Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Counselling and Psychotherapy (Online)

Conceptualizing Masculinity in Female-to-Male Trans-Identified Individuals: A Qualitative Inquiry/Conceptualisation De la Masculinité Chez Les Personnes À Transidentité Femme-Homme : Une Enquête Qualitative

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Counselling and Psychotherapy (Online)

Conceptualizing Masculinity in Female-to-Male Trans-Identified Individuals: A Qualitative Inquiry/Conceptualisation De la Masculinité Chez Les Personnes À Transidentité Femme-Homme : Une Enquête Qualitative

Article excerpt

Although the term gender was intended to be clearly distinguished from sex, it is often used interchangeably with the word sex in Western society. Furthermore, the classification for both sex and gender is presumed to be the same (e.g., biological males are boys/men/male and biological females are girls/women/female) (Udry, 1994). While biological, feminist, and biosocial theories have been used to explain gender, when it comes to explaining trans-identified individuals, these theories are inherently flawed.

Limited research has focused on how masculine identities are developed in bodies that are biologically female. According to biological theory, gender is a direct product of the biological classification of sex, where feminist theory views gender as a product of social meanings attached to this biological classification. Biosocial theory views gender as a combination of the two. Thus, all three theories posit gender as having some clear relationship to the binary biological classification of sex.

Despite the inability of these theories to account for a gender identity that does not align with biological sex, these identities do exist and are present throughout recorded history (Herdt, 1993; Rudacille, 2005). Much of the literature devoted to these identities focuses upon male-to-female (MTF) trans-identities (Devor, 1989; Gagne & Tewksbury, 1997; Lewins, 1995). Little research has been devoted exclusively to female-to-male (FTM) trans-identified individuals' experience or formation of identity (Forshee, 2008).

The diagnostic criteria for Gender Identity Disorder (GID) used by psychologists make no distinction between FTM and MTF individuals (American Psychiatric Association, 1994). Additionally, the criteria are based upon binary categorizations of gender and gender expression (Rottnek, 1999), produced by the aforementioned theories. A greater understanding of how FTM individuals develop and understand their masculine identities is imperative, as a GID diagnosis is required for medical transitioning.

Psychologists require more specific and accurate descriptions of these identities if they are to provide the proper care and support of such individuals. One of the frequent challenges that FTM individuals face is whether to pursue surgery aimed at constructing a penis or increasing the length of their clitoris (Alderson, 2013). The result of this study will have implications for counselling FTM persons.

The current study considers the ways in which FTM individuals conceptualize their masculinity. The intent is to add to our understanding of this experience in the lives of male-identified biological females who are on a path toward transitioning gender, both psychologically and physically.

TERMINOLOGY

Gender Versus Sex

Gender was first proposed as a term distinct from sex (and aside from the grammatical inflection of nouns) in 1955 by John Money (Money & Ehrhardt, 1972). According to Money, the term sex referred to the biological classification of male or female, based on phenotypic factors. Gender, in contrast, referred to the difference of behaviour in accordance to sex (Money & Ehrhardt, 1972).

Trans-Identity and FTM

Trans-identity is an all-encompassing umbrella term for all individuals who are considered to have non-normative gender identities or be gender nonconforming. The term is synonymous with transgender, but may become the preferred term because of its emphasis on identity, which is broader based than the construct of gender (Whittle, 2000). Identities are viewed here as socially constructed labels that people provide for themselves to describe aspects of their "selves" that they view as having some degree of stability. The term female-to-mak transgender (FTM) individuals refers to biological females with a trans-identity who desire to transition to a male morphology to one extent or another.

Physical Transitioning

Physical transitioning refers to all attempts to change the physical body, and includes sexual reassignment surgeries (SRS) and hormone replacement therapy (HRT). …

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