Print
Hits: 10909
Crossing the line…
Cross Dresser Cross Dresser
Think of a transvestite and the images which immediately come to mind are Bollywood inspired “Hijras” and “Female impersonators” (Bacchan or Govinda) or “Drag queens” soliciting on the streets. While it may come as a surprise to many that most cross dressers do manage to lead hugely “Normal and well adjusted lives”, the general misconceptions about them are also irrelevant to the experiences and motivations of a typical cross dresser.

The term ‘Transvestism’ refers to people who enjoy dressing in clothes normally reserved for the opposite sex. Such ‘Cross dressers’ are also amongst the most misunderstood minority groups in the world. Ignorance and pre–conceived notions have been largely responsible for the intolerance usually shown towards cross dressers.

Transsexuals are people who believe they are trapped in the wrong body. They suffer from a ‘Gender Identity Disorder’, characterized by a conviction on the part of the individual that he/she belongs to the opposite sex. The person thus feels compelled to express himself in the gender to which he feels he belongs. The transsexual female, for instance, is physiologically a normal woman. Very early in the life, however, she identifies with boys and behaves in a manner appropriate to the male sex. She desires to relate with other females and be treated by them as if she were a male. She may cross dress because she is likely to be uncomfortable in the clothes of her biological sex.

Transsexuality is also characterized by ‘Gender Dysphoria’ or a profound sense of unease/discomfort about one’s gender, which is in opposition to one’s physical sex. In fact, cross dressers can lead happy, well adjusted lives, in touch with both their masculine and feminine facets of their personality. The cross dresser who knows he is not alone and stigmatized can be made to come to terms with the condition, without having to suffer unnecessary trauma. The best form of treatment however, is the love, acceptance and support from family and friends.

A transvestite’s interest in clothes and mannerisms of the opposite sex begins early, probably around puberty. In its early stages, a transvestite may develop erotic fantasies associated with cross dressing, culminating in masturbation, but eventually the erotic element diminishes, making way for serenity. It becomes a mode of relaxation–an opportunity to unwind–an escape from the rigors and pressures of existence.

Gender identity refers to a person’s sense of masculinity or feminity, as distinct from sex, which are the biological attributes that make a male or female. Intersexuality–a rare anomaly in humans–has several subgroups. In hermaphroditism, for instance, gonads of both sexes exist, there are physiological as well asaids band psychological traits of both sexes and chromosomes may reveal mosaicism. ‘Turner’s Syndrome’ refers to females born with a single X chromosome, resulting in sexual abnormalities, in ‘Kleinfelter’s Syndrome’ a male is born with an extra X chromosome, having a XXY grouping (instead of an XY pair) resulting in an individual who is clearly male, but who may develop some female characteristics. ‘Adrenogenital Symptom’ refers to the formation of a hormone which exerts a masculinising effect on females.

Somewhere along the spectrum, we come across homosexuality, where one’s sexual orientation is towards persons of the same sex. Homosexuals, whether gays or lesbians, are. Although they enjoy sexual relations with persons of the same sex, they have no symptoms of Gender Dysphoria and do not opt for corrective surgery. Theories, about the causation of cross dressing, homosexuality and transsexuality abound. Typically, there are millions of pre–birth processes that have to be all finely tuned and synchronized with each other, and even if a single micro–process should go awry, severe abnormalities may result. Dr. Willam J Turner has established that homosexuality is due to inactivation of a gene at XQ28 at the base of the X chromosome. Recent research suggests that homosexuals have a difference in area and cell content of nuclei near the hypothalamus.

Despite a solid body of evidence as to the pathogenic basis for cross dressing, homosexuality, transsexuality and intersexuality, social attitude towards the issue is largely made up of ignorance, non–acceptance and hypocrisy. The world over, such affected people, assisted by supportive professionals have formed their own support groups and rehabilitation centers for helping each other and to overcome their loneliness in a world less than sympathetic to their unsought cause. In India in the absence of such networks, they are forced to plough their own lonely furrows, grouping in the dark, and many end up on the quacks’ operating tables, mutilated in body and mind, when with a little guidance and proper medical care they can lead better integrated and productive lives.

Conservative estimates suggest the incidence of cross dressing as 1 in 100, and one transsexual for every 20–40,000 of the male population, and 1 in every 50,000 for the female population.