Cross-Gender Identity in Transvestites and Male Transsexuals’
The article’s central preoccupation is the notion of two gender identity subsystems that can coexist in one personality. It argues that masculine and feminine subsystems can be expressed either unconditionally (i. e. in all situations) or conditionally (i. e. when certain requirements have been met). Male-to-female transsexuals have a strong unconditionally expressed feminine gender identity together with a weak unexpressed masculinity, while transvestites are in a situation when both masculinity and femininity are conditionally expressed.
The research tests the hypothesis whether early-onset transsexuals and late-onset transsexuals differ between each other and from transvestites in terms of several developmental characteristics. The article relates to extent research on the issue. It cites scientists who distinguish between primary and secondary transsexuals on the basis of the age at which their gender dysphoria was discovered.
It also draws attention to another research that suggests that there is a continuum from transvestism to transsexuality, represented by such types as the nuclear transsexual, the marginal transvestite, and the nuclear transvestite. Additionally, the article places the discussion of transvestism and transsexuality in the context of the theory of self. As concerns the method of research, four groups of participants were studied, namely early-onset transsexuals, late-onset transsexuals, transvestites, and heterosexual males that were used as a reference group.
They were asked to provide necessary data in a structured interview. The variables that were measured include gender-driven preference for toys, games and playmates during childhood and adolescence; frequency of cross-dressing and the need for it; fetishistic quality attached to cross-dressing; sexual interest during adolescence; image of self as a child; change of self-image; and imagined partner in adolescence. The study has found out that feminine gender subsystem was developing from early childhood in most of early-onset transsexuals and a large number of late-onset transsexuals and transvestites, too.
This contradicted the theoretical prediction that for late-onset transsexuals masculine identity subsystem was dominant in childhood. It was also discovered that fetishistic quality attached to cross-dressing by late-onset transsexuals was negatively correlated with the strength of their feminine gender identity expression. However, the major finding was the lack of empirical support for the theory that masculine identity dominates in late-onset transsexuals and transvestites during their early developmental stages. The research proceeds with connecting the collected data with theoretical concepts of multiple selves and actualization.
While there are little reasons to suspect that the research was biased in any manner, it is hard to characterize it as a good research. First of all, the sample was relatively small and unrepresentative; sampling technique was not described, but most likely it was convenience sampling. Furthermore, there was little explanation for the choice of variables to measure. Finally, theoretical concepts applied in this article were vaguely described and operationalized. However, the article was of interest to me because it explored the notion of multiple self and coexistence of two gender identities in one personality.