Can you explain transsexualism?

by Rob near L.A.

Sister Paula answers this question

Sister Paula answers this question

Transsexualism is a misunderstood and confusing subject for people who have not studied human sexuality. "What is the difference between a transvestite and a transsexual?"

Transvestites are happy with their biological sex and the genitals they were born with, even though they may cross dress occasionally or in some cases, full-time. Transvestites do not feel like they are trapped in the wrong body. Some enjoy public role-playing as the opposite sex; others only cross dress in private.

Transsexuals on the other hand, are unhappy and uncomfortable with their biological sex, whether they cross dress occasionally, full-time or not at all. They do feel that they are, in fact, trapped in the wrong body. Transsexualism is not simply a matter of sexual preference.

Dr. Harry Benjamin, long recognized as an expert on sexology and a leader in transsexual treatment, wrote The Transsexual Phenomenon, published in 1966.

In his book, which is now quite rare and hard to find, Dr. Benjamin elaborates in minute detail transgender issues and the varying degrees of transvestism and transsexualism in individuals.

He discusses people for whom cross dressing is "in all likelihood not of fetishistic (a sexual obsession with female attire) but of basically transsexual origin." He explains that such persons "if honest... would want... the classic sex change operation" first made famous by Christine Jorgensen in 1952.

External factors such as fear of persecution or fear of physical pain may however, prevent transsexuals from actually seeking surgery. Dr. Benjamin states that: "Such persons either live as a transvestite, or depending upon their degree of transsexualism which varies from person to person, live full-time in the role opposite their biological gender."

Dr. Benjamin coined the word transsexual, to describe an individual who feels that s(he) is trapped in the wrong body. Transsexuals usually have an intense desire to live full-time in the opposite identity of their biological sex and be perceived as such, whether or not they have or pursue sex reassignment surgery.

In times past, when finding a surgeon in America to perform sex change surgery was difficult, for some the desire to change their genitalia was so powerful that self-multilations were frequent. Only God knows how often a mysterious suicide may be related to the misery of a transsexual.

For many with a high degree of transsexualism, a sex change operation is the all-consuming urge. As Dr. Benjamin points out: "For them, mere cross dressing is as insufficient a help as aspirin is for a brain tumor headache." Another question I am frequently asked is:

What is the difference between
transsexual and transgender?

To accommodate transsexuals who cannot have surgery for a number of reasons, i.e., unable to afford surgery or unable to be operated on for health reasons, and yet who live full-time in what they believe to be their true psychological identity, the word transgender was coined in 1980.

Dr. Benjamin states: "According to the dictionary, sex is synonymous with gender. But, in actuality, this is not true... Sex is more applicable where there is the implication of sexuality, of libido and of sexual activity.

Gender is the non-sexual side of sex. As someone once expressed it: Gender is located above and sex below the belt. This differentiation cannot always be clear and constant and therefore, to avoid pedantry, sex and gender must sometimes be used interchangeably."

He further elaborates: "Sex is a matter of anatomy and physiology. Male and female are sexual terms. Gender however, can be considered a mixture of inborn and acquired traits or learned characteristics. Masculine and feminine are therefore expressions belonging to the gender concept."

One can be biologically male and yet not be a man. Therefore, the term transgender may be applied to persons who choose to live full-time in an identity opposite of their biological sex, although they cannot have surgery or perhaps, do not want surgery. No one should be pressured into having sex reassignment surgery in order to gain acceptance as a trans person.

Dr. Benjamin gives a continuum scale of one to ten, with one defining a person who occasionally cross dresses, and ten defining a a person who has had sex reassignment surgery.

He also says: "The dominant status of the genital organs for the determination of one's sex has been shaken, at least in the world of science."

Genitals receive an over-emphasis in our minds compared to their importance in the full scheme of one's sexual identity and activity. Indeed they comprise a relatively small part of one's sexual identity. Dr. Benjamin describes various ways sexuality manifests itself in individuals.

Included in his medical and scientific research are: chromosomal sex, genetic sex, anatomical sex, legal sex, gonadal sex, terminal sex, endocrine (hormonal) sex. social sex, psychological sex, biological sex, etc. He points out that research studies continue to add to this expanding list as new medical and scientific discoveries emerge.

When a baby is born, its legal sex on the birth certificate is determined by its genitals. The only way to get the legal sex changed on a birth certificate is to have sex change surgery. Some states will then change the sex on a post-operative transsexual's birth certificate; others will not.

Dr. Benjamin states: "For the uneducated, there are only two sexes: a person is either male or female - Adam or Eve. The educated and enlightened realize that every Adam contains elements of Eve and every Eve harbors traces of Adam, physically as well as psychologically." Everyone is androgynous to some degree.

We are living in that generation when the Old Testament predicts an “explosion of knowledge,” Daniel 12:4. Solomon in his wisdom, said: "there is nothing new under the sun." Ecclesiastes 1:9.

On the surface, these two Biblical references may appear to be contradictory when, in actuality, they are not. For example, look how many centuries it took in humankind's progress before electricity was discovered.

This powerful force has been around since God spoke the worlds into existence. It has taken finite human beings many centuries to discover electricity. Why would it be different in other areas of life like human sexuality and transgender, transvestite and transsexual issues? We still have much to learn.

The apostle Paul wrote: "For now we see through a glass darkly... now I know in part," 1 Corinthians 13:12. John the Revelator foretold "a new heaven and a new earth where righteousness dwells," Revelation 21:1. And, looking down the telescope of time, seeing this "new earth," the prophet Habakkuk said: "For the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea." Habakkuk 2:14.

Until that promised time, may we finite people have faith in our Infinite God Who makes no mistakes, Who loves us as we are, where we are, Who died to save us from our sins when we believe on Jesus.
Sister Paula Nielsen is our guest writer and we thank her for answering this question. She has inspired many with her television broadcasts over the years and writes based on her 47 years of personal experience.

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This page revised October 15, 2015

Comments for Can you explain transsexualism?

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May 28, 2012
by: Anonymous

I'm a Christian Female to Male suffering from severe gender dysphoria. my parents are well aware of it (especially my dad) but they still continue to completely disregard it. he tells me it's the result of people I've met and they've somehow "broken" me into believing that "I'm wrong." I know that's not true because I've been feeling dysphoric ever since I was little and I was raised in a normal Christian household with absolutely no "strange" incidents at all

my dad doesn't believe in "transgender" and keeps asserting his own opinion of what I'm "really" going through. but it's hurting me more than anything else when he specifically emphasizes the fact that I'm "female" even though he knows that it does hurt. I don't know what I'm supposed to do

May 28, 2012
by: Sister Paula Nielsen

"Suffering from severe gender dysphoria" sounds like there is something wrong with you. Nothing of the kind! As a transperson, you are created in God's image and likeness. I am sorry that you are surrounded with much ignorance on transsexualism, still a misunderstood subject. I recommend a book "Omnigender" written by Virginia Mollenkott who is an evangelical feminist.

In fact, here is her email address, and you can correspond with her directly. My email address is You do not have any gender dysphoria -- nor do you have a "gender identity disorder" -- know that. As a FTM transperson you are as "normal" as any heterosexual person. Be who you are.

A trans activist once said on my tv program "Gender identity is determined by what one has between their ears, not between their legs." My web page that contains sermons, YouTube clips, etc. is

I am in prayer for you. Again -- you are God's child. There is nothing wrong with you. May God's truth set you free. Blessings. -- SISTER PAULA

Rick's comment: I hope you will make sure of your own salvation in Jesus Christ and then, knowing for sure you are saved, you will have the peace of God which passes all understanding as you sort things out.

Aug 04, 2012
Sex and gender.
by: Ismaila

I read that sex is biological and gender is cultural. I tend to agree with this.

Aug 07, 2012
transsexualism is biological and cultural
by: Sister Paula Nielsen

I tend to agree with that as well. Gender is above the belt -- sex is below the belt. Male and female are biological. Man and woman are cultural. I address this in my article from Dr. Harry Benjamin's book.

Sep 15, 2012
by: S

how can you tell the difference between being a tomboy and being FtM?

Rick's comment: I hope Sister Paula or someone will answer this for you. Many thanks for asking. I think a tomboy feels quite content in the body she has while a FtM would feel uncomfortable in her body.

Sep 19, 2012
by: Sister Paula

A Tomboy can be heterosexual or homosexual. A Tomboy is content living as, and being, a girl. A transperson wants to identify as a man -- some want surgery, and others do not. There is gender identity -- and then there is sexuality.

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