How is imagining that you are the opposite (sic) gender any different from a schizophrenic imagining that she is the Mother Mary or that he is Jesus Christ? This is a question that often gets thrown about as proof that the transsexual experience isn’t valid. “My friend thinks he’s a lizard,” sarcastic comments claim, “should I start feeding him insects”? Well, insects are high in protein, so your friend might benefit from this type of diet. But no, comparing transsexuals to schizophrenics is not helpful or accurate. Gender, researchers have found, is not an either/or proposition. And how we feel inside in terms of gender is pretty much set at the age of 3 years old. No amount of aversion therapy or tough love can change it.
Schizophrenia is a mental illness that has seriously debilitating symptoms that can prevent a sufferer from living a fulfilling life unless they receive treatment. Medications such as risperidol or newer ones like olanzapine help alleviate the loss of touch with reality, the voices and hallucinations that those with schizophrenia contend with. Once the medications kick in, sufferers recognize their own delusions and are able to distinguish between the real and the imagined just like anyone else.
Feeding these types of medications to a transgender person has no such effect, signifying that we are dealing with a different beast entirely.
Despite many attempts to come up with treatments for curing transsexuals of their so-called gender “delusions”, scientific data show that these have proven to be largely ineffectual. On the flip side, supporting the transsexual in transitioning from his or her assigned gender to the gender that he/she/they identifies with, has shown overwhelmingly positive results. Of course hormones and surgery are not a cure-all. People who have other conditions, such as ADHD or OCD, will continue to have those conditions after transitioning. But aligning their outer appearance to their internal sense of who they are has proven to greatly improve people’s sense of well-being.
Trust me, most of us who are trans would gladly have taken medication to cure ourselves of our “delusions” if it worked. But it doesn’t. And so, we are left with this option: what if gender isn’t something that the outside world gets to impose on us but something we need to choose for ourselves?
And to those who claim that transsexualism is a medically created phenomenon, that simply isn’t true. Gender bending individuals have existed since time immemorial. In some indigenous cultures we have even been endowed with special powers and called shamans. What medical technology has allowed is for us to take ownership of our own bodies and to determine how we want our bodies to reflect our selves.
That is a right we all deserve. My body tells a story, and the author of that story is me. If you think you get to decide who I am, you’re the one who is delusional.
On the difference between being transsexual and being psychotic
On the harms of reparative (or conversion) therapy
Understanding gender (childhood development and terminology)
Trans expression in ancient times
Study of the effectiveness of hormones and surgery