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History of the Transgender and Transsexual Community

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Social Work
Wordcount: 2109 words Published: 15th Sep 2017

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Ashley Staten

When a child is born, the parents often wait to hear ‘Congratulations, it’s a boy or it’s a girl’ from the doctor. In rare cases the doctor will hesitate and try to find words to describe it as the anatomy is neither male or female or has both, a condition is known as intersex. What happens when this child at puberty or even earlier age begins acting opposite of their biological sex in terms of their gender expression (Haas and Russell, 2010). The society will not approve, the parents will try to seek for help or attempt to ‘correct’ this child while the child will undergo numerous struggle or identity crisis plus internal and external conflicts. This is the reality of Transgender. They feel like they are wearing the wrong body.

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Transgender or transsexual refers to one born with typical male or female anatomies but internally they feel like a person of the opposite sex. A man will feel like a woman in a man’s body and likewise for a woman. It’s the internal expression of gender identity. They usually seek to ‘rectify’ their condition by seeking sexual reassignment through takings hormones and surgical processes. In reference to themselves, transgendered people will have others refer them as ‘he,’ ‘she’ ‘they’ or ‘ze’ for pronouns. While transgender is a common phenomenon in the world, it is mostly in the West that is America and Europe that individuals will come out and actually undergo change. In other continents like Africa and Middle East, transgender people do exist but might be hesitant in expressing it because of religious, social, legislative and medical restrictions (Haas and Russell, 2010). This research will, therefore, seek to narrow down to America which is perceived to have a more liberal approach towards gender identity and expression.

In 1885, the UK passed the criminal law act which illegalized homosexual practice; this was replicated all throughout Europe. Homosexuals such as Ernest (Stella) Boulton and Fred (Fanny) Park were publicly tried and punished in 1870. People who were facing this crisis, therefore, sought doctors to cure them. A new medical field of sociology developed to deal with this issue. The first sexologist, Kraft-Ebbing (1840-1902) professor of Psychiatrist in Vienna published ‘Psychopathis sexual’ which was first published from 1877, a pronominal study on transgender.

The term ‘transvestite’ was a word first used by the German Sexologist Magnus Hirschfield which refers to a person who clothes and acts in a manner of the opposite sex. He later developed the Berlin Institute where the first sex change took place. Dr. Felix Abraham performed a mastectomy on a transman in 1926 at the Hirschfield’s infamous clinic. In 1930, he performed a penectomy on his domestic servant Dora, a vaginoplasty on Lili Elbe, a Danish painter. Lili died less than two years later out of complications.

In 1949, the term ‘transsexual’ was coined and 1977 ‘transgender’ set. In the UK, Michael (formally Laura) Dillon) had a gender reassignment during the war in which Sir Harold Gilles constructed a penis by the plastic surgeon in the late 1940s. In 1950, the famous ‘all-American girl’, blond and beautiful Christine Jorgensen became the media sensational icon when she returned from Denmark where she had undergone the first of a series of surgery. After Dr. Christian Hamburger performed the surgery, he began receiving letters from Americans seeking for advice and help. He would later publish a paper ‘Desire for Change’ in 1953 addressing those issues.

In America having been trained at Hirschfield’s clinic, Endocrinologist Harry Benjamin, set the first clinic in New York and later San Francisco. He trained a set of psychiatrists and psychotherapists in the treatment of transgender people. He published the first major textbook in 1966 called ‘Transsexual Phenomenon’ in trying to inform the public the reality of transgender.

They are very minimal in numbers. In 2011, The William Institute researched and came out with statistical figures of the transgender community and the issues facing them in the United States of America. The then number of known of transgender community was 0.3% or 700,000. However, this number has doubled to 1.4 million people or 0.6% in 2016, these figures are also subjected to fluctuate due to the multiple awareness programmers’. The military had 15,500 transgenders in 2014 serving actively, 134,300 veterans. Out of this 32% were those born male at birth and 5.5% female at birth (Bockting and Coleman, 2013).

Transgender community undergoes a lot of discrimination from family members, workplaces, and even schools. Out of 636 companies, only 207 companies provide health care coverage to transgender people, this is according to Human Right Campaign report of 2012. National Transparency Discrimination survey found out that 41% (2644 out of 6450) of transgender people interviewed have attempted suicide at some point due to sexual assault, physical assault or school harassment, and 19% had experienced violence from family members. In public schools, 78% of the transgender people in grades between K-12 had experienced harassment, 35% physical assault and 12% sexual violence, 50% were harassed at work while 26% lost their jobs as soon as their sexual orientation was exposed. 78% of the transgender people feel at ease at work and comfortable after transition (Bockting and Coleman, 2013).

In the USA, only 18 states have clear laws protecting transgender people, and according to the American Civil Liberties Union, in 32 states transgendered people can be fired or denied employment. The District of Colombia has the highest number of transgender people, approximately 2.77% or 14550. Other states with high numbers are Hawaii, California, Georgia and New Mexico at between 0.7% to 0.8%. The lowest with 0.3% are North and South Dakota, Iowa, Wyoming, and Montana,

According to the National Coalition of Anti-violence programs, 55% of all homicide were transgender, 55% of LGTB victims were transgender, 50% were transgender women of color. The youngest person to undergo gender reassignment was Kim Petra’s a German musician at 16 years old while Laverne Cox was the first transgender to be nominated at an award show. She was nominated for her role as Sophia Bucket in the ‘Orange Is the New Black’ show (Clements and Katz, 2001).

In April 2015, ABC aired Dianne Sawyer’s intimate first interview with Caitlyn (formerly Bruce) Jenner. The viewers were 16.9 million, four times the average audience for the show. In America, 16% of people know a person who is transgender in comparison to 87% knew someone who is homosexual.

High Expenses, complex processes to fully transgender are also some challenges they undergo since several processes and series of surgeries are required. When a female wants to turn to male, she must undergo several processes like phalloplasty, scrotoplasty, testicular implants, glans plashy, and transposition of the clitoris. These in addition to anesthetic and post-surgery hospital rest should cost between $5,000-100,000. Medical follow-ups are also a cost to be factored.

The American culture is mostly shaped by two major ideologies namely the conservative and the liberals. While the conservative mostly are the people who believe in preserving the old cultural religious and moral values, they will mostly include, religious individuals, middle aged to older aged people. They will be pro-life thus anti- abortionists, anti-homosexuality. The other group will include the liberals who believe in individual rights, they will be pro-homosexuality, pro-choice and will mostly include young people middle-aged and minimal aged. This shape the voting pattern whereby the conservatives will vote for a republican president and liberals will vote for a democratic president. Transgender people will mostly vote for the democratic government who accommodates their gender identity (Clements and Katz, 2001).

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The conservatives feel that transgender is totally wrong through the lens of spiritual convictions. Due to the ongoing transgender debate, conservative feel that they are losing the battle to the transgender. They feel that transgender mania otherwise ‘plagia’ is a symptom of the West’s decadence and culture collapse. The transgender propagandist is overstating their claims of the multiplicity of their gender and by subjecting their children to some proceedings like taking hormones to slow puberty and surgical manipulations amounts to child abuse. Those who promote liberalism, however, feel that their counterparts are being insensitive in their reasoning and people have a right to choose their gender. Transgender promotes humanitarian liberalism. They believe in own choice and not some moral values dictated in some religious book and actually, they argue that all religious books do not prohibit transgender. Former President Obama who openly supported them was overwhelmingly voted for by transgender and same for Hillary Clinton. They will hardly vote republicans because they believe the republican government is a hindrance to their progress.

Marriages also become a challenge for this population. Most conservatives will have religious objections to transgender marriages and conservative religious will even deny them avenue or grounds for conducting ceremonies. This has led to several court battles as the transgender seek to assert their rights (Baral and Beyrer, 2013).

Public facilities such as bathroom use are also an area of culture clash. When the state of North Carolina passed the law that transgender people to use the bathroom of the gender stated on their birth certificate, this sparked a public debate with the Obama administration terming the law as ‘State Sponsored Discrimination’ against transgender (Baral and Beyrer, 2013). He told the entire public school district to allow the transgender students to use bathrooms of their gender identity. For the general public, it’s still a very conflicting debate. 41% of Americans feels that transgender should use the bathroom for the gender on the birth certificate while the 51% felt that they should use the bathroom for new gender.

The transgender community is here to stay. November 20th is an annual celebration of Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR). It honors the memory of those who lost their lives in the acts of anti-transgender violence. It was started by Advocate Gwendolyn Ann Smith in memory of Rita Hester, a transgender woman killed in 1988. It aims to raise awareness on the visibility of transgender and address the issues. Whether society will fully accept transgender people or not, they will continue to fight against discrimination and with each fight, they will make progress towards their goals.


Haas, A. P., Eliason, M., Mays, V. M., Mathy, R. M., Cochran, S. D., D’Augelli, A. R., … &

Russell, S. T. (2010). Suicide and suicide risk in lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender populations: review and recommendations. Journal of homosexuality, 58(1), 10-51.

Bockting, W. O., Miner, M. H., Swinburne Romine, R. E., Hamilton, A., & Coleman, E. (2013). Stigma, mental health, and resilience in an online sample of the US transgender population. American journal of public health, 103(5), 943-951.

Bockting, W. O., Miner, M. H., Swinburne Romine, R. E., Hamilton, A., & Coleman, E. (2013). Stigma, mental health, and resilience in an online sample of the US transgender population. American journal of public health, 103(5), 943-951.

Clements-Nolle, K., Marx, R., Guzman, R., & Katz, M. (2001). HIV prevalence, risk behaviors, health care use, and mental health status of transgender persons: implications for public health intervention. American journal of public health, 91(6), 915.

Baral, S. D., Poteat, T., Strömdahl, S., Wirtz, A. L., Guadamuz, T. E., & Beyrer, C. (2013). Worldwide burden of HIV in transgender women: a systematic review and meta-analysis. The Lancet infectious diseases, 13(3), 214-222.


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