might be having complementary sexual fantasies.
Each is affirming a self-concept that turns them both on.

    Some of the transsexuals studied for this chapter
avoided the problems that might come with sexual behavior
by avoiding having physical sex altogether. 
It was much easier for them to be males in their social lives.
Or they waited until they found the right partners,
which sometimes happened within a sexual-minority community.

    The GBLT community helped them to form their self-concepts.
Usually this was laypersons helping other laypersons.
There was no systematic presence of scientific sexologists
in these informal communities of sexual minorities.
Thus, the most popular and appealing mythology of the moment
might be the one that the new transsexual holds on to. 

    When a significant part of the local sexual-minority community
is engaged in sex-for-hire,
everyone might be even more definitely cut off from scientific sexology.
Professionals do not want to become involved in any criminal activity.
Money and exploitation might easily distort
the sexual self-concepts in the world of commercial sex. 
But if a scientific researcher
can gain the trust of this underground community,
it could become a fruitful field for research into sex-scripts.

    Search for this book on the Internet to find the table of contents,
which will show several other chapters not reviewed here.
Other chapters deal with cross-dressing, multiple personalities,
women in personal relationships with men
who have some variation of sex and/or gender.

This collection presents only the positive sides of transsexualism
and all other variations of sex-and-gender and the resulting relationships.
No chapters critical of any theories of transsexualism are included.
This book might have been called
Transsexuals Attempt to Understand Themselves.


    In 2014, this bibliography on transsexualism was divided into two files.
Continue reading More Books on Transsexualism.
In order to keep room for expansion of each section,
the second file begins numbering at 20.

revised 4-24-2009; 9-25-2010;
1-23-2014; 2-27-2014; 5-19-2014; 6-18-2014; 6-22-2014; 4-26-2018;

   If you would like to read the first-person stories of a few transsexuals,
go the the Transsexualism—Autobiographies Bibliography.

Related Bibliographies

    This bibliography is related to several others in sexology.
Here is the complete list:

Sexology                                      B-SEXOLO

Sex-Script Hypothesis                 B-SEX-SC

Variations of Sex and Gender      B-V-SG

I. Intersex                                     B-CRIT

II. Transsexualism                        B-TS

Transsexual Autobiographies      B-TS-AB

III. Sex-Roles                                B-ROLE

IV. Gender-Personality                 B-GEND

V. Sexual Orientation                   B-ORNT

VI. Cross-Dressing                       B-TV

Return to the SEXOLOGY page.

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to discover 350 other reviews
organized into more than 60 bibliographies.

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