Friday, July 27, 2007

The Crying Game

Marriage and the transsexual woman

Note that this article was written before the Gender Recognition Act received Royal assent on July 1, 2004. The new legislation makes it possible for transsexuals to change the sex/gender designation on their birth certificates, a designation that is required in order for transsexual marriages to be legally recognized as “heterosexual.”

The Gender Recognition Act has affected thousands of male-to-female transsexuals in the United Kingdom. In addition to legalising marriage to a man, the law has many other effects such as ensuring that they can claim women's pension rights and that they are not sent to a male prison in the event of being convicted of a crime.

It is reasonable to suggest that most women, including many transsexual women, hope to eventually find a loving husband and enjoy a long, happy and secure marriage.

Transsexuals Jocelyn and Adam with their marriage certificate
Jacelyn and Adam show their new certificate of marriage - one of many couples with a transsexual half finally able to legalise their status.

Statistics are limited, but it's generally thought that about 20-30% of transsexual women will marry a man at least once, e.g. one American study of 51 post-SRS women aged 20 to 58 found that 12 were married as women (21%) while another 23 were in relationships with men. Other studies show similar results:

Study Sample Size Married Percentage Married (%)
Ball, 1981 23 5 22
Dudle, 1989 18 4 (2 had already divorced and were married again) 28
Wålinder & Thuwe, 1975 11 7 (2 had already divorced) 64
Turner, Edlich & Edgerton, 1978 47 18 had married within one year of SRS and 6 had adopted children. 38

Clearly these figures show that far fewer transsexual women marry men than genetic women (93% over their life time in Western Europe), but the studies can give no more than a rough indication of the actual situation. They are distorted by several factors:

A chart showing the age of legal change of status (usually after SRS) of 712 German transsexuals aged 18 to 79. The mean age is 34.
Source: Weitze C., M.D., Osburg S., M.D. (1997)]
  1. Follow-up studies are usually carried with in a few years of SRS and many transwomen may not marry this rapidly.

  2. The average western transsexual woman only has SRS at a median age of 30 years (a mean age of 32, raised by over 50's), which reduces the opportunities for transwoman wishing to marry as a woman. [Note that Asian transsexual women tend to be far younger at SRS, with a mean age well under 30.]

  3. Transsexual women face many more obstacles to obtaining a "legal" marriage.

  4. About a quarter of transsexual women (with a bias towards older age groups) consider themselves lesbian, and are thus unlikely to seek marriage with a member of the opposite sex.

Genetically XX women tend to have an index finger longer than their ring finger, XY transwomen a ring finger longer than their index finger (as above).

There is now absolutely no doubt that most transsexual women can satisfactorily and fully enter in to marriage (in all physical as well as social senses) with a man on exactly the same terms as any infertile but genetically "XX" woman. Indeed, with the help of modern medicine, many post-operative transsexual women pass so well both physically and socially that it is often their own choice as to whether to reveal their male background to a boyfriend or husband. As many men react badly to being told of their girlfriends or wife's transsexuality, young transwomen in particular often prefer to hide this and risk eventual discovery, claiming instead some other medical problem which prevents them from ever menstruating or having children. For example in the study referred to earlier one woman (now in her mid-30's) met her future husband soon after her SRS while working as a receptionist, they've now been happily married for seven years and her husband still doesn't know of her surgery - which the authors say is not unusual. Dr Stanley Biber has said of his 3,500 MTF women, "A lot of them get married and have families and don't want to remember their lives before."

april.jpg (7666 bytes)
April Corbett & husband Arthur Corbett

Belinda Darlington

However, while many MTF transsexuals seek marriage and a normal life as a woman, the law conspires against them in many countries. In 1970 Lord Justice Ormrod issued his infamous judgment on the Corbett v. Corbett (otherwise Ashley) case, a ruling which has ever since prevented Male-to-Female transsexual women from marrying, both in the United Kingdom and by setting a common law precedent in many other countries as well, including the United States. . . .

Bathrooms between genders

Alligator Contributing Writer

Ursula Magdolan, 20, was born a boy, but she decided to start dressing like a female about four years ago.

Wearing a tightly laced corset and 2-inch heels, she sat with her legs crossed at a table downstairs in Gainesville's University Club, which attracts primarily gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

Today, Magdolan automatically uses the women's room, but it has not always been an easy decision.

Her eyebrows, drawn in a high arc above bright pink eye shadow, lowered as she recalled several instances when she was discriminated against just for trying to go to the bathroom.

Once when she was entering the female restroom in a nightclub, a man spit on her and told her she was going into the wrong stall.

She has also had a bottle thrown at her head, but she said she usually just receives offensive stares.

"They just don't understand," she said.

The issue of gender-neutral bathrooms has been gaining attention across the nation and is now growing in the South as well, said Bob Karp, who is on the board of directors for the Human Rights Council of North Central Florida.

According to the Minnesota Department of Human Rights' Web site, New Jersey, California, Illinois, Maine, Minnesota, New Mexico, Hawaii, Rhode Island and Washington provide legislative protection for gender identity and expression. More than 70 cities nationwide have also adopted this protection. . . .

Simon Says

Simon Aronoff just wants equality -- for everyone