Gender Reconstruction

March 4, 2012 § 3 Comments

Before reading this essay I definitely only thought that the modification of genitalia only happened in places other than America. The only time I had heard about modifying genitalia was when African tribes would do it to their girls who started puberty. In fact while I was in high school I was curious about the subject and began to Google for more information. In all the articles that Google had, I never once saw something that happened in the United States.

I always had issues with the modification process and did not particular agree with it, however in the case of the tribes and their practice of it for their belief I had to forget about my bias and respect that. In the case of gender reconstructive surgery being performed on babies and young children because of aesthetic purposes or peace of mind, I totally disagree.

Another thing that was talked about in class that I never really paid much attention to was the fact that male circumcision is apart of the same category of modification. I always figured that it was just something that was done and did not assume that it was also for aesthetic purposes.

The Myth of the Sexual Athlete

February 28, 2012 § Leave a comment

Don Sabo’s article “The Myth of the Sexual Athlete” talks about how men interact together about sexual feelings, how aspects of a  sport are portrayed as sex, and what he thinks men really want. When talking about his locker room experiences as an athlete, he describes his younger years as being heavily influenced by his team members. They would look at Playboy’s and talk about boobs in the locker room. I think this goes on because if a boy were to say that he didn’t want to be disrespectful and look at a girl in that way, he would probably be teased just as the boys he mentioned were. They may say he is a virgin, implying that there is something wrong with that. This makes boys think that they would be more accepted or thought more highly of if they had sex with all the girls they could.

The topic of men’s sports is brought up because they are thought of as not just a male but as a sexual athlete, and one that is agile, attractive, and able to please a woman. Men often see women as a sport. Scoring without  being emotionally attached to the woman is their ultimate goal . The male is viewed as more masculine than if  had strong feelings for her without having sex. This partially comes from men feeling the need to be comfortable with being alone, not afraid of losing someone. This gap keeps men from having a deep understanding relationship with women.

Then there is the needs and wants of a man. Part of them wants love and intimacy and part of them fantasize about sexual desires without having commitment. This is a tug-o-war between a man’s heart and his mind. Their wants do not match up with what they need. At some point, they will realize that the social construction they have experienced about their masculinity does not match the way they really feel.

My favorite paragraph was the very last one when he says he is opening up to women’s opinions, learning things about himself, and reconstructing his sexuality. He makes a lasting statement that relates to everyone, “I have stopped pretending that i enjoy being alone. I never did like feeling alone.” When you pretend to be someone you’re not and try to be what society wants you to be, you will feel alone and lost. You have to find out who you are and embrace it.

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.

On the topic of genital mutilation and circumcisions

February 27, 2012 § 2 Comments

In one of my other classes, we were discussing gender ambiguity and ended up on the topic of circumcision. We watched this video about a man who had a botched circumcision when he was a baby. His parents as well as John Money, who was mentioned in Martha Coventry’s essay, made the decision to turn him into a female because they thought it would make him more “normal”. The video discusses the life of the boy and how he never felt like a girl and at age 14 made the decision to transition into a boy. Little did he know his parents had been keeping this giant secret from him his whole life and because of what happened he was now a very psychologically confused boy. As he got older, he got more confused and unhappy and eventually committed suicide.

Anyway, here’s the video if you’d like to see for yourself.

Surgery’s Most Intimate Violation

February 27, 2012 § Leave a comment

After reading “The Tyranny of the Esthetic” I decided to do a little more reading and investigating other stories related to this topic. Most of the stories I found were basically the same and left me more shocked and angry at surgeons and parents, but even more angry at society’s definition of “normal”. Let’s first look at surgeons. Hippocratic oath? More like hypocritic oath. What happened to “avoiding those twin traps of overtreatment and therapeutic nihilism (cures that do more harm than good)?” What happened to “I will remember that I remain a member of society with special obligations to all my fellow human beings, those sound of mind and body as well as the infirm?” You’d think surgeons would think about the possible after effects of a life changing surgery before they perform it. And you’d think that after all the stories of people having these surgeries and ending up psychologically confused, or worse suicidal, they’d learn to consider what’s best for the individual patient and not about “satisfying a social demand for ‘normalcy’.” As for the parents, what happened to raising your child to be its own person, to make its own decisions? Making a life changing decision for your child may seem like a good idea to you at the time, but what about 10 or 20 years down the road? I think parents should be more accepting of who their child is and less concerned with how their child fits a norm.

Now for my second point–yes, surgeons and parents make decisions to alter a baby’s genitalia, but it is our society’s definition of normal that forces them to make said decisions. Normal is defined as conforming to a type, standard, or regular pattern; cut-and-dry. If there was no standard, no specific body type that was ideal, this wouldn’t be an issue. I find it outstandingly hypocritical of our society to push on one end for us to “be our own person” and “be independent”, while on the other end trying to conform us to a norm, an average. I find the idea of making a child “right” if they were born “wrong” ridiculous and the idea that there is a standard as to what is considered beautiful, or acceptable, is idiotic. Just because there is a deviation doesn’t make it wrong. Everything isn’t black-and-white, cut-and-dry. Everything runs on a continuum, there isn’t a right and a wrong variation. And unless that variation is somehow threatening the life of the person, I don’t see why it should be a problem.

“Just Walk on by” the Social Constructions Even Though They’re “Taking It” too Far

February 27, 2012 § 2 Comments

Brent Staples’ and Leonard Kriegel’s essays really brought to light how deeply impacted we all are by socially constructed ideas. All of us, whether we like to admit it/realize it or not, have ideas, or stereotypes, about how people should or shouldn’t act based on sex, gender, race, etc. Both essays, though in slightly different ways, talk about the socially constructed ideas of men. We are made to believe that men must be powerful and intimidating. We are made to think that men must be fighters, that they must never back down, and that they must prove themselves victorious over others. Because of this thinking, as in Brent Staples’ essay, young men try to adopt these ideals, which in turn cause others to place people within stereotypes regardless of whether these people belong in such categories. And Staples went as far as to change his own behavior so that people wouldn’t place him within a certain stereotype. In Kriegel’s essay, the socially constructed idea of the “American man” forced him to think he had something to prove to everyone—that he was able to “take it like a man.” Kriegel put himself through hell trying to adopt this idea of what an American man should be and what did he get for it? Arthritis.

One thing that I found particularly interesting about both of these stories is that both men changed their own behavior to either escape a stereotype, as with Staples, or to adopt a stereotype, as with Kriegel. While reading I thought it was ridiculous that these men think they have to change to be more socially acceptable. Both of these men had done nothing wrong and needed to change nothing about themselves, but because of an idea that was created by our society they thought they had to alter their behavior to better fit in. It’s amazing to me how our society is so judgmental of people we know nothing about and how intolerable we are of people who don’t fit a social “norm”.

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.

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