- Transsexuality manifests itself in many forms. The underlying psychology varies, but most transsexuals feel an unhappy mismatch between their biological sex and their gender identity.
- By studying transsexuality, scientists have realized that biological sex, gender identity and sexual orientation are three distinct, independent variables.
- Culture also influences who becomes a transsexual—and not always in expected ways. In traditional cultures, for example, people may turn to transsexuality as a way to conform to social norms.
The reigning queen of Belfast, Northern Ireland, is the “Baroness” Titti Von Tramp, a deeply bronzed, thoroughly waxed and statuesque figure approaching seven feet tall in stiletto heels, wearing tinted couture glasses and crowned with a perfect platinum mane. On any given night, you can find the bosomy Von Tramp at one of the local nightclubs, pursing her strawberry-colored lips in a photo-op for one of her many fans or perhaps making an Ulster businessman turn bright red by deviously running one long, manly finger down the man’s cheek and judging, “That’s a good year.”
For many people, the term “transvestite” is synonymous with such larger-than-life characters, an entertaining coterie of mostly gay men and their oversexed female alter egos. But as with any human demographic, transvestites are a very diverse bunch, and it is only a select few who can turn their minority status into such a lucrative career in drag theatrics. For more modest individuals, the limelight is hardly a desirable place to be. Furthermore, the psychological motivation to dress or act as the opposite sex varies widely—transvestism is but one of the many manifestations of cross-gender behavior in the human species.
This article was originally published with the title The Third Gender.