Most people never have to ask themselves the question "Am I male or female?". They only have to look at their body and the answer is obvious. For transsexuals, the sex of their body feels totally wrong, because the way that they see the world is that of the opposite physical sex.
This is often very confusing for the transsexual, since most people expect a male body to contain a man, and a female body to contain a woman. This is not true for transsexuals, and the fact that they have the wrong physical characteristics for their true sex makes them very unhappy.
There are two types of transsexuals. Male to female transsexuals have a male body and a female mind, whereas female to male transsexuals have a female body and a male mind. Transsexualism is a rare condition (although no one knows exactly how rare), but there are thousands of transsexuals living in Britain. In fact, although you may not have realised it, you have probably already met a transsexual.
What causes transsexualism?
Nobody knows for sure. Some people think that transsexualism is a psychological condition, with no physical cause, but recent research into the human brain has shown that male and female brains are different in structure. Scientists who have studied the brains of transsexuals have found that their brains are structured like those of their psychological rather than their physical sex.
This strongly suggests that there is a physical event that causes the condition which occurs during the development of the brain while in the womb, and that it is a type of intersex condition (that is, the body is physically neither male nor female but has some characteristics of both). There are a number of possible causes for this.
Do transsexuals always know that they are transsexual?
Not always. The world is full of people who are the same sex as their bodies, and it is often difficult for transsexuals to understand exactly what the problem is. Instead they just have a deep feeling of wrongness that takes many years to understand for what it is.
Some transsexuals know that they are members of the 'opposite' sex from the time that they are aware that there is a difference between men and women, others are aware that they want to be the other sex without understanding why, and others believe that they are not transsexual into middle or old age before they understand the truth about themselves.
Is transsexualism a lifestyle choice?
Absolutely not. The process of changing gender role is an extremely painful one, and is always a last resort, usually done only after years of soul searching. Transsexuals are sometimes accused of being selfish, but the difficult change that they undergo is never the result of a whim, idle curiosity or boredom. They choose that path because no other way of life is bearable for them. Transsexuals are born, not made.
No again. Transvestites are people who get sexual or emotional pleasure from wearing the clothing of the opposite sex. The vast majority of transvestites are men. Transvestites are perfectly content to remain with the body that they have, but enjoy the fantasy of pretending to be a member of the opposite sex.
Because transsexuals have the wrong body it can be difficult for them to develop sexually. Sometimes they are not very attracted to members of either sex, since the role that they would have to perform in any sexual relationship would feel wrong. The idea of being a member of the opposite physical sex may become the only way in which they can express their own sexuality, and their sexual fantasies can become geared towards being that sex. This is not the same as transvestism, but it is easy to confuse the two, and sometimes these transsexuals mistakenly assume that they are transvestites.