A GREATER proportion of women want to become men in Hong Kong than in the West, according to the territory's first comprehensive study of transsexuals. While studies in Western countries have shown that three men to one woman have surgery to change their sex, figures from Queen Mary Hospital, the only public hospital offering the procedure, show the ratio is more than one to one in Hong Kong. Of 42 people who have undergone the two-year sex change process since 1986, 22 were women who became men, while 20 had done the reverse. Figures for private treatments are not known. Dr Joyce Ma Lai-chong, associate professor of social work at Chinese University - who compiled the as yet unpublished report - said the figures might reflect traditional Chinese belief that men are superior. One woman had been brought up as a boy in a Hakka patriarchal family. 'She never felt she was a girl until menstruation, when she was alarmed [by her period]. Her mother had helped her tie down her breasts,' Dr Ma said. Transsexuality is generally thought to be linked to chemical imbalances in the womb which give people the opposite body to what their brain considers they should have. But upbringing was very important, said Dr Ma. In another case, a boy whose mother longed for a daughter had been taught to use make-up and act as a woman. 'He never had a chance to be a boy,' she said. Other findings put paid to the stereotype of the man-to-woman prostitute living on the edge of society. Four had become dancers in a transsexual troupe, while 33 held 'respectable' jobs. They included a shop manager, a civil servant, a businessman, an engineer and a designer, Dr Ma said. Nearly a third had loving partners and nine were living with partners, most of whom knew their history, she said. She said: 'There is a prevailing myth in our society that transsexuals are abnormal people living indecent lives as prostitutes or indulging in casual sex. 'They always say to me, 'We're not prostitutes' . . . Their greatest worry is acceptance.'