The Sex Orientation Scale (SOS) was Harry Benjamin's attempt to classify and understand various forms and subtypes of transvestism and transsexualism in biological males, published in 1966. 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 as it relates to sexual orientation, which also had seven categories. Much like Kinsey's understanding of sexual orientation, Benjamin understood the nature of gender identity and gender expression not as a discrete scale, but as a spectrum, a continuum with many variations. The Benjamin scale provides a rational and clinically useful way to understand different forms of transsexualism and to distinguish between how people commonly identify in relation to readiness for surgical and/or hormonal treatment changes.
Sex Orientation Scale (S.O.S.)
Sex and Gender Role Disorientation and Indecision (Males)
|Group||Type||Name||Kinsey scale||Conversion operation?|
|1||I||Transvestite (Pseudo)||0-6||Not considered in reality|
|1||III||Transvestite (True)||0-2||Actually rejected, but idea can be attractive|
|2||IV||Transsexual (Nonsurgical)||1-4||Attractive but not requested or attraction not admitted|
|3||V||Transsexual (Moderate intensity)||4-6||Requested, usually indicated|
|3||VI||Transsexual (High intensity)||6||Urgently requested and usually attained; indicated|
Benjamin noted, "It must be emphasized again that the remaining six types are not and never can be sharply separated." 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."
Benjamin's Scale references and uses Alfred Kinsey's sexual orientation scale to distinguish between "true transsexualism" and "transvestism". But 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.
Contemporary views on gender identity and classification differ markedly from Harry Benjamin's original opinions. Sexual orientation is no longer regarded a criterion for diagnosis, or for distinction between transsexuality, transvestism and other forms of gender variant behavior and expression. Modern views also exclude fetishistic transvestism from the spectrum of transsexual identity/classification, this type of transvestism is not related to gender expression or identity but is a distinctly sexual phenomenon most commonly practised by people who are neither transsexual nor homosexual. Benjamin's scale was designed for use with trans women, and trans men's identities do not align with these categories.
- Classification of transsexual people
- Harry Benjamin International Gender Dysphoria Association
- Benjamin, Harry (1966). The Transsexual Phenomenon. The Julian Press, ISBN 9780446824262
- Heath, Rachel Ann (2006). The Praeger Handbook of Transsexuality: Changing Gender to Match Mindset. Westport, Conn. [u.a.]: Praeger. p. 4. ISBN 978-0-275-99176-0.
- Pomeroy, Wardell (1975). The diagnosis and treatment of transvestites and transsexuals. Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy Volume 1, Issue 3, 1975 doi:10.1080/00926237508405291
- Frayser, Suzanne G.; Whitby, Thomas (1995). Studies in Human Sexuality: A Selected Guide. Englewood, Colo.: Libr. Unlimited. p. 368. ISBN 978-1-56308-131-6.
- Ekins, Richard (2005). Science, politics and clinical intervention: Harry Benjamin, transsexualism and the problem of heteronormativity Sexualities July 2005 vol. 8 no. 3 306-328 doi: 10.1177/1363460705049578
- Hansbury, Griffin (2008). The Middle Men: An Introduction to the Transmasculine Identities. Studies in Gender and Sexuality Volume 6, Issue 3, 2005 doi:10.1080/15240650609349276