Harry Benjamin Syndrome is just that, a syndrome. It is a medical condition that ultimately explains what many people have long since called a psychological phenomenon; transsexualism. I first read about this condition on a blog. Eternally seeking to explain my gender oddities away, I naturally read and researched the topic of HBS. I learned that Dr. Harry Benjamin believes that gender lays in makeup of the brain not the genitals. Whereas many have described transsexualism as a psychological condition in which a person feels they were born into the wrong gendered body, Dr. Benjamin believes the actual gender formation of the brain during the embryo stage differs from the gender formation of the genitals, the brain being the correct gender, the body wrong.
I have to say that reading this made me stop and think about my own gender. I was born a female, or at least born with female genitalia. I do not think I was necessarily born into the wrong body, I think I was born missing additional parts. My entire life I have tried to explain to people why I “knew” what having male genitalia felt like. I never had a penis, yet I know what it feels like to have one. I know what it feels like to have both genitals; to be intersex. Harry Benjamin Syndrome is an intersex condition. Intersex people typically have characteristics of both sexes. I have known all of my life that I am intersex. I just never knew the word.
Dr. Benjamin states that treatment for Harry Benjamin Syndrome is hormone therapy and sex reaffirmation surgery. And while I agree that this would be the answer for many people, it would not be for me. I put a lot of faith into biological explanations for gender queer folk. I also give a lot of credit to our own gender creation. I do believe environment and experience plays a part in gender and sexuality as well as biological aspects. I do not believe environment alone is enough to create a gender on its own, but I do think it plays a part. I know I was supposed to be male. However I have had to conform and live as a female all of my life. In the course of my years I have found a great appreciation for being female. I identify as a lesbian and I love women. I like my female genitalia and what it offers me sexually. I think having to conform to a gender binary has ultimately created a female where one may not truly have been. That being said, I would not ever want to change genders completely. I would always be missing a piece of myself as I am now.
Accepting Harry Benjamin Syndrome as a diagnosis for me is not something I am prepared to do. I am not prepared to put myself into a box just yet. But the idea intrigues me and leads me closer to the validation that what I feel is not just a feeling, but who I am in a physiological sense. I am also happy to see the medical community progressing to the point where biological and physiological explanations for both transgender and intersex people might be accepted and bring the gender queer community together once and for all.
Echo resides in northern New Jersey with her wife and the two youngest of their five children. You can visit her blog at dysphoricallyspeaking.blogspot.com.