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Posts tagged ‘gender status’

What is the Difference between Gay and Transgender?

This may be a very basic post for some and if so I invite you to skip it, but it is one of the most frequent search requests that land people on my blog, so I thought I should write a very clear answer to this query. (I wrote previously about the difference between some experiences of gay and transgender people here.)

OK, to begin with let’s define some terms.

‘Gay’, ’Lesbian’ and ‘Bisexual’ refer to sexual orientation, in other words – who you are attracted to.   A man who is attracted to other men could identify as ‘Gay’ or ‘Homosexual’.

‘Transgender’ is often used to mean ‘Transsexual’(Transgender refers to a larger group of people than that) has to do with one’s gender identity.  Gender Identity is how one identifies in terms of maleness or femaleness.  For a transgender or transsexual person one’s gender identity is different from what one might expect given ones natal or biological sex (‘Sex’ here refers to one’s biological sex – how one was born.)  Gender is not always the same as one’s sex.  ‘Gender Identity’ is how one feels inside, and Sexual Orientation is who one is attracted to vis-à-vis your current gender presentation.

To get back to the question ‘What is the Difference between Gay and Transgender?’ – we see that the difference is one has to do with sexual orientation (who you are attracted to sexually) and the other has to do with gender identity (who you feel yourself to be).

Why then all the confusion?

I think it has to do with the fact that queer folk – (i.e. gay lesbian and bisexual) might have more overlap with gender queerness than other (heteronormative or ‘straight’) folk.  In other words – among gay men – there may be a larger percentage of gender fluidity – or those who identify as somewhat more feminine than among straight men and the same with gay women.  This is their natural ‘Gender Expression’.  Indeed Freud remarked on the biological characteristics of gay men back in the early 1900’s.  Therefore it is possible to confuse or conflate sexual orientation with gender identity.  In addition, much of the stigma and discrimination suffered by gays and lesbians over the years has more to do with their visible gender non-conformity than with their invisible sexual preference.  The world has very little tolerance for gender non-conformity, although the world is changing.

Find out about Psychotherapy when dealing with Gender variance in yourself or someone close to you.

The Prevalence of Transgenderism – an update.

I offered some information about prevalence in a previous post.  I am re-posting those studies here with the addition of some new studies, filling in some omissions, adding links where available and adding some new thoughts.

These are studies that observed at least the year 1990 to the present and where prevalence estimates where made.  Sorted by the last year of the study (not the publication year).

(Note: N =number of people in the study, MtF = Male to Female, FtM=Female to Male, Prevalence should be read as ‘one in 42,000’)

Author Period Reported Country Incusion   Criteria    N MtF :  FtM Prevalence
Weitze & Osburg (1996) 1981-1990 Germany Granted legal change of name or gender status 1047 2.3  :1 MtF:1 : 42,000  FtM:1 : 104,000
Bakker, van Kesteren, Gooren, & Bezemer (1993) 1986-1990 Netherlands Receiving hormone therapy 713 2.5 :1 MtF:1 : 11,900  FtM:1 : 30,400
Wilson, Sharp, & Carr (1999) circa 1998 Scotland Gender Dysphoria 273 4 : 1 MtF:1 : 7,400    FtM:1 : 31,200
Wilson, Sharp, & Carr (1999) circa 1998 Scotland Receiving Hormone therapy or post-surgery 160 3.8 :1 MtF:1 : 12,800  FtM:1 : 52,100
Horton, M.A. (2008) 2001 USA based on survey of surgeons who performed SRS  2:1 MtF:1 : 750       FtM:1 : 1,400
Conway, L. (2001) 2001 USA based on estimates of the numbers of sex reassignment surgeries MtF:1 : 1500* the estimate was between 1 in 250 to 1 in 2500
De Cuypere et al. (2007) 1985-2003 Belgium Completed sex reassignment surgery 412 2.4  :1 MtF:1  : 12,900    FtM:1  : 33,800
Gomez Gil et al. (2006) 1996-2004 Spain Diagnosis of Transsexualsism 161 2.6  :1 MtF:  1 : 21,000    FtM:  1:  48,100
Reed, et al (GIRES) (2009) 2007 (also see 2011 update here) United Kingdon people who sought tx for gender variance MtF: 1 : 10,000
Veale, J. (2008) 2008 New Zealand people who changed gender markers on New Zealand passport 385 MtF: 1 : 3639        FtM: 1: 22,714
Conron, K.J,  et. al (2011) 2010 USA – Mass phone survey of housholds in MA  28000 MtF: 1 : 200  * survey did not distinguish between MtF or FtM

A few points

  • The Male to Female numbers are much more reliable than the Female to male numbers at this point.  Many researchers argue that FtM transgender individuals can live more easily with male gender expression and may present for treatment less.
  • The incidents of gender variance being reported are more or less increasing over time (see the graph below).  Some researchers have noted that reported incidents are higher in cities and in more tolerant cultures.
  • Gender Variance is extremelty hard to count due to individuals remaining hidden or choosing not to seek any type of treatment because of stigma.
 Example – to read the graph below: Horton finds the prevalence of Male to Female transgender to be one in 750 people.
Chart of MtF transgender prevalence

Chart of MtF transgender prevalence



Some new data – not worked into the chart yet:

Find out about Psychotherapy when dealing with Gender variance in yourself or someone close to you.


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