Gender Reconstruction

February 27, 2012 § 2 Comments

I struggled with whether or not to write this–because I have issues with controlling my passions–but I finally gave in. Martha Coventry’s article opened many of our class’ eyes when it comes to gender reconstructive surgery. While the article primarily focused on the issue of whether or not a child should be surgically altered at a young age, there is more to gender reconstructive surgery.

Firstly, I would recommend people view the website http://www.isna.org. It is the Intersex Society of North America. Secondly, I would like people to remember that intersexuality can be traced down to genetics. Some are mutations of genes like in the case of the mutation of 5-alpha reductase that typically only affects genetic-males. Some are chromosomal like in Klinefelter’s syndrome where there is an extra X chromosome. Not all of it comes down to just the ambiguous genitalia.

In class we went beyond intersex though, bringing up practices of things such as circumcision and, in a roundabout way, transgender issues. As I said, I struggled with whether or not to write about this, mostly due to the fact that I have strong emotions considering the topic. But there was something in class that, for some reason, struck me in an unpleasant way.

In 2008, Thomas Beatie, a transgender man, gave birth to his first child. Beatie and his wife, Nancy, wanted children but Nancy is infertile. Thomas Beatie, despite giving birth, is a man. There has even been legal recognition of him being a man.

That being said, people wonder why a transgender man would keep feminine body parts and not get reconstructive surgery. To answer that, it comes back to Conventry’s idea of the surgery as a pain experience that merely tries to re-establish the status quo of genitalia. For the most part, there becomes a lack of sensation. There is little ability to construct something without giving up nerve sensitivity. Another thing, for ftms–female to male–it’s… Just not the same. For those who truly feel they should be male equipped, the cold reality is that, for those of us living right now, it’s impossible. It’s a life that will never feel complete. But Thomas Beatie managed to bring a silver lining to the situation by being able to bring three children into the lives of him and his wife.

Gender reconstructive surgery is a touchy subject. Many people do not see how necessary it can be, many people are ignorant of it’s commonality, and many people struggle with its limitations daily. It should be approached gently; one never knows who can hear one speak.

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§ 2 Responses to Gender Reconstruction

  • mlitwicki says:

    I think it is extremely important for people to be well informed before making any judgements with this issue. I know you are not alone when you say that this is a touchy and sensitive subject to speak about. There are so many emotions that go along with the debate of trans-surgery, as well as the physical responses if the decision is made. I had no idea about the history and details with Thomas’s story, but it’s definitely worth hearing!

  • I think the silver lining of Thomas Beatie is a very good example of a success story of how transgendered people or people who simply have too big or small genitalia can find happiness. I wish that more success stories like this could be shared among the world so that parents might stop and think before making their child have an unwanted surgery. Most parents in the world have no knowledge of what psychological problems can come with this surgery and the doctors are not readily giving up that information. The fact that this surgery is fairly common is very scary! America stands for freedom and the rights of everyone, however some children have no choice in their futures. To mess with a child’s natural body and hormones should not be the decision of doctors and parents. This baby’s “abnormal” genitalia may be fixed by a surgery temporarily until that child grows up wondering why he or she feels lost in their own body. The pressures society puts on people to be a certain gender is immoral and is causing psychological problems that may never be fixed. In my opinion, babies will grow up to be adults just like us, wouldn’t we want the choice?

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