Anyone watch House last night? In the second episode, the patient was a boy who had been born with half male DNA, half female - not a hermaphrodite, he actually had a half-penis/half-vagina hybrid. And the parents chose to have it surgically altered to remember a penis, so he could be a boy, in a decision based in no way on his genetics.
Anyway, cut forward 13 years, he's just found out about his situation, and he's wondering whether he should have actually been a girl. "Well do you feel like a girl?" he's asked. "I dunno," he replies. "I prefer dancing to basketball and there's a possibility I fancy boys - does that make me a girl?" Of course it doesn't.
So what does count as feeling like a girl? Or feeling like a boy, for that matter. Transexuals often state they *feel* like the gender other than the one they were born, but how could they possibly know? They could feel exactly like all people of their born gender, or maybe there are no gender-specific feelings, beyond the ones determined by gender-specific hormone levels. No one could know that.
Does that mean, when a person says they feel they were born the wrong gender, they actually mean they have thoughts society usually associates with the opposite gender? And if so, how many of these thoughts do they have to have. If a boy prefers dancing to basketball and fancies men... that's two thoughts. That's not enough, surely. Maybe there's no absolute number - maybe it's relative. At least half your thoughts, or something like that.
But that still leaves the problem of these simply being thoughts associated with one particular gender by society; there's nothing inherently "womanly" about liking dancing. (I'll put the issue of fancying men to one side here, for the sake of promoting an irrelevant argument... although I've probably done that now anyway.) And if that is indeed the only connection, having a sex change simply becomes a case of changing one's gender in order to better match society's preconceptions, based on one's underlying thoughts.
That's ultimately the case, anyway. I don't think by that I can mean people change their genders just to have an easier life on the context of the society around them, because looking in the mirror and seeing a face you're not expecting seems a big price to pay for that. Rather, it must be the case that *society* makes a person feel like a man or a woman. If you were born into a totally empty world, would it be possible for you to wake up one day and think "You know, I was born a man but I feel like a woman"? I don't think so (not least because women wouldn't exist). And if this is the case - if our self identity with regard to gender is shaped entirely by society - is having a sex change a legitimate response?