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Is transsexualism a medical condition?

in MALAYSIA, 12/02/2011

Professor Dr Teh Yik Koon of National Defence University of Malaysia, who has been studying transsexual issues for more than a decade, believes it is much more than individuals entertaining their alter egos.

MANY studies have been carried out on the subject of transsexuals (TS), but one question remains - is transsexualism a biological occurrence or is it just a matter of cross-dressing?

Professor Dr Teh Yik Koon of National Defence University of Malaysia, who has been studying transsexual issues for more than a decade, believes it is much more than individuals entertaining their alter egos.

She says various research findings have shown that transsexualism is a medical condition.

She cites an article released in 2000 by Frank P.M. Kruijver, Jiang-Ning Zhou, Chris W. Pool, Michel A. Hofman, Louis J.G. Gooren and Dick F. Swaab titled Male-to-Female Transsexuals Have Female Neuron Numbers in a Limbic Nucleus.

The researchers concluded that in TS, sexual differentiation of the brain and genitals may go into opposite directions and point to a neurobiological basis of gender identity disorder.

Their study revealed that the number of neurons in the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BSTc) of male-to-female TS was similar to that of the females (P > 0.83). In contrast, the neuron number of a female-to-male TS was found to be in the male range.

Teh says those who do not want to accept that it is a biological occurrence are those who believe that their religion forbids it and there is no such thing as transsexualism.

"Egypt and Iran have allowed TS to have the surgery. Why not Malaysia?"

Teh, who is also a professor in sociology and criminology, explains that here, non-Muslim transsexuals are not prohibited from sex change, but Muslim transsexuals are.

In 1983, the National Fatwa Council issued a fatwa against sex reassignment surgery for Muslim transsexuals and banned Muslim doctors from performing the surgery.

Teh says TS should undergo counselling and guidance before they decide to go through with the surgery.

"The proper procedure is for the TS to undergo about two years of counselling by trained psychologists or psychiatrists to ensure that they are truly transsexuals who desire sex change.

"Once the psychologists or psychiatrists certify that their clients are TS, only then they can go for surgery."

Ideally, Teh said the TS should continue counselling sessions after surgery to help them adjust to their new roles.

Teh said one of the issues plaguing the TS community is that they are not allowed to change their gender in identification documents.

"We have been fighting this issue for a long time. They face so many problems because of this. Even buying an insurance policy was difficult because their documents stated they are male, but their bodies are now female."

Another problem is when they need to travel overseas because their passports list them down as males, but they appear as females.

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