Transgender: Nature, Nurture and When It All Goes Awry
- Thursday, August 12, 2004
EDITOR'S NOTE: The following article includes content that is NOT appropriate for children.
Unlike most men, Yosef Kirchner, 41, would love to be able to shave every morning. He’d also like to become a husband and a father. But for now, that dream is on hold.
Thanks to a series of painful “reassignment surgeries” that took place 16 years ago, Kirchner looks like a woman – with large breasts, curvy hips, high cheekbones and no visible Adam’s apple. He also has a full set of female genitalia.
The surgeries, which cost Kirchner more than $100,000, transformed the 18-year-old Tom Cruise look-alike into a long-haired, attractive woman. But despite the outward success, Kirchner continued to struggle with deep-rooted emotional problems.
One day, he turned the radio to a Christian station, where Richard Cohen, a renowned reparative therapist, was describing his work with transsexuals.
“By the time the interview was over, my eyes were full of tears and I was furious,” Kirchner said. “Furious for being lied to all these years by those who told me, ‘You were born this way.’ I felt as though my life had been stolen from me by a bunch of brainwashers.”
Kirchner knows that the roots of his Gender Identity Disorder (“GID”) stem from his childhood. With a mother who had already been married three times by the time Kirchner was 12, he never had a father figure and was often teased at school about his seemingly “feminine” aspects.
“I was a straight boy who was confused,” he says. “Females were familiar, men were the mystery. My mom always put men down and kids teased me at school… I was so confused that the only way I could figure out what was going on was to have sex with a man… I was pushed into homosexuality.”
A lapsed Jew, Kirchner knew that homosexuality was wrong, so he denied those urges. Then he began to rationalize that he might be a woman, which conveniently explained his sexual desire for men. He went to a psychologist. Soon, he was taking hormone therapy and preparing to be surgically altered.
A number of psychologists who have labeled themselves “gender specialists” contend that GID is an inborn trait which occurs in the womb. It is a position which has received much media attention, including several Oprah shows devoted exclusively to the subject, and which is being actively promoted by the transgendered community.
The theory, however, has little medical backing.
“There are no credible medical studies that verify this conjecture,” insists Jerry Leach. “It’s not a genetic flaw or a birth defect, but a result of a psychological wound – or even a perception of a wound – usually created in early childhood.”
Leach, who directs Reality Resources, a non-profit ministry for people who struggle with feelings of transgender, has worked with more than 1,600 individuals during the past 25 years to help them overcome the strong feelings of association for the opposite sex which characterizes GID.
The problem of transgendered feelings typically begin early on, Leach explains, and it is not atypical for a boy or a girl to start identifying with the opposite gender from the age of three.
“We’re talking about a human soul that is damaged,” he said, “and there are both spiritual and psychological issues involved. But it begins with a deep-seated envy of the other gender, as well as an association of the hated gender with a negative role model.”
GID is also, Leach says, a place to hide from early childhood trauma and the responsibilities that come with a specific gender.
“You’re running away as fast as you can into that which brings you a sense of relief and refuge,” he explains. “It’s an escape into a fantasy world, an escape from the responsibilities of manhood… The problem is, if you do it regularly, it becomes second nature. And once you start taking hormones, you lose all sexual desire for the opposite gender.”
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