, Volume 23, Issue 2, pp 185-201

Cross-gender identity in transvestites and male transsexuals

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A self-theory of transvestism and secondary transsexuality in which gender identity is a major self subsystem has been advanced in previous research. Within this framework transsexuals and transvestites were compared on a number of developmental characteristics. While early-onset transsexuals (n =103) were dominantly female, both late-onset transsexuals (n =52) and transvestites (n =36) showed much more feminine behavior than expected. This was interpreted as a sign that they were already developing a feminine gender identity in their early years. Implications for this theory were discussed: (i) The assumption of two gender identity subsystems (a masculine and a feminine) in any human being, which can have any relative strength; (ii) the incorporation of the concept of expression of an identity subsystem, which can be unconditional or conditional (i.e., expression of aspects of the self only if certain conditions are fulfilled) and which has the function of self-seeking. Two continua are proposed. One ranges from a strong feminine gender identity subsystem that is unconditionally expressed to weak unexpressed femininity. The second ranges from a strong and unconditionally expressed masculinity to a weak masculinity. Male-to-female transsexuals (and “normal” females) are characterized by a strong unconditionally expressed feminine gender identity in combination with a weak unexpressed masculinity. Transvestism is a position in between in which both masculinity and femininity are conditionally expressed.