The policing of boundaries of acceptable sexual identities and behaviour has long been a recurring theme in marginalized communities. Gender, especially womanhood, is often instantiated socially through the harms to which members of that gender are subjected. For transgender people, the assumption that genitals define gender translates into an assumption that gender must also be binary, which circumscribes the potentiality of cultural intelligibility for trans gender identities. This can interfere with the ability of transgender people to select the most appropriate medical and social means of expressing their authentic identities, curtailing their authenticity and freedom.
The issue of binary gender is deeply rooted in societal norms and expectations. The belief that there are only two genders, male and female, and that these genders are tied to specific physical characteristics, such as genitals, is pervasive. This narrow view of gender identity can be harmful to transgender people who do not conform to these norms, leading to discrimination and harassment.
Transgender medicine reflects aspects of other gendered surgeries, and a biopsychosocial understanding of embodiment, including the influences of culture on the neurological representation of the body in the somatosensory cortex, is needed. The assumption that genitals define gender is flawed and ignores the complex nature of gender identity. The binary view of gender does not allow for the diversity of gender expression that exists and can limit the ability of transgender people to express their authentic selves.
In order to better understand the complex nature of gender dysphoria, it is important to distinguish between the social and bodily aspects of the condition. The bodily aspect of gender dysphoria refers to the discomfort or distress that is caused by the physical characteristics of one’s body not aligning with one’s gender identity. The social aspect of gender dysphoria refers to the distress caused by societal norms and expectations around gender.
It is important to note that cultural cissexism can cause trans people to experience (neuro)physiological damage, creating or exacerbating the need for medical transition within a framework of individual autonomy. This highlights the medical necessity of bodily autonomy for trans people seeking surgery or other biomedical interventions. The ethical burden of ensuring bodily autonomy for transgender people seeking medical intervention lies with healthcare providers and policymakers.
In conclusion, the policing of boundaries of acceptable sexual identities and behaviour is a recurring theme in numerous marginalities. Gender, especially womanhood, is often instantiated socially through the harms to which members of that gender are subjected. For transgender people, the assumption that genitals define gender is flawed and ignores the complex nature of gender identity. A biopsychosocial understanding of embodiment, including the influences of culture on the neurological representation of the body in the somatosensory cortex, is needed. This highlights the medical necessity of bodily autonomy for trans people seeking surgery or other biomedical interventions and the ethical burden on healthcare providers and policymakers to ensure this autonomy. By challenging societal norms and expectations around gender identity, we can create a more inclusive and accepting society for transgender people.
Karkazis, K., & Jordan-Young, R. M. (2020). Cultural cissexism and the embodiment of gender dysphoria. Insep – Journal of the International Network for Sexual Ethics & Politics, 1(4), 4-19. doi: 10.3224/insep.si2020.04
Serano, J. (2007). Whipping girl: A transsexual woman on sexism and the scapegoating of femininity. Seal Press.
Stryker, S. (2008). Transgender history. Seal Press.
Stotzer, R. L., Herman, J. L., & Hasenbush, A. (2014). Transgender adults report higher rates of poor health and healthcare discrimination than cisgender adults. Health Affairs, 33(4), 701-709.
Transgender Health Program. (2020). Standards of care for the health of transsexual, transgender, and gender-nonconforming people, version 7. International Journal of Transgenderism, 21(3), 217-337.
Van der Miesen, A. I., de Vries, A. L. C., Steensma, T. D., & Cohen-Kettenis, P. T. (2018). The longitudinal course of gender dysphoria in treatment-seeking adolescents: Psychopathology, sense of self, and quality of life. Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, 44(4), 340-353.
Disclaimer: As a registered clinical counsellor and registered psychotherapist (qualifying), I'm sharing insights on my blog for informational purposes, not professional advice or treatment. My writing aims to inspire you to consult your own healthcare or mental health provider. Remember, your decisions based on the blog content are solely your responsibility. Please explore other resources if this understanding doesn't align with your expectations. Thank you.