Benjamin scale

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Harry Benjamin's Sex Orientation Scale (S.O.S.) was an attempt to classify and understand various forms and subtypes of transvestism and transsexualism in biological males.[1] It was a seven-point scale (with three types of transvestism, three types of transsexualism, and one category for typical males); it was analogous to the Kinsey scale of sexual orientation, which also had seven categories. Much like Kinsey's understanding of sexual orientation, Dr. Benjamin understood the nature of gender identity and gender expression not as a discrete scale, but as a spectrum, a continuum with many variations, much more than those featured in the scale. But the scale he developed seemed to be an easy, rational and clinically useful way to diagnose different forms of transsexualism and to distinguish between those who needed surgical and/or hormonal treatment and those who didn't.

As it appeared in "Transsexual Phenomenon"

Kinsey's sexual orientation scale

  • 0 Exclusively heterosexual with no homosexual experience
  • 1 Predominantly heterosexual, only incidently homosexual
  • 2 Predominantly heterosexual, but more than incidentally homosexual
  • 3 Equally heterosexual and homosexual
  • 4 Predominantly homosexual, but more than incidentally heterosexual
  • 5 Predominantly homosexual, but incidentally heterosexual
  • 6 Exclusively homosexual, with no heterosexual experience

Type One: Transvestite (Pseudo)

Gender FeelingMasculine
Dressing Habits and Social LifeLives as a man. Could get occasional kick out of dressing. Normal male life.
Sex Object Choice and Sex LifeHetero, bi, or homosexual. Dressing and more exchange may occur in masturbation fantasies mainly. May enjoy TV literature only.
Kinsey Scale0-6
Conversion OperationNot considered in reality.
Estrogen MedicationNot interested or indicated.
PsychotherapyNot wanted and unnecessary.
RemarksInterests in dressing is only sporadic.

Type Two: Transvestism (Fetishistic)

Gender FeelingMasculine
Dressing Habits and Social LifeLives as a man. Dressing periodically or part of the time. Dresses underneath male clothes.
Sex Object Choice and Sex LifeHeterosexual. Rarely bisexual. Masturbation with fetish. Guilt feelings. Purges and relapses.
Kinsey Scale0-2
Conversion OperationRejected
Estrogen MedicationRarely interested. Occasionally useful to reduce libido.
PsychotherapyMay be successful (in a favorable environment.)
RemarksMay imitate double (masculine and feminine) personality with male and female names.

Type Three: Transvestism (True)

Gender FeelingMasculine (but with less conviction.)
Dressing Habits and Social LifeDresses constantly or as often as possible. May live and be accepted as woman. May dress underneath male clothes, if no other chance.
Sex Object Choice and Sex LifeHeterosexual, except when dressed. Dressing gives sexual satisfaction with relief of gender discomfort. May purge and relapse.
Kinsey Scale0-2
Conversion OperationActually rejected, but idea can be attractive.
Estrogen MedicationAttractive as an experiment. Can be helpful emotionally.
PsychotherapyIf attempted is usually not successful as to cure.
RemarksMay assume double personality. Trend toward transsexualism.

Type Four: Transsexual (Nonsurgical)

Gender FeelingUndecided. Wavering between TV and TS.
Dressing Habits and Social LifeDresses as often as possible with insufficient relief of his gender discomfort. May live as a man or woman; sometimes alternating.
Sex Object Choice and Sex LifeLibido often low. Asexual or auto-erotic. Could be bisexual. Could also be married and have children.
Kinsey Scale1-4
Conversion OperationAttractive but not requested or attraction not admitted.
Estrogen MedicationNeeded for comfort and emotional balance.
PsychotherapyOnly as guidance; otherwise refused or unsuccessful.
RemarksSocial life dependent upon circumstances.

Type Five: True Transsexual (moderate intensity)

Gender FeelingFeminine (trapped in male body)
Dressing Habits and Social LifeLives and works as woman if possible. Insufficient relief from dressing.
Sex Object Choice and Sex LifeLibido low. Asexual auto-erotic, or passive homosexual activity. May have been married and have children.
Kinsey Scale4-6
Conversion OperationRequested and usually indicated.
Estrogen MedicationNeeded as substitute for or preliminary to operation.
PsychotherapyRejected. Useless as to cure. Permissive psychological guidance.
RemarksOperation hoped for and worked for. Often attained.

Type Six: True Transsexual (high intensity)

Gender FeelingFeminine. Total psycho-sexual inversion.
Dressing Habits and Social LifeMay live and work as a woman. Dressing gives insufficient relief. Gender discomfort intense.
Sex Object Choice and Sex LifeIntensely desires relations with normal male as female if young. May have been married and have children, by using fantasies in intercourse.
Kinsey Scale6
Conversion OperationUrgently requested and usually attained. Indicated.
Estrogen MedicationRequired for partial relief.
PsychotherapyPsychological guidance or psychotherapy for symptomatic relief only.
RemarksDespises his male sex organs. Danger of suicide or self-mutilation, if too long frustrated.

Benjamin noted, "It must be emphasized again that the remaining six types are not and never can be sharply separated."[2] Benjamin added a caveat: "It has been the intention here to point out the possibility of several conceptions and classifications of the transvestitic and the transsexual phenomenon. Future studies and observations may decide which one is likely to come closest to the truth and in this way a possible understanding of the etiology may be gained." [3]

Benjamin's Scale references and uses Dr. Alfred Kinsey's sexual orientation scale to distinguish between "true transsexualism" and "transvestism". But it should be noted that the strict relationship between gender identity (Benjamin's Scale) and sexual orientation (Kinsey's Scale) was just a result of the researcher's biases, not his scientific findings.

Modern views

More modern views on gender identity issues differ from original Harry Benjamin's view not only in that they exclude sexual orientation as a criterion for diagnosing and distinguishing between transsexuality, transvestism and other forms of gender variant behavior or expression. Modern views also exclude fetishistic transvestism from this spectrum, as it is a distinct phenomenon, not related to gender identity but related to sexual arousal and fetishism.

See also

External links


*Some information provided in whole or in part by
  1. Benjamin, H. (1966). The transsexual phenomenon. New York: The Julian Press, page 22.
  2. Benjamin, H. (1966). The transsexual phenomenon. New York: Julian Press, page 23.
  3. Benjamin, H. (1966). The transsexual phenomenon. New York: Julian Press, page 24.