Skip to content

Posts tagged ‘transsexual’

The Prevalence of Transgenderism

Someone asked me recently “what is the prevalence of transgenderism”, so I thought I’d take a stab at finding out.

An article on questions of prevalence and epidemiology of GID appears in the International Journal of Transgenderism in its special issue: “Toward Version 7 of the World Professional Association for Transgender Health’s Standards of Care” (Volume 11, number 1, 2009).  The article was written by Kenneth Zucker and Anne Lawrence, and was summarized by Eli Coleman in his introduction to the special issue:

Formal epidemiological studies on gender identity disorder in children, adolescents, and adults are still lacking and no strong conclusion about its prevalence or incidence can be drawn. The current prevalence estimates that are cited in the DSM-IV and the WPATH SOC(1) are based upon data over 20 years old.  They [Zucker and Lawrence] note, however, that between the 1960’s and 1990’s, there appears to be at least a threefold increase (and as high as eightfold increase) in patients presenting to clinics in Western Europe.  This could be due to increased awareness and seeking of transgender services.  There is also the problem of whom to count.  Individuals who undergo surgical sex reassignment are only an extreme end-point of a continuum of cross-gender identification. We are more and more aware of the myriad of individuals who identify as transgender or gender queer and who represent individuals along the broad spectrum of cross-gender identification.”(p. 5)

This is from the Zucker, Lawrence article itself:

“As is the case with children and adolescents, there are also no formal epidemiological studies on GID in adults. The most common indirect method that has been used to gauge the prevalence of GID in adults has been to rely on the number of persons who attend specialty hospital and university-based clinics serving as gateways for surgical and hormonal sex reassignment.”  (p. 13)

They then present a table of data from 25 such clinics and try and estimate prevalence.   I’m listing 7 lines from their table (of 25) where the period reported falls somewhere between the year 1990 and the present and where prevalence estimates where made:

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
De Cuypere et al. (2007) 1985-2003 Belgium Completed sex reassignment surgery 412 2.4  :1 MtF:1  : 12,900 FtM:1  : 33,800
Bakker, van Kesteren, Gooren, & Bezemer (1993) 1986-1990 Netherlands Receiving hormone therapy 713 2.5  :1 MtF:1 : 11,900 FtM:1 : 30,400
Gomez Gil et al. (2006) 1996-2004 Spain Diagnosis of Transsexualsism 161 2.6  :1 MtF:  1 : 21,000 FtM:  1:  48,100
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

To summarize

  • There are some estimates based on indirect methods and counting those seeking treatment specifically some form of surgery & we know that this is a small percentage of overall people with gender variance.
  • no direct studies on prevalence of GID have been done
  • doing an accurate count is complicated by the fact that those counted are those who are “out” as being transgender and seeking some form of treatment, and also those who have transitioned may not wish to be counted.

Also – this is a subject very much on the minds of researches in the field now (its been a lively topic of conversation on the WPATH email list for several months).

(1)    – prevalence cited in DSM-IV:  “Data from smaller countries in Europe with access to total population statistics and referrals suggest that roughly 1 per 30,000 adult males and 1 per  100,000 adult females seek sex-reassignment surgery.” (p. 535).  This data was probably drawn from Hoenig and Kenna (1974) “The prevalence of transsexualism in England and Wales, British Journal of Psychiatry, 124, 181-190.  And we know that only a fraction of transgendered individuals actually seek sexual reassignment surgery.”

an update to this post can be found here
Find out about Psychotherapy when dealing with Gender variance in yourself or someone close to you.

Subtle Discrimination – How do transgender individuals cope with it?

This incident of subtle (and not trans related) discrimination really stuck with me from a book I read recently called My Freshman Year: What a professor learned by becoming a student (Nathan, R. 2005. Cornell University Press).  The professor is interviewing ‘Pat’, a student of color in a largely white university campus:

When I asked Pat, a Hispanic-Native American woman, whether she had ever considered rushing a sorority, she told me that she had in her freshman year, but “I could see that it wasn’t really right for me, because I’d pass by all the sorority tables – you know how they call out to girls to come over and take a look – well, I saw they called out to other girls but not me.  They kinda ignored me, not hostile or anything, but not interested either”. (p. 61)

This type of discrimination is undoubtedly a common occurrence for transgender individuals, particularly those who are in-transition or who are “read” as transgender.  They are at times (perhaps unconsciously) not-included, not invited to participate and ignored when in a “mainstream” environment.  This can be particularly jarring for one who has presented in the past in such a way as to not incur any discrimination (like those who have presented as ‘straight white men’).

When it’s unnoticed

I think it’s likely that a lot of this discrimination goes unnoticed by a transitioning individual in part because of their satisfaction and happiness with transitioning (and thereby being less concerned with how others are reacting to them), and in part because it is indeed subtle.  This not knowing you are being discriminated against can at times be an advantage, because one just proceeds as usual, and perhaps overcomes barriers by their non-acknowledgement of any prejudice coming their way.

When it is noticed

When you recognized that you are being discriminated against in some way it is extremely frustrating and upsetting.

I think one way for the trans person to deal with this is to proceed as if no discrimination is happening, even if you know it is.  I think letting oneself get angry or defensive can only be counter-productive, even when one has a genuine beef.  An unfortunate  consequence of the transitioning process is that one becomes more visible at a time when most people would prefer to be less visible.  Developing coping mechanisms around discrimination are essential to making it through.

I’d like to turn the question out to all of you to find how people have dealt with this and to discover what has worked well when you do want to engage with the people who are discriminating against you.  What do you do when you want to be accepted by a school group or any other group.

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

Sexual and Gender Identity Disorders | APA’s proposed changes – DSM-5

The APA proposals for changes to the DSM are out.

I’ve highlighted major changes below  in red.

— The following selections are from the APA site —

Gender Identity Disorders

302.6 Gender Identity Disorder in Children

302.85 Gender Identity Disorder in Adolescents or Adults

Gender Incongruence (in Adolescents or Adults) [1]

A. A marked incongruence between one’s experienced/expressed gender and assigned gender, of at least 6 months duration, as manifested by 2* or more of the following indicators: [2, 3, 4]

1. a marked incongruence between one’s experienced/expressed gender and primary and/or secondary sex characteristics (or, in young adolescents, the anticipated secondary sex characteristics) [13, 16]

2. a strong desire to be rid of one’s primary and/or secondary sex characteristics because of a marked incongruence with one’s experienced/expressed gender (or, in young adolescents, a desire to prevent the development of the anticipated secondary sex characteristics) [17]

3. a strong desire for the primary and/or secondary sex characteristics of the other gender

4. a strong desire to be of the other gender (or some alternative gender different from one’s assigned gender)

5. a strong desire to be treated as the other gender (or some alternative gender different from one’s assigned gender)

6. a strong conviction that one has the typical feelings and reactions of the other gender (or some alternative gender different from one’s assigned gender)


With a disorder of sex development

Without a disorder of sex development

[14, 15, 16, 19]

and the ‘Rational’ from the site:

For the adult criteria, we propose, on a preliminary basis, the requirement of only 2 indicators. This is based on a preliminary secondary data analysis of 154 adolescent and adults patients with GID compared to 684 controls (Deogracias et al., 2007; Singh et al., 2010). From a 27-item dimensional measure of gender dysphoria, the Gender Identity/Gender Dysphoria Questionnaire for Adolescents and Adults (GIDYQ), we extracted five items that correspond to the proposed A2-A6 indicators (we could not extract a corresponding item for A1). Each item was rated on a 5-point response scale, ranging from Never to Always, with the past 12 months as the time frame. For the current analysis, we coded a symptom as present if the participant endorsed one of the two most extreme response options (frequently or always) and as absent if the participant endorsed one of the three other options (never, rarely, sometimes). This yielded a true positive rate of 94.2% and a false positive rate of 0.7%. Because the wording of the items on the GIDYQ is not identical to the wording of the proposed indicators, further validational work will be required during field trials.

End notes

1. It is proposed that the name gender identity disorder (GID) be replaced by “Gender Incongruence” (GI) because the latter is a descriptive term that better reflects the core of the problem: an incongruence between, on the one hand, what identity one experiences and/or expresses and, on the other hand, how one is expected to live based on one’s assigned gender (usually at birth) (Meyer-Bahlburg, 2009a; Winters, 2005). In a recent survey that we conducted among consumer organizations for transgendered people (Vance et al., in press), many very clearly indicated their rejection of the GID term because, in their view, it contributes to the stigmatization of their condition.

2. In addition to the proposed name change for the diagnosis (see Endnote 1), there are 6  substantive proposed changes to the DSM-IV descriptive and diagnostic material: (a) we have proposed a change in conceptualization of the defining features by emphasizing the phenomenon of “gender incongruence” in contrast to cross-gender identification per se (Meyer-Bahlburg, 2009a); (b) we have proposed a merging of the A and B clinical indicator criteria in DSM-IV (see Endnotes 10, 13); (c) for the adolescent/adult criteria, we have proposed a more detailed and specific set of polythetic indicators than was the case in DSM-IV (Cohen-Kettenis & Pfäfflin, 2009; Zucker, 2006); (d) for the child criteria, we have proposed that the A1 indicator be necessary (but not sufficient) for the diagnosis of GI (see Endnote 5); (e) we have proposed that the “distress/impairment” criterion not be a prerequisite for the diagnosis of GI (see Endnote 15); and (f) we have proposed that subtyping by sexual attraction (for adolescents/adults) be eliminated (see Endnote 18) but that subtyping by the presence or absence of a co-occurring disorder of sex development (DSD) be introduced (see Endnote 14). As in DSM-IV, we recommend one overarching diagnosis, GI, with separate, developmentally-appropriate criteria sets for children vs. adolescents/adults. The text material will provide updated information on developmental trajectory data for clients who received the GI diagnosis in childhood vs. adolescence or adulthood.

The term “sex” has been replaced by assigned “gender” in order to make the criteria applicable  to individuals with a DSD (Meyer-Bahlburg, 2009b). During the course of physical sex differentiation, some aspects of biological sex (e.g., 46,XY genes) may be incongruent with other aspects (e.g., the external genitalia); thus, using the term “sex” would be confusing. The change also makes it possible for individuals who have successfully transitioned to “lose” the diagnosis after satisfactory treatment. This resolves the problem that, in the DSM-IV-TR, there was a lack of an “exit clause,” meaning that individuals once diagnosed with GID will always be considered to have the diagnosis, regardless of whether they have transitioned and are psychosocially adjusted in the identified gender role (Winters, 2008). The diagnosis will also be applicable to transitioned individuals who have regrets, because they did not feel like the other gender after all. For instance, a natal male living in the female role and having regrets experiences an incongruence between the “newly assigned” female gender and the experienced/expressed (still or again male) gender.

3. It has been recommended by the Workgroup to delete the “perceived cultural advantages” proviso. This was also recommended by the DSM-IV Subcommittee on Gender Identity Disorders (Bradley et al., 1991). There is no reason to “impute” one causal explanation for GI at the expense of others (Zucker, 1992, 2009).

4. The 6 month duration was introduced to make at least a minimal distinction between very transient and persistent GI. The duration criterion was decided upon by clinical consensus. However, there is no clear empirical literature supporting this particular period (e.g., 3 months vs. 6 months or 6 months vs. 12 months). There was, however, consensus among the group that a lower-bound duration of 6 months would be unlikely to yield false positives.

13. In the DSM-IV, there are two sets of clinical indicators (Criteria A and B). This distinction is not supported by factor analytic studies. The existing studies suggest that the concept of GI is best captured by one underlying dimension (Cohen-Kettenis & van Goozen, 1997; Deogracias et al., 2007; Green, 1987; Johnson et al., 2004; Singh et al., 2010).

14. There is considerable evidence individuals with a DSD experience GI and may wish to change from their assigned gender; the percentage of such individuals who experience GI is syndrome-dependent (Cohen-Kettenis, 2005; Dessens, Slijper, & Drop, 2005; Mazur, 2005; Meyer-Bahlburg, 1994, 2005, 2009a, 2009b). From a phenomenologic perspective, DSD individuals with GI have both similarities and differences to individuals with GI with no known DSD. Developmental trajectories also have similarities and differences. The presence of a DSD is suggestive of a specific causal mechanism that may not be present in individuals without a diagnosable DSD.

15. It is our recommendation that the GI diagnosis be given on the basis of the A criterion alone and that distress and/or impairment (the D criterion in DSM-IV) be evaluated separately and independently. This definitional issue remains under discussion in the DSM-V Task Force for all psychiatric disorders and may have to be revisited pending the outcome of that discussion. Although there are studies showing that adolescents and adults with the DSM-IV diagnosis of GID function poorly, this type of impairment is by no means a universal finding. In some studies, for example, adolescents or adults with GID were found to generally function psychologically in the non-clinical range (Cohen-Kettenis & Pfäfflin, 2009; Meyer-Bahlburg, 2009a). Moreover, increased psychiatric problems in transsexuals appear to be preceded by increased experiences of stigma (Nuttbrock et al., 2009). Postulating “inherent distress” in case one desires to be rid of body parts that do not fit one’s identity is, in the absence of data, also questionable (Meyer-Bahlburg, 2009a).

16. Although the DSM-IV diagnosis of GID encompasses more than transsexualism, it is still often used as an equivalent to transsexualism (Sohn & Bosinski, 2007). For instance, a man can meet the two core criteria if he only believes he has the typical feelings of a woman and does not feel at ease with the male gender role. The same holds for a woman who just frequently passes as a man (e.g., in terms of first name, clothing, and/or haircut) and does not feel comfortable living as a conventional woman. Someone having a GID diagnosis based on these subcriteria clearly differs from a person who identifies completely with the other gender, can only relax when permanently living in the other gender role, has a strong aversion against the sex characteristics of his/her body, and wants to adjust his/her body as much as technically possible in the direction of the desired sex. Those who are distressed by having problems with just one of the two criteria (e.g., feeling uncomfortable living as a conventional man or woman) will have a GIDNOS diagnosis. This is highly confusing for clinicians. It perpetuates the search for the “true transsexual” only, in order to identify the right candidates for hormone and surgical treatment instead of facilitating clinicians to assess the type and severity of any type of GI and offer appropriate treatment. Furthermore, in the DSM-IV, gender identity and gender role were described as a dichotomy (either male or female) rather than a multi-category concept or spectrum (Bockting, 2008; Bornstein, 1994; Ekins & King, 2006; Lev, 2007; Røn, 2002). The current formulation makes more explicit that a conceptualization of GI acknowledging the wide variation of conditions will make it less likely that only one type of treatment is connected to the diagnosis. Taking the above regarding the avoidance of male-female dichotomies into account, in the new formulation, the focus is on the discrepancy between experienced/expressed gender (which can be either male, female, in-between or otherwise) and assigned gender (in most societies male or female) rather than cross-gender identification and same-gender aversion (Cohen-Kettenis & Pfäfflin, 2009).

17. In referring to secondary sex characteristics, anticipation of the development of secondary sex characteristics has been added for young adolescents. Adolescents increasingly show up at gender identity clinics requesting gender reassignment, before the first signs of puberty are visible (Delemarre-van de Waal & Cohen-Kettenis, 2006; Zucker & Cohen-Kettenis, 2008).

18. In contemporary clinical practice, sexual orientation per se plays only a minor role in treatment protocols or decisions. Also, changes as to the preferred gender of sex partner occur during or after treatment (DeCuypere, Janes, & Rubens, 2005; Lawrence, 2005; Schroder & Carroll, 1999). It can be difficult to assess sexual orientation in individuals with a GI diagnosis, as they preoperatively might give incorrect information in order to be approved for hormonal and surgical treatment (Lawrence, 1999). Because sexual orientation subtyping is of interest to researchers in the field, it is recommended that reference to it be addressed in the text, but not as a specifier. It should also be assessed as a dimensional construct.

19. The subworkgroup has had extensive discussion about the placement of GI in the nomenclature for DSM-V, as the meta-structure of the entire manual is under review. The subworkgroup questions the rationale for the current DSM-IV chapter Sexual and Gender Identity Disorders, which contains three major classes of diagnoses: sexual dysfunctions, paraphilias, and gender identity disorders (see Meyer-Bahlburg, 2009a). Various alternative options to the current placement are under consideration.

References (see the APA site for these)

302.6 Gender Identity Disorder Not Otherwise Specified


302.3 Transvestic Fetishism

— end of APA section, the following are my notes —

Some thoughts on the proposed changes:


  • There is an attempt to do away with the pathologizing language (Gender Identity  Disorder) in favor of ‘Gender Incongruence’
  • There is an attempt to do away with the male/female dichotomies and acknowledge more fluidity in gender expression.
  • There is the  introduction of the ‘disorder of sex development’ (meaning ‘intersex people’) subtype in both the adult and child sections.
  • Transvestic Fetishism has been given a new name ‘Transvestic Disorder’ and with the new specifier of Blanchard’s much debated ‘Autogynephilia’.  The  APA notes:  “We are proposing that the DSM-V make a distinction between paraphilias and paraphilic disorders”.) etc… read the whole section here.
  • in diagnosing children, “The Workgroup recommended that “strong desire” replace “repeatedly stated desire” to capture some children who, in a coercive environment, may not verbalize the desire to be of the other gender.”

Anyone can register at the APA site and submit a comment! So now is the time to do so.  Apparently there is no way to see comments that others have made, but you can make them here as well.

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

%d bloggers like this: