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Are Transsexuals Crazy?

Short answer: No.

Sounds kind of glib, doesn't it?

Well, I just finished a dissertation on the subject, and I've got a few numbers to back me up.  I was fortunate enough to be given the (anonymous) protocols from standardized testing on people who've visited the Gender Identity Clinic of New England in the last 28 years.  Although none of this data told me who the people were, the data did represent a few hundred people who were seeking treatment for "Gender Identity Disorder," with some goal of starting therapy, hormonal treatment, or obtaining Sex Reassignment Surgery.

One of the things this clinic does is use some of the more respected psychological tests to answer two basic questions of each patient: 1) Is the person intelligent enough to be making this sort of decision (that is, is the person not "retarded"); 2) Is the person well adjusted enough to be making this sort of decision.  To this end, each person who came to the clinic were administered a Weschler Adult Intelligence Scale (WAIS, WAIS-R or WAIS-III, depending on when the testing was done) and a Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI or MMPI-2, again depending on when the testing was done).  The results of these tests served as the subject of my dissertation.

I have to say that I went into this expecting the worst.  After all, there has been so much printed in the past about how anyone with GID is psychotic or has a "borderline personality disorder" (the label therapists give to clients they don't like).  I have known, or at least met a few people who would fit this description.  So, I went into the project with a "come what may" attitude, steeling myself to back whatever results I found.

Fortunately, my worries were for naught.

Intelligence

Let's dispatch this one right off the bat.  I had 419 IQ tests here, and collectively, they described a pretty dang normal looking segment of the population.  If there was any difference between the GICNE clients and the population at large, it might be said that the GICNE clients had, on the average, a very slightly higher IQ than the rest of the country.  By "very slightly," I mean two or three points.  There are good reasons why I won't (and shouldn't) interpret this as being meaningful.  As far as I'm concerned, average intelligence with average variation (well, the statistical term "Standard Deviation").

This group is very normal IQ-wise.

Yeah, but were they crazy?

I had MMPI and MMPI-2 testing on 419 GICNE clients, which is a larger sample than any published study on transsexuals using the MMPI.  Overall, this group's composit MMPI scores looked fairly healthy.  There was no evidence of psychological problems and there was no evidence of the people trying to fudge the test to make themselves look better.  Overall, the composit profile, had it been seen in an individual, would be little to worry about.

I'm leaving this intentionally simplified.  People who know what the MMPI-2 is, and how to score it can feel free to contact me for the details on what I did and what it all ended up looking like.  If you're not one of those people, I should warn you that I don't really want to have to explain the test to a stranger.

What else did you find out?

Well, there was also this one guy who has stated in his studies that he believes that people with GID suffer from Borderline Personality Disorder.  We didn't see that at all in this data.  And there's one particularly delicious fallout to this: this same researcher had at one time attempted to create an MMPI scale to identify GID among biological males (Male-to-Female transsexuals).  The question is: did this scale of his actually identify those with GID, or did it identify those with Borderline Personality Disorder?

Inquiring minds want to know.

So, I ran a few correlations between the results of his scale (as applied to the 331 M2Fs in the study) and MMPI measures of Borderline Personality Disorder.  Shoot, I ran correlations between that scale of his and just about everything I could find.  The results were startling.

Or, at least they startled me.

See, I expected two possible outcomes.  The one I was expecting was that we'd see that higher scores on this GID scale would be related to higher scores on some MMPI Borderline Personality Scales.  In other words, I was expecting that this scale was just a self-fulfilling prophecy to link GID to Borderline Personality Disorder.

We didn't see any such relationship.

The other outcome I was expecting was that there would be no relation between the two.  I figured if this was an accurate measurement of the degree of Gender Dysphoria, then it'd show no relationship with any other things, like personality disorders, because GID and personality disorders are different things.

We didn't see that, either.

What we did see was a set of negative correlations - across the board - between the GID scale score and everything else.  To the people out there who aren't statisticians, what does this mean?  Well, according to this guy's GID scale, the worse you got it, the more emotionally stable you are.

That's right.  According to this guy's scale, the people who really feel the most uncomfortable with the parts they were born with tend to be the ones who showed up as being the healthiest on the MMPI.  Go figure.

Now, am I going to take this to mean that people with GID are more emotionally healthy than everyone else?  Not at all.  What these results tell me is that at the very least, this GID scale is suspect.

Still, talk about roasting a guy in his own juices.

Quit the jabber.  What does all this really mean?

It means that in the largest study that I know of that investigated the scores of transsexuals on the MMPI - a reasonably well respected measure of psychological functioning - transsexuals, as a group, are not crazy.

Does that mean that no transsexuals are crazy?  Not at all.  Mostly, it means that being transsexual doesn't imply that you're crazy.  It is still quite possible for a transsexual to be crazy on his or her own merits, but that's quite independent of the whole issue of transsexualism.


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Send me your commentsCopyright 2001, Dawn R. Banks, Ph.D.