Reconstructive surgery; narrow view of success
February 27, 2012 § 4 Comments
First of all, this essay , “The tyranny of the esthetic,” was eye-opening for me, because I was not aware that it could be decided so early in a children’s lives that their sexual organs could be deemed “abnormal.” In the stories presented, it seemed early in their lives to determine the need for a surgical procedure to “fix” their abnormal genitalia. What I find most interesting is that the definitions of what is normal are not biologically determined, but socially determined. Since there is no physical danger for the abnormalities faced by these children, the motivation is social conformity with ideas about gender and sex.
This reminds me of the story about David Reimer, a well-known case of gender and sexual reassignment that was not successful, but was marketed as though it was by the physician who promoted gender identity as a product of nature. The following link tells the story of David, http://reason.com/archives/2004/05/24/the-death-of-david-reimer. David was the victim of a botched circumcision that left him without most of his penis at 8 months. His parents took the advice of his physician, and they had him surgically reassigned as a girl named Brenda. The surgery was deemed successful, though Brenda did not feel as though she was a girl. She was finally told her story, and she suffered psychological and emotional problems as a result. She decided to transition back to a man, and had another sexual reassignment surgery. David eventually committed suicide. This story shows the detrimental effects of hiding the truth from children and not being honest with them about the surgeries they have had. Although these conversations may make parents uncomfortable, it is important that they engage their children in these talks. Hopefully with more openness about this subject, there will be fewer instances of stories like David’s, Martha’s, and Angela’s.
One last part of the essay that sparked my interest is the evaluation of what is a successful genital reconstructive surgery. It seems as though success is based on whether the physical being looks the way it should. This totally negates the psychological effects of these surgeries and the aftermath. If the person is suffering emotionally and psychologically from the surgery, the surgery is not successful.