What Makes You Who You Are?

Harry Benjamin, in his article, Transsexualism and Transvestim as Psycho-Somatic and Somato-Psychic Syndromes, explains his viewpoints on the concept of transsexual and transvestite. He shares the symptoms, differences, and possible cures to these two “disorders.”

What really struck me the most with this article was the way in which he went about distinguishing transsexualism from tranvestism. He describes transvestism as “a form of fetishism,” (Benjamin, 46). He further establishes it as a simple way of living by dressing as the opposite sex to feel accepted in society. On the other hand, Benjamin describes transsexualism as “a different problem and a much greater one…it denotes the intense and often obsessive desire to change the entire sexual status including the anatomical structure,” (Benjamin, 46). The main differentiating factor between tranvestism and transsexualism is that one acts in the role of the opposite sex, but the other wants to actually become the opposite sex.

Describing transsexualism and tranvestism in these ways is very problematic. Throughout the article he continues to promote transvestism over transsexualism as if one is better than the other and more acceptable. He strongly emphasizes how “surgical conversion” and the “disgust” of one’s organs is a main feature of transsexualism. This difference in the way they view their bodies seems to be Benjamin’s reasoning as for why one is not as bad as the other. However, this made me think: is there actually any person out there completely satisfy with the way their body looks? No. We all have our own personal issues with our bodies and are never truly happy with them. We are constantly doing things to alter the way we look whether it’s working out and eating a certain way, wearing makeup, or having some kind of surgical procedure. Wanting to change your body shouldn’t be something looked down upon, especially when everyone does it whether they consider themselves a transsexual or not.

Futhermore, Benjamin describes the potential causes when it comes to transvestism and transsexualism. He provides biological, psychological, and environmental explanations for why someone would become this way. In the end, he argues that it must be some sort of combination of all of these factors for someone to become transsexual or a transvestite. When looking for other people’s opinions of what they believe the causes must be I came across this article:

http://blogs.montrealgazette.com/2012/02/14/causes-of-transsexualism-does-it-matter/

Jillian asks us probably the most important question when it comes to transsexualism. In the end, does it really matter what the underlying causes are? She asks people to give their own insight into this question of whether it truly matters. Therefore, this made me think about this question as well.  In the end, no, I don’t think it matters. Every single human being is different in their own way, so why try to figure out why we are the way we are when we should just embrace who we are? I’m curious to know what you all think about this issue as well!

My favorite quote from this online article is the very end where Jillian says, “Remember: hold your heads up high. Be proud of who you are, and thumb your noses (politely, with love) at those who judge and condemn—and pray for them,” (1).

-Miranda Fencl

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