On the Science of Changing Sex

The New Math

Posted in Transsexual Field Studies by Kay Brown on June 9, 2015


There’s a wonderful new study that uses the United States Social Security Administration and Census Bureau data to get a much better estimate of the number of post-transition transsexuals in the United States.  The numbers line up pretty well with what we already knew, but we get additional data, like where we are more likely to live and when we transitioned.

Take a look at the map above.  Note that religosity, homophobic & transphobic laws and associated “conservative” views are inversely proportional with the transgender density.  (That is to say, that “red” states have fewer transfolk than “blue”.  People move to where they are more likely to be welcomed, comfortable, and not socially & economically discriminated against?)  It looks like very few transfolk live in Utah, home of the very openly transphobic Mormon (LDS) Church.  Quite a few transfolk call the West Coast home, while the North East is another inviting locale, not really surprising, but interesting non-the-less.

The study’s abstract says it all,

“This paper utilizes changes to individuals ’first names and sex-coding in files from the Social Security Administration (SSA) to identify people likely to be transgender.  I first document trends in these transgender-consistent changes and compare them to trends in other types of changes to personal information.  I find that transgender-consistent changes are present as early as 1936 and have grown with non-transgender consistent changes.  Of the likely transgender individuals alive during 2010, the majority change their names but not their sex-coding.  Of those who changed both their names and their sex-coding, most change both pieces of information concurrently, although over a quarter change their name first and their sex-coding 5-6 years later.  Linking individuals to their 2010 Census responses shows my approach identifies more transgender members of racial and ethnic minority groups than other studies using, for example, anonymous on line surveys.  Finally, states with the highest proportion of likely transgender residents have state-wide laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of gender identity or expression.  States with the lowest proportion do not.”

The data shows that as the population of the US grew, so did the number of transfolk.  The two went nearly hand in hand, supporting my long held thesis that there had NOT been an increase in the percentage of transfolk in the population.  The data shows that from 1936 to 2010, perhaps 30,000 post-op transsexuals changed their sex designation on SSA data.  We know that from 1980 onwards, the SSA would only allow that to be done upon proof of SRS.  Interestingly, the data indicates that the average age of name and sex change is around 35, consistent with other studies.  The other really interesting thing is that about 25% of those who had SRS, changed their names about five or so years before.  This is consistent with the experience of younger MTF transwomen and FtM transmen who often cannot afford SRS until later.

But, this author, using both SSA and Census records, looking at name changes, not just SRS, says,

“I am able to identify 135,367 individuals who are likely to be transgender. Of these, 89,667 were alive during the 2010 Census.”

The author noted than many of these individuals who had not changed their sex designation did so because they were FtM transmen who likely had not elected to get ‘bottom’ SRS that would qualify for such designation change under the SSA rules.  This also means that these individuals were not included in the map above.

(Addendum 6/15/2015:  For the past 13 years, many news sources, including the New York times and GLAAD, have been quoting an erroneous figure of 700,000 transgender people in the United States, from a highly suspect surveys which include in an estimate of closeted cross-dressers / cross-dreamers (i.e. non-transsexual autogynephiles) which expressed an unrealized low level desire to transition.  Recently, that figure has been doubled to 1,400,000 transgender people!  Here, we have solid numbers from the SSA and Cencus records, that show that there are perhaps 90,000 actual post social transition transgender people in the US today.  Often taken by the press and the public to indicate the number of post transition transgender people, the higher estimate by counting those with only a half-hearted wish to transition, or simply “identify” as transgender, overstates the number by over ten fold.  This lower figure also underscores the high anti-trans hate crimes and murders as a percentage of the actual post-social-transition transgender population.)

(Addendum 3/29/2017:  A recent spate of news articles have been published wherein they claim that one out of 130 teenagers “identifies” as transgender.  Of course, this is simply based on the 1.7 million “transgender” U.S. residents figure being touted for several years.  Again, these figures do NOT represent the true number… only those who “identify” as transgender.  If it really was one out of 130, every typical highschool would have around 15 obviously transgender students… which is simply not the case.  However, given that we know that 4.5% of boys will be experiencing autogynephilic arousal to cross-dressing… if we count them as “transgendered” (we shouldn’t), that would be 2-3 per hundred teenagers.)

(Addendum 7/27/17:  There has been a lot of debate regarding the number of “transgender” folks in the U.S. Armed Services.  A little math will show that there would only be a little less than one thousand at best.  The estimate would be around 600 out of 2 million in uniform.)

Further Reading:

How Many Trans Folk Are There, Really?

Essay on Teenagers and young adults Inappropriately Claiming Transgender Identities


Benjamin Cerf Harris, “Likely Transgender Individuals in U.S. Federal Administrative Records and the 2010 Census”



Comments Off on The New Math

%d bloggers like this: