A small percentage of the population believes so strongly that they were born the "wrong" sex that they seek surgical and hormonal treatment. This treatment effectively changes the physical sexual characteristics of this individual to the opposite gender. Estimates based on referrals indicate that at least one out of every thirty thousand males and one out of every one hundred thousand females desire some type of transsexual treatment. These figures may be lower than actual numbers, given the fact that most modern cultures continue to exhibit prejudice toward such individuals, making them less likely to seek treatment. High costs of such treatment, generally not covered by any type of medical insurance, also may prohibit individuals from seeking treatment. Those who receive treatment face physical problems, periods of psychological adjustment, social or culture problems, and sometimes even legal difficulties. The purpose of this paper is to review these elements with regard to transsexual surgery, discussing both advantages and disadvantages of treatment.
Most research indicates that almost eighty percent of those receiving transsexual surgery are satisfied with the overall outcome and with only two percent regretting their change of sex. Gender is a complicated issue for the living organism. It involves functional anatomy or physical structure and a complicated system of various hormones. While structure may be easily changed, it is desirable to transform sex organs so that they are capable of producing sexual pleasure. This is not always an easy task. Although there is some risk associated with the physical alteration of gender, new surgical techniques have greatly reduced the possibility of destroying the ability to experience sexual pleasure.
Hormone Therapy for Transexuals
The treatment of a transsexual with hormones is equally difficult. Upsetting the delicate balance of one's hormones may result in several types of difficulties. These include the following:
- Liver abnormalities
- Reduction of libido
- Elevated triglycerides
- Increase of breast cancer
- Cerebral thrombosis
- Pulmonary embolism for birth males.
Although suicide was the number one cause of death for these transsexuals, thromboembolism was the second leading cause. Women who seek treatment to become men also face possible complications from the administration of male hormones. These difficulties include:
- Water retention and accompanying hypertension
- Increased erythropoiesis
- Liver abnormalities
- Sleep apnea
- Psychiatric problems such as increased aggressiveness, increased sexual desire, and depression
While there are many side effects of hormone treatment, administration of hormonal levels similar to those of the opposite gender has the advantage of beginning the process for change. The masculine features of the male soften to become more feminine; the feminine features of the female develop a more masculine appearance. Additionally, research in the area of sex hormones continuously improves, resulting in a reduction of potential side effects and health risks.
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