We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
The Old Doc asked me to jot down some thoughts about his post on Transgender. His post was pretty good for an off-the-cuff piece, and I can't do much better, but I can say more.
But let me first explain that the psychoanalytic view of the world is a strange and highly skeptical one: we rarely take unexamined thoughts and feelings and actions about important matters at face value, but rather regard them as surface data. Like oil geologists, we survey the terrain not because we value hills, but because of the clues they offer about what lies beneath. In AA they like to say that "Feelings aren't facts," and that is the truth.
Therefore we are inclined to view thoughts and feelings people have about their bodies and their sexuality as just that - thoughts and feelings, not facts, until demonstrated otherwise. Same as their thoughts and feelings about their mothers, or their jobs, spouses, or money, or anything else that matters. For example, I have seen patients who thought they were gay, and weren't, just as often as I have seen patients who refused to admit that they preferred guys. The Old Doc is right - people's feelings about what they are is always a muddle, and especially in adolescence. This is why analysts are always reluctant to label anyone: to stick with the geology metaphors, when there is a rattling of teacups in the cupboard, we want to know whether it's a mouse running around, or an earthquake in the neighborhood. Plain "rattling teacups" doesn't do it for us.
As a consequence of our skepticism about accepting thoughts, feelings, and fantasies at face value, we naturally also are skeptical about behavior. We know that people often do not know why they do what they do, even though they may offer a ready explanation. People are great at rationalizing and justifying things they do for irrational or hidden motives of which they are often unaware.
So, given all of that, just a few disjointed points:
First, the idea of how we feel and think of ourselves, and the melding of "female" and "male" identities, were discussed at length by Freud, as the Old Doc recalls, and is nothing new. However, most analysts would tend to regard a person's viewing themselves as another sex as a surface sign of what we call an identity disturbance.
Second, the idea of how we think of ourselves (not for the moment talking about partner choice) is sculpted by culture: it is not a "something" independent of culture. For example, the Whites at Harvard showed in their cross-cultural studies that man and woman roles are related to the economy (hunter-gatherer vs. agricultural in the "simplest" societies, with, as I recall, more gender differentiation in the hunter gatherer societies.
Third, Bettelheim's book, Symbolic Wounds, demonstrated the yearning by men across cultures for the power of the woman's body: ie. Bettelheim showed that there is male "womb envy" as there may be female "penis envy." (These refer to usually unconscious thoughts and feelings and fantasies.) He described various male pubertal rites across cultures of symbolic "menarche" including subcision or circumcision at time of puberty. In US cultures, this is more often seen as ear or nose piercing by boys, and the like. The phenomenon of "couvade" among some American Indians (male hysterical pregnancy at the time of the woman's pregnancy) was culturally institutionalized in some Indian cultures.
Further, Clifford Geertz in his cultural studies described at least three different ways that cultures have in dealing with homosexuality: fear of the homosexual (including that he may have shamanistic powers); a more disinterested view of the homosexual as something like a broken vessel -- can't carry water, but otherwise harmless; or a culturally accepted ritual of permitting the homosexaul to participate in female activities and being precluded from male activities (I think this was among the Mandan and maybe Sioux) -- he can dress like a lady; greet the returning warriors like a sqaw, and was considered, well, just an oddity.
So, what about all this?
With the moral unravelling of Western society, and with the worship of the Self often replacing devotion to higher or better things, three relevant phenomena have appeared. First, in the US, we tend to think of the individual as independent of society or cultural (except to the degree that the individual is victimized by an uncaring, unsophisticated, or persecutory society). My needs and wants must prevail. The needs of the society are less than secondary and may even harm my sense of fulfillment (whatever that illusion is, it usually doesn't include the greater good of society); although I may find or create a subgroup of fellow sufferers to reinforce eachother's egotism. If I haven't been clear about this yet, some of these people have a paranoid stance visa-vis the world: if they can't change the world, at least they can decide to change themselves, even if this involves significant, serial mutilation (and all the misery that taking external hormones include.)
A second phenomenon in the US is something we could call "reification" of our feelings - viewing feelings as facts and taking them as facts, at face value. What I feel must have built into me, born with it, nothing to do with my life course and I have no sense of control over it, because it is "biological", "genetic". (and the corollary is that I suffer because the society doesn't "get it," and wants to "get me.").
Thirdly, and this is a major finally, we can now medically do something to act on our impulses. We can cut off dicks and make pussies; or shut up pussies and hang shlongs (that won't get off the ground without some coaxing with a latex insert and a pump). We can lop off boobies (even as we seem to dismiss how terribly traumatic it is for woman with breast cancer to lose their breast); or slap them on and enlarge them with inserts. We can depilitate (let alone debilitate). We can pump another gender's hormones in.
That is, whereas at one time we would have come to terms with normal feelings of penis envy or womb envy or all other sorts of mixed-up sexual feelings, we now have ways to act on our impulses. And we are an action and result-oriented culture (for better and worse.). What might have once been in our dreams, we can now create living nightmares out of. You can imagine how tough it is to maintain a female body hormonally in a man's corpse. The serial surgeries and multiple hair removals and all such, let alone starting this usually in the 30's as the body is beginning to age anyhow, is not an easy course.
There is much to be said for reflecting and not acting on such matters.