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Transsexualism is a condition in which a person identifies with a physical sex different from the one that they were born with or assigned in cases where ambiguity of the child's sex organs led to assigning them a physical sex. Transsexualism is considered a taboo subject in many parts of the world and has become more widely known in Western nations in the late 20th century due to the sexual revolution, but remains a highly controversial topic. Discrimination and negative attitudes towards transsexualism may stem from religious beliefs or cultural norms. However, many cultures around the world and throughout time have not only held a place for transsexuals within their societies but even culturally sanction them, e.g. the so-called two-spirit people in native American tribes.

Gender dysphoria

Many transsexual people agree with the idea proposed by Harry Benjamin, that gender is hard-wired in the brain before birth. As such, many transsexual people believe that being transsexual is instead an intersex condition, a congenital birth issue unseen by others due to its location in the brain: a mis-match in the sex of a person between that of the brain and that of the body. The main symptom of this condition is a unique type of depression, anxiety or even psychological pain: Gender Dysphoria. Commonly, transsexual people assert that their brain-based inner perception of their sexual self, their identity, is who they really are, and so change their physical sex in an effort to be on the outside as they feel they are on the inside. If untreated, it can lead to mental and emotional problems, and sometimes suicide.

Most transsexual men and women desire to establish a permanent social role as a member of the gender with which they identify. Many transsexual people also desire various types of medical alterations to their bodies. These physical alterations are collectively referred to as sex reassignment therapy and often include hormone replacement therapy and surgery. The entire process of switching from one physical sex and social gender presentation to the other is often referred to as transition, and usually takes several years.

Sex reassignment therapy

Sex reassignment therapy (SRT) is an umbrella term for all medical procedures regarding sex reassignment of both transgender and intersexual people. Sometimes SRT is also called gender reassignment, even though many people consider this term inaccurate as SRT alters physical sexual characteristics to more accurately reflect the individual's psychological/social gender identity, rather than vice versa as is implied by the term "gender reassignment."

Sex reassignment therapy can consist of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to modify secondary sex characteristics, sex reassignment surgery to alter primary sex characteristics, and epilation for transwomen.

In addition to undergoing medical procedures, transsexual people who go through sex reassignment therapy usually change their social gender roles, legal names and legal sex designation. The entire process of change from one gender presentation to another is known as transitioning.

See also