Why are transgenders so evident in Asia?

A transgirl performing a traditional Sinulog dance in the Philippines. Pic: Rod Fleming

Almost all credible authorities, according to GIRES in the UK, now agree that the baseline minimum for gender non-conformity as ‘at least 1%’ and this has been borne out, again according to GIRES, by recent studies in New Zealand, The Netherlands and Belgium.

Now ‘gender non-conformity’ is a broad church and by no means all of these would identify as transgender. However, research carried out by Professor Lynn Conway and also by the Williams Institute for Law, part of the UCLA, suggests about half of these are, for a prevalence of around 1:200. This is supported by census results from Malaysia, which put the incidence there — a country that is officially very hostile towards transgender — at 1:170 of male-born individuals.

This should tell us two things: transgender is innate and appears in all populations at roughly the same rate; and that as such it is a part of normal human variation.

Of these transgender populations, the vast majority are what is called by science ‘Blanchard HSTS’, ‘Early Onset Androphile’ or ‘transkids.’ These are almost always, uniquely, attracted to men. They appear as transgender very young and frequently begin dressing as girls, wearing their hair long and, in recent decades, taking feminising hormones, in their early teens. They should not be confused with another, much less frequent type of MtF transgender, known as ‘autogynephiles’. These latter are fetishistic transvestite men, for whom dressing and pretending to be a woman is a sexual thrill: think Bruce ‘Caitlyn’ Jenner. (We will deal with these elsewhere; they are almost entirely restricted to white, middle-class Western men and globally are a tiny population.)

But why are MtF transgenders so obvious, and so open, outside the West?



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