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28 February 2015

Georgina Turtle's typology of transvestists and transsexualists

Part I: dentist and surgeon-lieutenant
Part II: wife and author
Part III:  Turtle’s typology

In Chapter 5 "Basic Types of Cases" in Over the Sex Border, the following typology is proposed. Remember that the author was writing in 1962. In each of the eight cases a sketch of a corresponding person is offered. With one exception, they are referred to by a letter incrementing from A to G, with the honorific that seems appropriate to Turtle:, Mr, Miss etc. Turtle says that each sketch is of one person with identification details removed.

Note: 'homosexual' = a trans woman interested in men, or a trans man interested in women. This was the almost universal usage in 1962, and has been retained by a few reactionaries and contrarians such as Ray Blanchard and Kay Brown.

A. The Immature type
Mr A, 25 and in catering, subject all his life to over-doting parents, no associates of his own age and sheltered from the outside world. No sexual experience and no opportunities to cross dress.

B. The Aesthetic type
A sensitivity of feeling, a desire of everything that is fine and clean, a love of music and the arts. A disassociation of all fine things from masculinity. A feeling that one cannot express finer emotions and remain masculine. A man's life is shallow and superficial while femininity represents purity, cleanliness, finesse, charm and gracefulness, gentleness and beauty. These transsexualists are intelligent and well-educated, and are successful in passing as male. They can be talked out of transition if the illogicality of associating aesthetic characteristics with womanhood is forcefully brought home. Mr B, 34, engineer, an only child raised by his father to avoid aesthetic and beautiful things. He spent good money so that his female clothes were just right. After a period on female hormones, he reverted to male after realizing that his female state would be less than perfect.

C. The Oedipus type
Identify with their mother, and are antagonistic to their father. Mr C, 44, chemical processing executive. His desire to cross-dress is repressed by his fear of ridicule, and when he does, he quickly burns the items afterwards.

D. The Homosexual type
Unlike the above, this type has friends, and does not feel guilty about cross-dressing, and often will reach a stage of being a man only for work. Many work as female impersonators, and transition earlier. Mr D, 42, engineer, served in the forces, taken for a girl as a child and overcompensated by being good at rugby and cricket. Attracted to men but rejects homosexuality. Has been to many doctors, and has started living as female, though unable to obtain surgery.

E. The Anti-Social type
Turtle sees this as a variation on the Homosexual type. They are selfish and cowardly, and desire to be female in that things must be easier for females. They want to be pampered and looked after without having to work hard. They enjoy the pleasure of fooling people by their appearance, and are exhibitionists. Often they will abandon wife and children to live full-time as female, and have fantasies about becoming prostitutes. Mr E, 56, married with several children, has lived on and off as a woman for much of his life, and has obtained a female National Insurance card. Has made no effort to seek treatment. Has been arrested for theft.

no letter The Glandular type
Glandular, that is endocrinal imbalances, result in a man in his twenties who does not shave, or a woman with a muscular physique and hirsutism. Of those so affected, only few become transsexualists. However for those few, the adoption of a cross-sex role comes easily. Those born boys often take up work as a female impersonator, but move on to a sex change, and afterwards desire marriage. Those who manage to obtain female hormones early avoid the male secondary sexual characteristics, and have less past to leave behind them. Turtle, however, cautions: "Nevertheless, it must be remembered that however much justification these individuals might appear to have they are no less biologically of the sex they were born, and can still only be called transsexualists. We are not therefore speaking here of someone who is intersexual."

F. The Basic Female transsexualist
Turtle admits that there should be a corresponding typology for female-born transsexualists, "Nevertheless, all cases known to the writer had intimate female partners, suggesting that most were probably homosexually oriented." There was no significant loneliness or need for secrecy. Miss F, 25, an only child, wanted to be a boy from childhood. Since the age of 18 has sought help from doctors, but with no success. Has had a female companion for many years.

G. The Intersexual group
In true intersexuality "sexual ambiguity is caused by a conflict of the biological factors affecting development, and, in contrast to transsexualists who often prove the normality of their sexual function, intersexes are often both physically and sexually immature and may indeed be sterile". However "intersexes may continue through life quite happy in their sex of rearing, regardless of their 'true' sex". Miss G, 37, realised from early years that her interests and feelings were those of a girl. "In spite of her inner feelings there was never any question of wanting to dress up or resort to transvestism, and it was only when she was eventually obliged to see a sexologist that her physical intersexual state was revealed."

  • A is not a type, but rather a stage or phase. One wants to know where the person is 10 or 20 years later. Obviously he needs to build his own life away from his parents.
  • B's reasons of aesthetics and purity are a type of fantasy, but remember that the time is 1962, and for most people it was still impossible to talk about transsexuality. I suspect a displacement of narrative, but until he can talk about what he really wants and feels, perhaps he should not transition. Probably some conversations with women about what being a woman is really like may be useful.
  • It is not said that C is married, or even that he is heterosexual, but he certainly does not seem to be gay. Is this the entry for heterosexual transvestites? It seems to be less that it should be. Surely the 'heterosexual' type should be more definite?
  • Homosexual transvestists are described as early transitioners, guilt-free and often female impersonators. But the description of D is of a man who has rejected homosexuality. Surely he is in the wrong section.
  • E, the anti-social 'homosexual' is the only example here to have a wife and children, and the only suggestion of 'homosexuality' is 'his desire to meet up with a man friend'. This is too vague. The exhibitionism and lack of consideration may match Turtle's stereotype of a gay man, but in actuality are as likely to be found among heterosexuals.
  • So we do not have a fleshed-out example of a gynephilic transvestite/transsexual, and the two examples nominated as 'homosexual' are neither in contact with the gay scene nor have a male lover/husband. Perhaps Turtle had not really thought through what 'homosexual' and 'heterosexual' really mean.
  • The 'glandular type' is based on an assumption. Turtle says that when they are still men, they are termed 'pretty boy' or 'baby face'. These persons are sometimes known as 'natural beauties'. Turtle gives no example for this type, but of course one was in the news a lot in the early 1960s, and had a church wedding two years before Turtle/Somerset did. That person is Coccinelle.
  • Elsewhere Turtle/Somerset has said: "Less than a few percent of transsexuals are true or primary transsexuals. These are generally the lonely, sensitive, asexual types of transsexual". Are we to assume that this group is the same as the 'glandular type'? If not, where are they in this typology?
  • Turtle's insistence that glandular imbalance is not a type of intersex is not shared by OII and ISNA. She is painting herself into a corner by not having 'true transsexualists' other than the glandular type.
  • The one group that is definitely 'homosexual' in the inverted way that Turtle used the term is the one she calls the 'basic female transsexualist' – what we would refer to as trans men. They have experience of the lesbian scene, and most have female lovers. As to her assumption that almost all "female transsexualists" are such, she should have paid more attention to the first surgical trans man who was outed in the press in 1958: Michael Dillon.
  • Turtle regarded herself as intersex and as not a transsexualist, even though she knew that most intersex persons stay with the sex of rearing. The positioning of 'basic female transsexualist' in between the 'glandular type' and the 'intersexual group' is odd until you realise that Turtle is putting the maximum distance between herself and any type of male-born transsexualist. She also claims that she has actually "changed sex", but that this would be impossible for a transsexualist.
  • Miss G is the only one example in the chapter who is referred to by the pronoun and the honorific of their gender identity. She is the only post-op person considered.
  • Is Miss G a sketch of Georgina Turtle? The not having a letter associated with the 'glandular type', and then putting the 'basic female transsexualist' in between the 'glandular type' and the 'intersexual group' result in the letter for the 'intersexual group' being G. Also Miss G has Georgina's age, and the description certainly seems to fit.
Primary and Secondary Transsexuals
Turtle/Somerset uses the term 'true or primary transsexuals'. In 1963 she was ahead of the game, but the boundaries between primary and secondary slid back and forth over the next few decades.

Harry Benjamin had two kinds of 'true transsexual', moderate and high intensity, the former being 4-6 on the Kinsey scale, and the latter 6 only. Thus they are both androphilic.

Robert Stoller also regarded the ‘homosexual early transitioner’ as Primary.

On the other hand, Ethel Person & Lionel Ovesey, writing in 1974, agreed with Turtle. They designated a Primary Transsexual as one who is functionally asexual and who progresses resolutely toward a surgical resolution without significant deviation toward either homosexuality or heterosexuality. They defined two types of Secondary Transsexual: 1) one who is a homosexual and effeminate from early childhood into adulthood. 2) transvestitic transsexualism.

In 1978 the Archives of Sexual Behavior published a paper by Virginia Prince in which she proposed that the only true transsexuals are asexual, socially-inadequate men who would function better as women, as "less is expected of women". She presumed that bisexuals (2,3,4 on the Kinsey scale) of their nature do not become transsexuals. She also proposed two kinds of 'pseudotranssexual' based on sexual orientation: 1) The preoperative homosexual group (Kinsey 5,6) gave much higher scores on all questions dealing with sex and lower scores on those questions dealing with gender, 2) those in the heterosexual group (Kinsey 1,2) gave high scores to gender type questions and much lower scores on the sex type questions.

A decade later Ray Blanchard redistributed the types; he conflated the 'homosexual' transsexual and the early transitioner as Primary, while putting the asexuals with the 'heterosexuals' and bisexuals as autogynephilic. In fact he came up with a neologism: analloerotic which means sex but not with other people because he wanted to regard these people as autogynephilic.


It was of course prejudice that Turtle's book was cold-shouldered because she was a dentist and because she had changed sex herself. However Benjamin's book of three years later is a better book and has a more coherent typology. Not that there are not problems with Benjamin's typology, but it is a better starting point for later discussions.

It is annoying in Georgina's autobiography that she thinks that she is a real sex change and that the rest of us are not. In a typology chapter in a book with pretensions of science it is more than annoying. It is quite objectional.

Apart from her personal ego trip, her typology is incoherent in that heterosexual transvestites, the largest group by numbers, are merely suggested under the heading 'Oedipal', and the only example cited is such a beginner.

It is weird that the only male-born examples with a wife and children is designated 'homosexual', and that the other 'homosexual' is so homophobic. There were androphilic trans women in the 1950s. It was a difficult time to be so, but several in the UK are recorded in Kris Kirk's Men in Frocks.

  • Georgina Turtle. "Basic Types of Cases" in Over the Sex Border. Victor London: Gollancz, 1963: Chp 5.
  • Harry Benjamin. The Transsexual Phenomenon. New York: Julian Press, 1966. New York: Warner Books Edition 1977: 36-7.
  • Robert Stoller. Sex and Gender. London: Hogarth, 1968. ‘Homosexual early transitioner’ came to be the more accepted usage for Primary.
  • Ethel Person & Lionel Ovesey. "The transsexual syndrome in males. I. Primary transsexualism". American Journal of Psychotherapy, 28, 1974; 174-193.
  • Ethel Person & Lionel Ovesey. "The transsexual syndrome in males. II. Secondary transsexualism". American Journal of Psychotherapy, 28, 1974; 4-20.
  • Virginia Prince. "Transsexuals and Pseudotranssexuals", Archives of Sexual Behavior, 7, 4, 1978: 263-272.
  • Robert Stoller. "Gender identity disorders". In H I Kaplan, A M Freedman & B J Sadock (eds). Comprehensive Textbook of Psychiatry, 3rd ed., Vol. 2. Williams & Wilkins, 1980.
  • Ray Blanchard. "The classification and labeling of nonhomosexual gender dysphorias" . Archives of Sexual Behavior, 18, 1989: 315-334.
  • Anne Vitale. “Primary and Secondary Transsexualism--Myths and Facts”., 2000.

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