Gender Switch: Unleashing the Myth & Psyche

This article is written jointly by Debalina RoyChowdhury and Madhuleena Roychowdhury

It isn’t about “becoming” another person. I already am who I am.
      – Cooper Lee Bombardier

Gender has been a controversy since time immemorial. The strife of existence and empowerment between male female has engulfed the pages of history; where then lays the third gender? In the midst of silence and shame they live and die silently. A very few can use the weakness as weapons. Thus very few can make their own individual identity in this ‘gender-biased’ world. The term ‘Third sex’ inculcates a wide range of variety within. Some are disabled from birth (hermaphrodite), some are made (eunuch); some bear a different gender identity within (transgender) while, some of them are converted from one gender to other (transsexual). This is our humble attempt to discuss about the Transsexuals.

Myth Unleashed
by Debalina Roychowdhury

That was when I realized that life was a multiple-choice test with two answered: Male and Female, and I were none of the above. –I.W. Gregorio

This paper deals with not exactly the hermaphrodites, but with ‘transgender’ more specifically ‘transsexuals’ in lieu who bear a confused gender identity throughout. ‘Gender ‘is a broader term than the term ‘sex’. The former does not stay confined within the anatomical structure. It imbibes in it both the genitalia and the psychological composition. ‘Tomboys’ and ‘effeminates’ are very common terms for us. Those genders who are not satisfied or feel incomplete with their identity are Transgender; among those who do not accept this physio-mental impediment and undergoes medical aid to get converted to the other are known as the Transsexuals.
This paper deals with not exactly the hermaphrodites, but with ‘transgender’ and ‘transsexual’ in lieu who bear a confused gender identity throughout. Human beings often found to be helpless in terms of gender. Gender comprises something beyond anatomy and the genitalia. Gender is a complex term comprising the amalgamation of physical identity and psychological feeling. Many men feel themselves to be feminine and vice versa. This conflicting gender status, the crisis and the want of being the ‘other’ leads to undergo changes as a whole from man to woman and converse. In this world of advancement, Gender altercation has become less complicated than before. But, it seems that when it was comparatively threatening too, human beings (the few different) underwent such surgeries to convert their birth-time genders. This has a deep root even in the Mythologies. The indo- European Epic Literature also highlights the ‘Gender Conversion’.

Society has always taken various attitudes towards them. They are often looked down upon and often abhorred by the society; some sympathizes and some considers them as a human identity. But this confused gender entity and even the conversion is not new in our society. Eons ago, in the Epics also we find this psychological dilemma and even the myths of conversion from one sex to another. The great epic of Iliad and Mahabharata inscribes such instances.

From European Myths:

In the pages of The Iliad, we find characters like Caenis. Caenis was a young and beautiful nymph who was dearly loved by Sea God Poseidon. One day when the God offered her a boon, she opted to be converted to a male. Deep in love was the God, despite of his stunning distress, she was granted the same. Caenis was then changed to Caeneus, a strong resolute man and an invulnerable warrior. He walked down the town and declared all to worship his spear as God. His pride called forth Zeus’s wrath and he decided to punish Caeneus. Zeus planned to stir up the centaurs against him. Centaurs are the rough and ready beast-men who were able and ferocious fighters. At the wedding of Peirithous, friend of Theseus, such situation arose. The Centaurs were treated unwisely with wine that went straight to their heads. This instigated them to abduct the bride. This attempt was thwarted by Caeneus and a strife broke between them. Finding that he is impervious to weapons, the Centaurs pounded him into the ground in a gang and he died of suffocation. While dying he got back his woman body. Metamorphoses stars another character Iphis the daughter of Telesthusa and Ligdus. To save the life of the newborn, the mother lied that it is a boy and named him after his grandfather. Iphis was brought up as a boy and at his adolescence a beautiful girl named Lanthe fell in love with him and their marriage was fixed up. Telethusa took Iphis to the temple of Isis and prayed. Isis granted the prayer and transformed Iphis into male.

These two instances clearly bring out the dichotomy of two genders in one body. The wish to get converted in what one is not imbibes the idea of a different gender identity embedded in the body. The wish of Caenis to become a male or the upbringing of Iphis both hints at the ‘male’ factor ingrained in a body of a woman.

Indian Myth:

In the greatest Epic Mahabharata, we have two instances of gender switching. The first case is of Amba- Shikhandi. The princess of Kashi, out of vengeance for Bhisma, opted to become the reason of his death. In the next birth, he was born as Shikhandini the daughter of Drupad and brought up as a male. The wish of vengeance made Shikandi leave his dwelling. According to the myth, that night he exchanged his genetalia with a Yaksh and was converted to a male. However, legends also say that he was a hermaphrodite. But the fact was a Shikhandi is a transsexual. Another instance from Mahabharat is Arjuna-Vrihannala. The curse of Urvasi proved to be a boon for Arjun during his one year ‘Agyatvaas’. At the court of King Virat, he coached the king’s daughter Uttara as a music teacher, Vrihannala. It was not a disguise only. If the curse of Urvashi is considered it was a temporary gender switching. Another name we get is of Mohini who is the avatar of Vishnu who is portrayed as a ‘femme fatale’ who restricted the Asuras from getting the share of ‘Amrit’ and also killed ‘Bhasmasura’(ash-demon)

The fact that can be observed is an incompleteness of being and that feeling surpassing to such a level that it leads to transformation of sex. The root of Transsexuals was sowed deep in the mythologies, which proves that this incomplete gender identity was always there. The crisis in what one is and the wish to transform from what in original is nothing new. With the advancement of time and growth of population, it has been widespread and the transformation is scientific. The constant conflict within such people harps deep in their mind until they live.

Psychology Revealed
by Madhuleena Roychowdhury

I Think…Therefore I Am!”

If these words could be shuffled and put like “I am because I think…” Probably that would be the way we should look at the issue of gender! Before delving into the details of any gender related issue, three terms need to be explained:

1. Sex : It refers to one’s anatomical and physiological characteristics that indicate whether one is a male or a female, i.e., their primary and secondary sex organs.
2. Gender : It refers to one’s sense of oneself being male or female. It develops by the age of 2-3 years mostly and USUALLY correspond with one’s sex.
3. Gender Role: It is the public expression of gender. It refers to the characteristics that are usually assigned to a particular gender.

Our topic is based on the issue of Transgenders, more specifically Trans-sexulas, about their experiences, about their state of disorder with a literary base. Now, the question arises, Who are the transgenders? How do they differ from trans-sexuals? Does a ctually thre lie any difference between the two concepts? And so on…

Transgenders is a broad term that is used to address people who feel extreme discomfort with their existing sex and often feel being trapped in the wrong body. Psychology terms this condition as Gender Identiy Disorder or Gender Dysphoria.

Though often used in a similar way, but there is a difference between “trans-sexuals” and “trans-genders.”

Trans-sexual are adults with Gender Identity Disorder who desire to change their sex, and preferably go for surgical procedures to achieve the same. Whereas, trans-genders are individuals with gender identity disorder who feel extreme distress but do not seek for medically changing their sex.

The Transformation they Undergo:

Most transgender express their tendency from childhood, preferring to dress and behave as the opposite sex. Consequently, most of the boys have effeminate behavioral patterns and females are seen to be tomboyish.

During the process of transformation, men might take hormones (estrogen) to develop breasts, have electrolysis to remove their facial and body hair, and undergo Sex Reassignment Surgery (SRS) to remove the primary sex organs and create on an artificial vagina.

Women might take testosterone to build muscle mass and deepen the voice and have SRS in which a phallus is created and mastectomy to remove the breasts.

The Eunuchs (Hijras), who are often regarded as the “Third Sex,” undergo a crude form of SRS after a religious ceremony infront of Goddess Bahuchara Mata, whereby their sex organ is castrated and they acquire the identity of a Hijra. However, this issue is highly debatable and controversial.

Trans-Sexualism: The Psychological Disclosure:

As it is said, Sex is between the legs and gender is between the ears. There is no law that says that they have to match. If there is no natural law that says they have to match, then they are not to be considered mentally ill, if their sex and gender identity are unmatched. The illness comes from a lifetime of denying, and abusing this aspect of the identity. The illness comes from telling ourselves that they are sick. The illness gets worse when we start telling them “You are Sick,” and when you reduce it all down, that’s what the flame wars are about. Flame wars are not about gender issues, they are about the emotional abuse.

A person with trans-sexuality will almost always go through many devastating and long stages of fear, anger, guilt, shame and self-loathing with immense emotional distress. They know that they will also likely face fear, hatred, prejudice, violence, and rejection—sometimes, even from those they love or respect the most. No one wants or chooses to have this happen to them; so as a result, trans-sexuals typically live seriously disrupted lives tangled in deep inner emotional conflict. They must go through a very long difficult process of getting beyond their internalized conflicts and societal pressures by learning to finally accept that this is just who they are, and it is not shameful.

Often those with Trans-sexuality will attempt almost everything in the world to avoid facing their fears and unavoidable situation, including super-human macho activities or careers, marriage, family, extreme creative endeavors or even turn to religion, drugs, or alcohol to escape. Eventually though, if they have survived this far they will find that these things did not work and they must face yet another even greater battle with their Trans-Sexcual Demon. The fear of facing the issue can instill an emotional paralysis that can be difficult to handle. It is then that they must seek professional assistance to gain some kind of movement in their situation. Once the trans-sexual person has overcome their fears, guilt and shame and accepted themselves and learned to feel self worth, happiness and inner pride, with proper guidance they will move forward through transition and on to establish new lives in the properly aligned role. The period of time can be short sometimes for very young trans-sexual who cannot find coping skills in life or are less affected by “social role” pressures to conform to—or it can take several years, even decades to unfold. The path can be a treacherous, painful, expensive, lonely, and emotional one, but it can be done successfully with the highly rewarding result of rising above the flames of their torment and dysphoria like a Phoenix from the ashes.

To just feel “normal” is something almost everyone takes for granted in life.—for the person afflicted with trans-sexuality, it is the Holy Grail. Once an individual passes through the processes involved, wholeness of being is achieved and the person can transcend their past medical condition and live a balanced, “normal” life.


Transgender exist within the human society. They are not outcasts. They carry their gender-insufficiency with them throughout their life. Society also plays a vivid role in increasing this discord within human mind. These people are seduced and tormented the most. Among the Transgender, very few take the risk and transform from one’s birth sex entity to another. Our concern is that, still they continue to be humans. It can never be denied that this schism deeply laden in the body and mind environs them in the midst of loneliness. The third gender exists and plays the treble and trenchant symphony of life.


More by :  Debalina Roychowdhury

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