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Transsexual sexuality refers to sexual and romantic behavior of transsexual people, and is a complex interaction between identity and attraction.

Characterizing a transsexual person as heterosexual or homosexual is problematic. Historically, clinicians labeled transsexual people as heterosexual or homosexual relative to their birth sex, but most transsexual people find this offensive and define their sexual orientation relative to self-defined gender identity. For example, a transwoman attracted to other women would self-identify as a lesbian, not as a heterosexual. To avoid confusion and offense, the terms gynephilia (attraction to women) and androphilia (attraction to men) have been proposed.

Historical definitionsEdit

Richard Green notes that though cross-gender identity has existed throughout history, "the term 'transsexual,' being of comparatively recent origin, cannot be found in historical sources." [1]

Transsexual people exhibit the full range of possible sexual orientations and interests, [2] including a lack of interest in sex. [3] Some maintain a consistent orientation throughout their lives, [4] [5] in some cases even remaining with the same partner through transition. [6] In other cases, their choices in sexual partners may change after transition. [7]

Taxonomies based on sexualityEdit

Sexologist Magnus Hirschfeld first suggested a distinction based on sexual orientation. [8] A number of two-type taxonomies based on transsexual sexuality have subsequently been proposed by clinicians, though some clinicians believe that other factors are more clinically useful categories, or that two types are insufficient. [9]

Endocrinologist Harry Benjamin was a pioneer in medical services for transsexual people. He proposed the Benjamin Scale in 1966 as an early attempt to categorize transsexuals based on his observations. The scale was based on the Kinsey scale created by sexologist Alfred Kinsey. Where Kinsey's scale is a continuum between exclusively heterosexual and exclusively homosexual, Benjamin's scale is a continuum between transvestism and transsexualism. This system has six grades of transsexual from "Pseudo-transvestite" at level 1, to a "True Transsexual (High Intensity)" at level 6. [10]

Following Benjamin, Buhrich and McConaghy proposed three clinically discrete categories of fetishistic transvestism: "nuclear" transvestites who were satisfied with cross-dressing, "marginal" transvestites who also desired feminization by hormones or surgical intervention, and "fetishistic transsexuals," who had shown fetishistic arousal but who identified as transsexuals and sought sex reassignment surgery. [11]

Person and Ovesey proposed the terms primary versus secondary transsexualism. They defined primary transsexuals as asexual persons with little or no interest in partnered sexual activity and with no history of sexual arousal to cross-dressing or cross-gender fantasy. [12] They defined both homosexual and transvestic transsexuals to be secondary transsexuals. [13] Later uses of this terminology often defined primary transsexualism as attracted to males, and secondary transsexualism as attracted to females.

McConahay and McConahay reported that transsexual people have more heterosexual than homosexual experiences. [14] According to two published reports, about half of male-to-female transsexuals had sexual intercourse with females. [15] [16] Bentler found an almost equal distribution of 42 male-to-female studied transsexuals between three distinct categories: homosexual, asexual, and heterosexual. [17] Leavitt and Berger claim "By far, the majority of males seeking reassignment are attracted to males." [18] In the same study, Leavitt and Berger found that "those patients who derived erotic pleasure from their penis were more likely to be emotionally unstable, and less likely to have switched to full-time living as women, suggesting that clinicians may be dealing with different disorders that require separate explanations." Hoenig and Kenna reported that most transsexuals masturbate. [19] In a study with 44 subjects, Langevin reported 88% allowed a male partner to touch their penis, 29% received fellatio, and 2% performed anal sex. [20] Stoller claimed that erotic pleasure in the penis does not exist in the true transsexual. [21]

Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental DisordersEdit

In the United States, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders is the primary reference in psychology. The DSM has employed several diagnostic categories since its inception. After the DSM removed homosexuality as a mental illness in 1973, several other diagnoses were used, including ego-dystonic homosexuality.

In DSM-IIIR "Transsexualism" was a disorder classified under "Disorders usually first evident in infancy, childhood, and adolescence." DSM-IIIR also listed "Gender identity disorder, adolescence or adulthood, non-transsexual type" (GIDAANT). [22]

The 2000 edition reflects current accepted terminology, gender identity disorder (GID). It also has differential diagnosis for children and GID "not otherwise specified." The DSM also has a diagnosis of transvestic fetishism. [23] Some therapists and activists seek to depathologize some or all of these categories in future revisions.

Blanchard, Bailey, and Lawrence theoryEdit

Main article: Blanchard, Bailey, and Lawrence theory

A taxonomy created by Ray Blanchard in 1989 proposes two categories for male-to-female transsexual people: homosexual and nonhomosexual. Blanchard's theories were popularized by sexologists J. Michael Bailey and Anne Lawrence. The taxonomy claims that "homosexual transsexuals" are an extreme type of gay man, where "nonhomosexual transsexuals" are driven to transition by "autogynephilia," a paraphilia Blanchard coined which means arousal at "the thought or image of oneself as a woman." This theory is generally very controversial among transsexual people and clinicians, who take issue with the terminology and its biological reductionism.

Cultural differences in transsexual sexualityEdit

Sexual behavior and gender roles vary by culture, which has an effect on the place of gender variant people in that culture. In most cultures, transsexual people are stigmatized, and sexual activity involving transsexuals is considered shameful, especially in cultures with rigid sex roles or strictures against non-heterosexual sex. In many cultures, transsexual people (especially transwomen) are frequently relegated to sex work.

In the United States, African American transsexuality and Hispanic Transsexuality occur in a cultures with significant levels of machismo and homophobia. Spanish language further adds to the stigmatization of gender variant people through the use of grammatical gender. In these cultures, a distinction is sometimes made between active and passive sexual activity, where the passive or receiving partner is not considered masculing or straight, but the active partner is. [24] Some observers question the racist assumptions behind clinical literature on transsexual sexuality in various ethnic groups. [25]

Asian countries, notably Thailand, have a more socially tolerant view of transsexual sexuality, but the legal status of transsexual people in many Asian countries does not allow for marriage. The Thai kathoey and South Asian Hijra (South Asia) often seek feminizing surgical procedures, but these can range from orchiectomy to penectomy without vaginoplasty.

See alsoEdit


  1. Green R (1966) Transsexualism: Mythological, Historical, and Cross-Cultiral Aspects. in Benjamin H, The Transsexual Phenomenon. Julian Press ASIN B0007HXA76
  2. Tobin HJ (2003). Sexuality in Transsexual and Transgender Individuals Part I: A Review of the Literature.
  3. Devor H (1997). FTM: Female-to-Male Transsexuals in Society. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. ISBN 0-253-21259-6
  4. Ashley A, Thompson D (1986). The First Lady. John Blake Publishing, ISBN 1-84454-231-9
  5. Cossey C (1992). My Story. Faber & Faber, ISBN 0-571-16251-7
  6. Boylan JF (2003). She's Not There: A Life in Two Genders. Broadway ISBN 0-7679-1404-X
  7. Daskalos CD (1998). Changes in the Sexual Orientation of Six Heterosexual Male-to-Female Transsexuals. Archives of Sexual Behavior 6:605-614.
  8. Hirschfeld M (1923). Die intersexuelle Konstitution. Jarhbuch fuer sexuelle Zwischenstufen. 1923: 3-27
  9. Docter RF, Fleming JS (2001). Measures of Transgender Behavior. Archives of Sexual Behavior Volume 30, Number 3 / June, 2001
  10. Benjamin (1966). " Benjamin Scale
  11. Buhrish N, McConaghy N (1979). Three clinically discrete categories of fetishistic transvestism. Archives of Sexual Behavior Volume 8, Number 2 / March, 1979.
  12. Person E, Ovesey L (1974). The transsexual syndrome in males. I. Primary transsexualism. American Journal of Psychotherapy, 28, 4-20.
  13. Person E, Ovesey L (1974b). The transsexual syndrome in males. II. Secondary transsexualism. American Journal of Psychotherapy, 28, 174-193.
  14. McConahay SA, McConahay JB (1977). Sexual permissiveness, sexrole rigidity and violence across cultures. ‘’Journal of Social Issues’’ 33: 134-143.
  15. Randell JB (1959). Transvestism and transsexualism. A study of 50 cases. ‘’British Medical Journal’’ 2:1448.
  16. Roth M, Ball JRB (1964). Psychiatric aspects of intersexuality. ‘’Intersexuality In Vertebrates Including Man’’, Armstrong CN, Marschall AJ (eds.), New York, p. 395. ISBN 0-12-063150-4
  17. Bentler PM (1976). A typology of transsexualism: Gender identity theory and data. Arch. Sex. Behav. 5: 567-583.
  18. Leavitt F, Berger JC (1990). Clinical patterns among male transsexual candidates with erotic interest in males. Archives of Sexual Behavior Volume 19, Number 5 / October, 1990
  19. Hoenig, J., and Kenna, J. C. (1974). The nosological position of transsexualism. Arch. Sex. Behav. 3: 273-287.
  20. Langevin, R., Paitich, D., and Steiner, B. (1977). The clinical profile of male transsexuals living as females vs. those living as males. Archives of Sexual Behavior 6: 143-153.
  21. Stoller RJ (1973). Male transsexualism: Uneasiness. American Journal of Psychiatry 130: 536-539.
  22. American Psychiatric Publishing (1987). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. 3rd Revision ISBN 0-89042-019-X
  23. American Psychological Association (APA)(2000)" Gender Identity Disorder in DSM IV TR.
  24. Southern Arizona Gender Alliance Gender Identity 101: A Transgender Primer. [1]
  25. Trans-Health:Trans people: are we nuts? "Schizophrenia and Racist Assumptions". [2]
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