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Meyer, J.K. (1982). The Theory of Gender Identity Disorders. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 30:381-418.

(1982). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 30:381-418

The Theory of Gender Identity Disorders

Jon K. Meyer, M.D.


Experience with more than 500 patients over the last decade has led to the conclusion that the quest for sex reassignment is a symptomatic compromise formation serving defensive and expressive functions. The symptoms are the outgrowth of developmental trauma affecting body ego and archaic sense of self and caused by peculiar symbiotic and separation-individuation phase relationships. The child exists in the pathogenic (and reparative) maternal fantasy in order to repair her body image and to demonstrate the interconvertability of the sexes.

Gender identity exists not as a primary phenomenon, but in a sense as a tertiary one. There is, no doubt, a tendency to gender-differentiate in a way concordant with biological endowment. Nevertheless, gender formation is seriously compromised by earlier psychological difficulty. Gender identity is a fundamental acquisition in the developing personality, but it is part of a hierarchical series beginning with archaic body ego, early body image, and primitive selfness, representing their extension into sexual and reproductive spheres.

Gender identity consolidates during separation-individuation and gender pathology bears common features with other preoedipal syndromes. Transsexualism is closely linked to perversions, and the clinical syndromes may shade from one into another. However, what is kept at the symbolic level in the perversions must be made concrete in transsexualism. In this regard there is a close relation to psychosis.

The clinical complaint of the transsexual is a condensation of remarkable proportions. When the transsexual says that he is a girl trapped in a man's body, he sincerely means what he says. As with other symptoms, however, it takes a long time before he begins to say what he means.

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