Gender Identity Disorder and Spontaneous Sexual Transformation
Posted on February 15th, 2017

Dr Ruwan M Jayatunge 

The phenomenon of spontaneous sexual transformation in human beings is clearly recognized in a wide variety of Hindu and Buddhist texts. The Pali Vinaya records the cases of a monk who turned into a woman and of a nun who turned into a man. Although the Vinaya itself gives no indication of the reasons for such changes, its commentary observes that they occur on the basis of powerful good and bad moral deeds – an opinion shared by several other Pali commentaries. More specifically, transformation from male to female occurs as a result of a powerful evil action (such as unfaithfulness to one’s wife), whereas transformation from female to male occurs as a result of the weakening of the inferior karma that brought about rebirth as a woman, accompanied by a powerful good action and/or a strong aspiration to become male (Ohnuma, 2001).

Several medical conditions can result in a natural sex change in humans, where the appearance at birth is somewhat, mostly, or completely of one sex, but changes over the course of a lifetime to being somewhat, mostly or completely of the other sex. The overwhelming majority of natural sex changes are from a female appearance at birth to a male appearance after puberty, due to either 5-alpha-reductase deficiency (5alpha-RD-2) or 17-beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase deficiency (17beta-HSD-3)(Cohen-Kettenis, 2005). A relative handful of male to female changes have been reported, and the etiologies of these are not well understood (Khan, 2008).

Gender identity disorder is classified as a medical disorder by the DSM-5 as gender dysphoria. Gender identity disorder (GID) or gender dysphoria is the formal diagnosis used by psychologists and physicians to describe people who experience significant dysphoria (discontent) with the sex they were assigned at birth and/or the gender roles associated with that sex. Evidence suggests that people who identify with a gender different from the one they were assigned at birth may do so not just due to psychological or behavioral causes, but also biological ones related to their genetics, the makeup of their brains, or prenatal exposure to hormones (Heylens, 2012)

Transsexualism first appeared as a diagnosis in the third edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-III) (American Psychiatric Association, 1980). Transsexualism is when an individual identifies with a gender inconsistent or not culturally associated with their assigned sex, i.e. in which a person’s assigned sex at birth conflicts with their psychological gender. A medical diagnosis can be made if a person experiences discomfort as a result of a desire to be a member of the opposite gender or if a person experiences impaired functioning or distress as a result of that gender identification (APA).

The Jātaka tales describe Gender Identity Disorder and spontaneous sexual transformation in a count named Soreiya.

One day Count Soreyya went to the river to have a bath. There he saw Bikku Kachayana who was very attractive and handsome. By seeing this attractive monk the Count Soreyya had a sexual fantasy which later became an obsessive recurrent erotic thought. Soreyya thought: I wish that monk would become my wife! Or may the color of my wife’s body be like the color of his body.  Simultaneously he had immense guilty feelings knowing that Bikku Kachayana is a perfected person who has attained Arhathood. Following self guilt and severe mental conflicts with elevated anxiety the count experienced a sex change.

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