The New Gender Paradigm
Stage 3: Butch Lesbian
In theory, Stage III should consist of exploration of two possible gender roles: butch or transman. The individual would test each option and adopt whichever role is most fulfilling. Unfortunately, the choice doesn't fit into current gender theory:
-- There's little information available about male transsexuality.
-- Most information about transsexuality is valid only for transsexual women, not transsexual men. The gender role of transexual woman definitely doesn't fit, misleading the individual about whether they're transsexual.
-- Feminist gender theory denies any significant difference between being butch or being a transman; they're all "non-conformers"
-- Transman role models are difficult to find.
-- WPATH prohibits transitioning until adulthood.
The combined effect of these social influences leads a transman into the butch community. After all, he's probably been in that community since mid-childhood.
WRONG-SEX PUBERTY: Being in the butch community makes wrong-sex puberty almost a certainty. He'll bind his chest and want a mastectomy, but the request will be denied. The result is a female bone structure (especially height, hips & waist) that can't be changed later on. Appropriate administration of pre-pubertal testosterone would have allowed some development of a functional phallus -- another loss.
SEXUAL ORIENTATION: Puberty also activates an individual's sexual orientation. In general, that means three possibilities:
-- Butch Lesbian: Most transmen are attracted to women. Fortunately, the butch lesbian community is large, ubiquitous, and well-defined -- even in high school. A transman can blend in easily, particularly if he's bisexual. In some cases, he may remain in Stage III for the rest of his life.
-- On the other hand, a transman attracted to other men (a "gay transman") is definitely in the wrong place with butch lesbians: They move quickly to Stage IV.
Stage 2: Butch Alliance
During early childhood boys, butch girls and transboys play happily together on the soccer field (Stage 1). The transboy has even adopted a male name and persona, but no one cares.
During late childhood, the approach of puberty induces increasing separation of the boys from the girls, based on genital appearance. Most of the separation is imposed by school and religious authorities, but even the children are worried about the sexual implications of having genitals that are different.
Transboys have to make a choice: They feel most comfortable with the other boys and may even demand to remain with them. Such demands lead to conflict and harassment -- and may trigger a psychiatric evaluation. On the other hand, transboys have a lot in common with butch girls and often join them as the path of least resistance.
The choice raises questions about Who Am I? but usually without compulsion to find an answer.
REFERENCES: Accounts of transboys in Stage 2 are beginning to emerge. The book, The Last Time I Wore a Dress, by “Daphne” Scholinski (Riverhead Trade Books - 1998), tells the shocking lengths that society will go to enforce gender. The movie, Tomboy, directed by Celine Sciamma (2011, poster above) is a sensitive and empathetic account of a transboy trying to cope.
PROGRESSION -- PUBERTY
Then puberty strikes. Biologic changes (breast development, menstruation, etc) are a catastrophe for a transyouth: there’s no doubt that he’s biologically-female.
This is an identity crisis that demands an immediate answer: Who Am I? and What am I going to do with this body?
Transitioning Stages for the Transman
Transmen are different from transsexual women. They have different needs and perspectives; they hold a different place in society; and they face different challenges. It's not surprising that the evolutionary stages transmen go through are also different. In other words, a transman discovers himself in a different way, at a different age, and through a different process. The decisions faced during transitioning are different. Approaches that might be successful in working with a transsexual woman won't help a transman -- and vice-versa.
Most of what's been written about transsexuality has been geared to the transsexual woman, whose transitioning evolution is described HERE -- And will sound familiar to most people. (It's what one reads in the WPATH Guidelines, for instance.) As a result, it may be easier to understand these transman stages by comparing them to the transitioning path taken by transwomen.
As noted for transsexual women, these stages are complex -- they can't be fully described here. What follows is merely an outline and a quick overview. More detailed explanations can be found in Volume 2 of theNew Gender Paradigm.
IMPORTANT NOTE: The stages described on this page refer only to transsexual men. Today's social conventions result in different paths for transsexual women, crossdressers, and androgynous people.
Stage 0: Wrong-gender Conflict
Life begins the same, whether a baby is born as a transsexual boy or as a transsexual girl. Genital appearance makes parents, relatives & doctors think their child is a girl -- and they're shocked when he announces “I’m a boy” at age 2. They shouldn't have been so surprised: he's always preferred trucks and tools over dolls. He gets into everything, fights with other children, and doesn’t take No for an answer.
By convention, Stage 0 is the phase when parents, teachers and "experts" demand that he stop the boy nonsense and be a girl. He's supposed to play with dolls and wear pretty princess dresses.
Transsexual girls are forced into wrong-gender expression, a period of conflict, distress and secrecy. Transsexual boys simply ignore their parents and the "experts": He says, “Try to stop me! I dare you!”
It helps that mainstream society secretly admires forward, aggressive “tomboys”—at least while they’re children. An effeminate child with a penis will be rushed to the psychiatrist for therapy, whereas an aggressive child will be signed up for a little league team whether or not he has a penis.
However, there are occasional transmen with parents determined to raise a proper housewife. The unfortunate child ends up in a psychiatrist's office, undergoing "treatment". Remember also:
-- Every transsexual feels some distress over having the wrong genitals.
-- All "tomboys" undergo some harassment & exclusion.
Billy Tipton was born in 1914 and grew up in Kansas City, Missouri. From early childhood, he was a talented piano and saxophone player; his specialty was jazz.
After high school, he put together a band that played for dances and clubs throughout the southwest US. His music could be heard on regional radio stations. He made his first record in 1949.
By 1970, the Billy Tipton Trio had two albums out. He rejected a long-term contract in Reno, Nevada. Instead, he moved to Spokane, Washington to spend most of his time promoting the careers of aspiring musicians.
He had three sons through a series of common-law marriages. They loved him as a good father who was active with them in Boy Scouts.
When Billy died of a bleeding ulcer in 1989, his family and the paramedics were shocked to find female genitals hidden under his pants. The media was scandalized, but it was too late to ruin his career.
Billy is the perfect example of a Stage VI transman. He felt like a man, he looked like a man, he acted like a man, and was an excellent father to his family -- and mainstream society fully accepted him as a man. The only scandal is the fact that he had to keep his medical history secret. An early death was the inevitable result.
Ever since, he's been known for his "terrible secret", not for his qualities as a human being.
"The jazz pianist Billy Tipton was born in Oklahoma City as Dorothy Tipton, but almost nobody knew the truth until the day he died, in Spokane in 1989. Over a fifty-year performing career, Billy Tipton fooled nearly everyone."
-- Diane Wood Middlebrook, biographer (1991)
Stage 6: Personality Synthesis
Another possible endpoint for a transman is full integration into male society. He’s a man. He feels like a man, looks like a man, and behaves like a man. He’ll get a job as a highly paid executive, have an arm-candy wife, father a family and live happily ever after.
Fortunately, medical intervention provides a physical appearance that passes easily in general society. (Genital appearance doesn't really matter.) Even so, few transmen actually try to reach Stage VI.
PRIVACY: In current society, trans people aren't allowed to succeed in mainstream society. Tolerant progressive companies may allow transmen into middle management, but never into the board room. Only Real Men are allowed into the Good Old Boys Club. Transmen can slip through the door if no one knows their medical history.
Outing is usually a ticket to Stage V.
BEARS: A bear is a “hypermasculine” man: large body, a generous growth of body hair, full beard, tattoos, beer, pizza, full-contact sports, and Harley Davidsons. Bears may be part of mainstream society, or they may form their own social group.
Stage 4: Trans Confusion
Stage IV involves the realization that the individual may be trans, not butch. Even though it's comforting to be a member of a community, trans people still experience distress from having female biology. ...In other words, Stage III transmen have lower Type 2 Distress (Social Coercion) but high Type 1 Distress (Direct Distress). Stage IV will lower the Direct Distress at the cost of increasing Social Distress.
MEDICAL DILEMMA: Biology needs correction. The need for chest flattening has already been determined in Stage III. Male hormones are quickly effective at deepening the voice, increasing muscle mass, and stimulating hair growth. However, genital surgery is expensive, complex, risky and offers an unsatisfying final result. It comes as no surprise that most transmen opt out.
FEMINIST CONFLICT: Butch lesbian gender groups vary in their tolerance for masculinity. Feminist theory denies that there are differences between genders -- meaning there shouldn't be any differences between transmen and butch lesbians. If so, taking male hormones would be a waste of time at the very least, but may be viewed as an act of gender treason.
As a result, one aspect of Stage IV involves changes in support networks and social groups. Transmen often form their own groups -- either as a butch lesbian subgroup or as a completely independent community. In some cases, social support may collapse completely, leaving the individual alone.
In particular, "Gay transmen" (transmen attracted to other men) find themselves without a support network. They lack the biologic equipment for admission into the community of gay males; they're out of place in the lesbian community. Their only hope is find others like them.
POWER: In current society, men are in control. At some level, every word and every act is aggressive, territorial, competitive, and confrontational. To survive in mainstream male society, transmen must be able to express male power. Unfortunately, society instills the myth that a transman isn't Really A Man. The lack of a functional penis appears to reinforce the misconception.
Because of socialization as female-bodied people, transmen and FTMs are “not prepared to become captains of industry”. Hormones do not change a person’s socialization, and therefore FTMs and transmen may not know how to “play male hierarchy games”.
-- Cromwell, Transmen (1999) p 90
QUOTE: Cromwell, Transmen & FTMs, University of Illinois Press (1999), quoting James Green, All Transsexuals Are Not Alike, TV/TS Tapestry Journal No. 68 pp 51-52 (1994)
PROGRESSION: The ultimate outcome is determined by the influences noted above. A few transmen successfully adopt male power projection and enter mainstream male society to live as a Man (Stage VI). Most consider themselves as Transmen -- Not Really A Man (Stage V). While others continue in the gender community as a butch lesbian (Stage III)
Stage 1: Right-Gender Defiance
For most transboys, Stage 0 lasts only a few seconds. There follows an immediate shift to Stage I: Open defiance. Even if a parent can force him into a princess dress, a half-hour later it'll be torn and caked with mud, Barbie Doll heads can be pulled off -- they make excellent missiles. Locked in his room to keep him from playing football with the other boys, he'll pry the window open to escape.
Parents don't have the time or energy to impose Wrong-Gender Expression. At some point, they'll give up.
Stage I can be a happy, fulfilling time for a transboy. Even when he adopts a male name & persona, few people take the matter seriously. There's little motivation for introspection or to research gender categories.
PROGRESSION: The inexorable approach of puberty will change everything.
Stage 5: Transman
"Networking has resulted in increasing numbers of transmen and FTMs coming out rather than living in isolation."
-- Cromwell, Transmen (1999) p 137
"The most significant result of the conferences and Internet sites is that many FTMs and transmen have learned to put away the shame learned from stigmatization and to claim pride in their identities, no matter how manifested. These actions will result in increased visibility."
-- Cromwell, Transmen (1999) p 143
Stage V is achieved when someone achieves personal fulfillment as a transman -- even pride. They're secure in their gender identity; there's no further search for "Who am I?" They're satisfied with the medical transformation they've undergone -- even their genitals leave something to be desired. They've established a support network -- usually with other trans people.
OUT: The gender community promotes being "out of the closet". That is, every member should advertise their gay or trans status -- even though it usually leads to exclusion, discrimination and harassment. (It's hoped that when enough people are "out", mainstream society will be more accepting.)
EXCLUSION: Specifically, Stage V transmen are excluded from mainstream male society. They're not perceived as "Real Men". The most visible difference is that they don't project power like other men; they don't participate in "male bonding" rituals.
Exclusion produces Type 2 (Social Coercion) Distress. The amount varies from person to person. Transmen are driven deeper into the gender community as a result.
PROGRESSION: Stage V is a stable endpoint. A few may gain enough confidence as men to progress to Stage VI.
Superficially, transmen appear to confirm the gender theory that forms the basis of the WPATH Guidelines: "Gender non-conformers" make up about one-third of women. Of those "non-conformers", at least 90% are happy to be butch without any desire for medical intervention. The remainder start demanding hormones and surgery around the time of puberty. Before then, both butches and future transmen appear to play happily together. Who can tell them apart?
And what would be done if you could tell them apart? After all, the demand for hormones & surgery usually doesn't begin until after puberty. Why would anyone intervene before then?
In addition, three possible end-stages might seem like individuals "choosing" an identity. Couldn't they "choose to be normal" instead?
It's essential to remember that gender(personality) is innate. Every individual is born with a unique set of gifts, needs, challenges and perspectives. Quality of life is determined by how well the individual is able to express their true inner self and fulfill those needs. The search for valid self-expression requires experimentation with various roles -- hence the developmental stages. In the case of a transsexual, self-exploration is blocked by society's attempts to force "gender conformity" and by widespread misinformation about gender.
Unfortunately, puberty is too late for a transsexual to begin the exploration and transitioning process. By the time the individual is ready for medical help, permanent changes have already taken place. For all transsexuals -- women and men -- transitioning in early childhood offers the best final outcome. That way, a young transman is socialized as the man he really is. Late recognition is the crisis of male transsexuality.
FUNCTIONAL BIOLOGY: Poor genital appearance and function are catastrophic for a transman's quality of life. Initiating hormones in early childhood offers a unique golden opportunity for providing a functional penis. Early identification of a transman is priceless and the benefits are life-long.
CONGENITAL ADRENAL HYPERPLASIA (CAH): CAH is an intersexual condition in which an XX fetus is exposed to male hormones during the entire pregnancy. The exposure results in the baby being born with a penis -- many are even designated as "male" on their birth certificate. Unfortunately, as soon as the condition is recognized, the male hormonal exposure is stopped. The birth certificate is changed to "female" and sometimes surgery is done to "correct" the genital appearance.
In reality, every one of these children grow up to be "butches" or "tomboys". One-third of them later demand medical transitioning to "male". The records are changed back to the original "male". But it's too late for genital restoration.
If those children had been continued on testosterone after birth, they could've grown up to have functional male genitals.
CAH is the most common intersexual condition in XX people. In some ethnic groups, it involves as many as one in five births. At the very least, every child born with CAH should be evaluated for transsexuality.