Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Of Lesbians and Transsexual Men

Why do lesbians become transsexual men? R.J. Atlanta.

I don't think they do in general. Transsexuals and homosexuals (lesbians are female homosexuals) are not the same thing. Homosexuals are attracted romantically and sexually to members of their own sex. A transsexual is someone who feels they were born into the wrong body. They are, for instance, biologically male, with male sex organs, but they feel and act and think as female. Or vice versa. Because of this they "transition" from one sex to another via a sex-change operation. This includes hormone shots, therapy, and so on, and is a long and difficult -- and probably frightening -- process in some ways, as no transsexual can ever be certain how things will turn out. Some transsexuals are proudly "out" about their status; others prefer to "pass," so to speak, and keep it secret. Some people fully transition, changing their sex organs; others retain the sexual organs they were born with for varying reasons. [Here I'm gonna stop because it gets complicated and I've never claimed to be an expert on transsexuality.]

As for your specific question, there have apparently been cases of people wanting to change their sex even though their therapists and other experts feel it's a bad idea or that they aren't really transsexual. I suppose this can happen with both gay men and lesbians who are uncomfortable with their sexual orientation, but I don't think it happens very often. Some people go "underground" to get the drugs and hormones they need and the results are often said to be disastrous.

It's safe to say, however, that there isn't an "epidemic" of lesbians transitioning into men. Most lesbians are perfectly happy being women.

I think what has you confused is that some female-to-male transsexuals do identify as lesbians before they recognize that they are really transsexual. Once they realize their true nature, however, they also realize that they were never, in a sense, lesbians; they were always -- in the psychological if not biological sense -- men attracted to women. They engaged in homosexual activity almost by default because they had female bodies. Sometimes "heterosexual" women who transition into men become gay men afterwards, and feel they were always gay men no matter what biological body they were in. To further confuse the issue, there are cases of women who were attracted to women before the change, and then become attracted to men afterward, going -- in one sense -- from straight to gay and vice versa. (But be advised this does not mean that a gay person's sexual orientation can be changed.)

Many transsexuals are not gay.

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