According to Hagg and Fellows (2007:4), sex generally refers to anatomy and biology such as male or female, whereas gender refers to the qualities and behaviours society expects from a boy or girl, a man or woman. The definition of transgender refers to a person having no identification with, or no presentation as, the gender one was assigned at birth (Hagg and Fellows 2007:4). The definition of transsexual in Hagg and Fellows (2007:4) refers to a person who had undergone a sex change operation or a person identifying with the opposite sex.
It is often recognized that a baby boy with genitalia is supposed to grow up to become a man. Anything that deviates from the norms of what the society perceives is “not normal”. With such prejudices and discriminations set in place through generations across the globe, an invisible boundary has been formed to separate a “normal” human being from someone who has stepped outside of his or her cultural and social norms. This paper will explore the liminal status put in place to separates sexual identities distinctly through case studies of various transgenders and the way their culture and society look at them; hence the research question poses will be: What are the cultural and social implications of creating a boundary that separates a transgender from a “normal” human being? This research question was generated through an interest in how a boundary, which may seem harmless, can lead to the inclusion or exclusion of certain people with the examples of various transgenders.
Wilson (2003:91) supported the reason transgender was explored by stating that transgendered bodies have been a subject of pathology discourse since the late nineteenth century, with scholars from disciplines such as anthropology, sociology, history, social psychology, and cultural and queer studies began to deconstruct and refute the pathological approach to transgender.
According to Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (often know as DSM-IV), the criteria’s to diagnose one with Gender Identity Disorder (henceforth known as GID) have to be met, and the criteria are: strong and persistent cross-gender identification; persistent discomfort about one’s assigned sex; clinically significant distress in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning (Anon. 2000:535).
Gender identity disorder or gender dysphoria, mentioned in Dreger (2009:26), is having someone who constantly insists that he is really a girl, indicating a belief and not coming to terms with what he really is. An example quoted in Dreger (2009:26) is a five-year-old boy, William, loving “girl” toys such as Barbie dolls and My Little Pony. He strongly prefers playing with girls and enjoys dressing up like a conventional pretty woman in pumps, dresses, jewelry and make-up. Through William’s actions, he caused distress to his parents as he constantly challenges cultural and social norms.
Mentioned in Nanda (2000:13), while the majority of individuals identify themselves as either male or female, there are also people who claim alternative gender. As much as gender is culturally constructed through various social interactions and exposures, these people have difficulties identifying their “real” self. This notion is labeled as a “third” gender or, in this essay, referred to as “transgender”.
One example of “third” gender is the hijras in India, where they are often recognized as neither men nor women by members of their respective cultures, but occupying a “third” gender category by adopting various behaviors such as dressing as women, wearing their hair long, adopting feminine mannerisms and taking on female names (Corwin 2009).
Another literature pointed out that though most of these people grew up knowing that they are different from others, they tried to struggle to become the person other people wanted them to be. In the case study of Reynah (May 2005:52),...