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BigJoe

Transexuality and the Third Gender

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At risk of getting heavily roasted in this thread, I thought it was interesting enough a topic for debate in Crossfire.

There has been a bit of focus in the news recently about issues of the Third Gender, with Laos recognising transgender members of the population as being at the highest risk of HIV. Story here. Also a school in Thailand has installed toilets specifically for transgender students, which has prompted debate if this practice should be repeated around the country. Story here.

 

Innes Brown has written an opinion piece about the personal and societal function of sex change operations from a feminist perspective.

At the core of the argument is the debate over the presence of innate qualities of being male or female? Or if the differences are entirely socialised?. Then, if innate qualities exist, can this be changed through a medical process? Is this another example of the over medicalising of society?

Are the people who choose to undergo sex change operations being exploited by the medical industry?

 

 

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/6923912.stm

Are sex change operations justified?

By Innes Bowen

Producer, Hecklers, BBC Radio 4

 

Julie Bindel

Julie Bindel believes sex change operations are wrong

Many people who have been through sex change operations say it was the only solution to a distressing condition.

 

But a leading feminist campaigner claims that sex reassignment surgery is based on unscientific ideas - and could be doing more harm than good.

 

"I should never have had sex change surgery," Claudia MacLean, a transsexual woman told the audience at a recent debate organised by the BBC Radio 4 programme Hecklers and the Royal Society of Medicine in London.

 

"As a result of the surgery, I am incapable of sex and I have lived a life apart."

 

Claudia was speaking out in support of Julie Bindel, a radical feminist and journalist, who was trying to persuade medics and trans people that sex change surgery is unnecessary mutilation.

 

Threatening concept

 

Radical feminists have ideological reasons for opposing sex change surgery.

 

To them, the claim that someone can be "born into the wrong sex" is a deeply threatening concept.

 

Many feminists believe that the behaviours and feelings which are considered typically masculine or typically feminine are purely socially conditioned.

 

 

In my opinion what happened to me was all about money

Claudia MacLean

Transsexual woman

 

But if, as some in the transsexual lobby believes, the tendency to feel masculine or feminine is something innate then it follows that gender stereotypical behaviours could well be "natural" rather than as the result of social pressures and male oppression.

 

As a feminist, Julie Bindel therefore has a strong political motivation for her scepticism about sex change surgery.

 

But, her argument goes beyond ideology.

 

Having looked into the medical research on transsexualism, she claims there is a lack of science behind the diagnosis, no satisfactory research into the outcomes for patients and individual stories of post-operative regret.

 

Regret

 

Claudia says she was referred for surgery after a single 45 minute consultation.

 

"At no time did I say to that psychiatrist that I felt like a woman. In my opinion what happened to me was all about money."

 

She is one of a small number of trans people who have publicly expressed their regrets about having had sex change surgery.

 

Another is Charles Kane who, as Sam Hashimi, was the subject of a BBC documentary One Life: Make me a Man Again, televised in 2004.

 

This showed Sam, a transsexual woman, undergoing surgery to become a man again.

 

She told the BBC that her desire to become a woman had developed following a nervous breakdown.

 

For her, these feelings were caused by a longing to retreat into a fantasy character rather than having a crisis of gender identity.

 

 

The problem is that we tend to lose touch with our patients after a relatively short period of time following surgery

Dr Kevan Wylie

Consultant in sexual medicine

 

"When I was in the psychiatric hospital there was a man on one side of me who thought he was King George and another guy on the other side who thought he was Jesus Christ. I decided I was Sam."

 

Others, like Miranda Ponsonby, blame post-operative discontent on society's lack of willingness to accept transsexual people.

 

In her forthcoming autobiography, The Making of Miranda, she describes having a strong sense from a young age that she was a female trapped in a man's body.

 

However, like Claudia, she says that, since her surgery, she has lived a life apart.

 

She claims that she is no happier now than she was before the operation.

 

Her advice to those contemplating sex change surgery is "Don't do it."

 

Stories of satisfaction

 

Against these stories of disappointment and regret, there are many more people who will testify publicly to their overwhelming satisfaction with sex change surgery.

 

But are most people who have sex change surgery satisfied or dissatisfied?

 

It comes as something of a surprise to learn that the medical profession does not yet know the answer to this question.

 

According to a review carried out by the School of Health and Related Research at Sheffield University, the poor quality of research in this area means that "little robust evidence exists" on the outcomes for patients who have sex change surgery.

 

Dr Kevan Wylie, a consultant in sexual medicine and the head of the UK body looking into standards of care for sex change surgery patients, admits there have been difficulties.

 

"The problem is that we tend to lose touch with our patients after a relatively short period of time following surgery."

 

Some local health authorities now refuse to fund sex change operations on the basis that there is a lack of evidence about the surgical efficacy and psychological benefits of surgery.

 

In the absence of more research studies, gender dysphoria specialist Dr Kevan Wylie says it is important to listen to his patients.

 

However, those contemplating surgery - and the health authorities which fund them - ought also to be able to get advice about the risks versus the potential benefits of such a major operation and, until further research is done, doctors are unable to give them such information.

 

# Hear Julie Bindel argue that "sex change surgery is mutilation" on Hecklers, BBC Radio 4, 2000 BST, Wednesday 1 August. Repeated at 2215 BST on Saturday 4 August.

 

 

 

I am inclined towards the position that the presence of people who undergo sex change operations is more a reflection of the limited and binary gender categories most society's pressure their population into. By not allowing for a socially accepted grey area between male and female, society pushes those in the middle to take clearly defined sides, leaving the desire for some people to experience the opposing gender unfulfilled.

That being said I have no idea how a society that accepted the third gender would differentiate, would it simply mean another category of toilets available?

 

Discuss.

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Oh man, I actually wrote a massive paper on intersexuality years ago that focused on disorders like CAH and the effects of missing doses of androgens in at least one trimester inutero, etc. Was fucking fascinating and also led me to loosely believe that there are no black and white realities when it comes to gender. You have everything from Alpha-males (which is not something that anyone would really want to be as they are over represented in prison populations and usually have lower levels of intelligence..., whatever we define that as) to females that have very low estrogen levels and tiny clitorises and low sex drive. There's a massive grey area in between that include your super butch dykes, your super feminine men, transexuals, inter-sexuals (those that have half formed penises and no testicles) and those who's bodies don't react to malizing hormones, have female phenotypes yet are genetically male.

 

It is really eye opening to read and research this stuff and results in questioning the social boundaries and taboos we have constructed around gender roles and sexuality.

 

 

Well, that's my touchy feely academic moment for the day!

 

.

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One of my best friends in College went from being a lesbian female to a transgendered male during the course of our college career. It was very interesting to go through it with him, and to see how other peoples perceptions, actions and views about him changed. It was also crazy to see how he himself changed.

 

There was a fairly large trans community in the valley so my interactions weren't limited to just him.

 

 

I think however, that the debate about whether there are innate or essential qualities of gender within a person versus socialized values is faulty to begin with. From a linguistic point of view, the one requires the other. It is a classic dialectic. How could one determine the physically or naturally innate qualities of gender if there were not the socialized ones to compare it to. Converseley, how could socialization of gender occur if there was nothing within which to make base assumptions about.

 

This is in many ways like the issue of race being socialized or ethnicity being inherent to genetic properties. The long and short of it is that it is both. Are people queer by birth? or are they socialized to have the choice as to whom they derive emotional and sexual pleasure from? Are these qualities more plastic than we think?

 

The queer community was forced to adopt first and foremost the position that queerness was "natural" because if it was seen as a socialization then the conservative right had all the ammo they needed to establish it as "the devil's work," etc. Legitimacy was sought through nature and so it became tied to the notion of genetic variation. Thus that there is an essential quality to our sexual preferences as so determined by the genetic make up we inherit. I think it is wrong, however, to frame these questions in such strict terms of nature versus nurture.

 

The brain itself is a wonderful combination of both feedbacks. Yes, we inherit a certain startin point from our parents. Our genes drive the development of our cognitive capacities and proclivities to certain aptitudes until our birth. From there on it is our environment which feeds into the perpetual development of our physical, emotional and cognitive capacities.

 

Sexuality and gender are just the same. Sure a person can come out of the womb a female, have all the cognitive proclivities of a male and opt to live as a butch dyke their entire life. At the same time, a person of the same circumstance could choose to undergo a sex change and fundamentally change the way they interact with the world; from language to hormonally. Yet questioning the essentiality of these factors misses the forest for the trees. The fact of the matter is that we have already created this "third gender" by fact of making the choice to believe it as possible. That we do sometimes choose to have a sex change not only enstantiates the gender binary that so many people are either seeking to uphold or rebuke, but it also enstantiates the notion that there is a whole nother realm of possibility for what gender and sexuality means.

 

If there is one thing, then there must be something else which is not it. The combination of being able to see both those things as they are and in their difference neccessitates a third perspective. Etc ad infinitum.

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I think another interesting and related topic is the perception of masculinity within trans communities and how the sudden introduction of testosterone into a female socialized body causes more classic and more criticised masculine behavior.

 

I love my boy Sasha to death, but when he started on T he acted like a fuckin fool. A dick to his girl, blowing people off left and right, just a general asshole.

 

In today's world males are taught to temper their hormonal responses because that's what we say it is to be an enlightened and well socialized male. But when you don't spend your entire life growing up with these sets of hormone's and learning how to control the way they effect your emotions and actions, you end up with a very new and immature masculine form. Thus my boy acting like he did. He didn't know how to handle what the testosterone was doing to his temperment.

 

That was my biggest problem with the trans community where I went to school. Many of them looked down upon me as being base or something close to that because in their eyes I was the stereotypical white heterosexual male. When in actuality they played out that stereotype much closer to its regular form than I ever have or would.

 

I think a bigger question to ask is what are these people engaging in these types of self creation doing to their brains while still at a developmental peak in terms of their cognitive selves? What is it to still be finding out who you are and so drastically change what that means?

 

I have had many talks with my friend about this and even he is not sure he made the right choice. But like he should, he manned up and acknowledged that it was his choice, and right or not, it is what he did and who he is.

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Sexuality and gender are just the same. Sure a person can come out of the womb a female, have all the cognitive proclivities of a male and opt to live as a butch dyke their entire life. At the same time, a person of the same circumstance could choose to undergo a sex change and fundamentally change the way they interact with the world; from language to hormonally. Yet questioning the essentiality of these factors misses the forest for the trees. The fact of the matter is that we have already created this "third gender" by fact of making the choice to believe it as possible. That we do sometimes choose to have a sex change not only enstantiates the gender binary that so many people are either seeking to uphold or rebuke, but it also enstantiates the notion that there is a whole nother realm of possibility for what gender and sexuality means.

 

This is interesting. I often hear about trans-gender people claiming that they are trapped in the wrong body. It seems that instead they may be trapped in the socialized role for their bodies. Perhaps sex changes wouldn't be necessary if people accepted their biological role and socialized the third gender to exist on its on biological terms. This makes me think of a somewhat tangential idea, but related that are evolution has not in fact stopped biologically, and that culture has sped up the process of evolution rather than slowed it.

 

Ahhh, I'm quitting smoking this week, so I'm in a cloud with my thoughts. Sorry for not making sense!

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theres a tranny girl in my school. Meaning its a dude. And a lot of negros are actually fooled by it, and found out too late. not cool.

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she flashed one of my other boys and he just burst out laughing. That shit is gross. I think it costs a loooot of guap to get the full package, and thats what it got.

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I think people who get sex changes view it as an ultimate peak or accievement emotionally, like getting one is the correction to a medical condition, when in actually it is just hormone therapy and genetal mutilation. Seems like it's more ritual than medical

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I think it is very hard for those of us who haven't had to deal or interact with these sorts of choices to lable it mutilation, etc. I don't think it's really for us to make that call. In the end if these people seek to do this to themselves with no ill will and for the betterment of their own lives, who are we to judge or critique beyond looking at the after effects and social implications, and less so the psychology and biology motivating the choice.

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From a dictionary defenition it is genital mutilation - I see little to no difference between people who sever their dicks off for a BME video and people who go under the knife. In the end you have "medically reconstructed" genetalia... Which IS cosmetic mutilation in that it serves no real sexual organ replacement surgery.

 

Fact is, as the surgical procedures stand to date, there is no "sex change"

guys don't have a real vagina, they just have a severed and reworked penis, but there are no ovaries, no cervix, not even a true vaginal canal. The only aspect of a sex change operation that makes it a sex Change is the name itself.

 

 

Now I don't have any problem with someone who wants to live their life however and do whatever procedure, but let's call the procedure what it is - it's a lot closer to body modification in a surgical setting than a true act of corrective surgery.

 

A sex change is closer to genital body modification than a true corrective surgical procedure

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mu·ti·late

Pronunciation:

\ˈmyü-tə-ˌlāt\

Function:

transitive verb

Inflected Form(s):

mu·ti·lat·ed; mu·ti·lat·ing

Etymology:

Latin mutilatus, past participle of mutilare, from mutilus truncated, maimed

Date:

1534

1 : to cut up or alter radically so as to make imperfect <the child mutilated the book with his scissors>

2 : to cut off or permanently destroy a limb or essential part of : cripple

 

 

 

 

 

I would say that a male to female sex change follows suit with the technical defenition of the word

 

Like I said, I have no problem with whatever anyone wants to do, be it they get huge plugs in their ears, sever their penis, or have it done In a medical environment and have the flesh re-worked into another form... But I see a much stronger connection to extreme body modification techniques than true corrective surgery. It's closer to having your dick split in half than, say, getting an appendix removed

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Sure, I'll agree with the bulk of what you are saying. I just think the use of the word mutilation conveys less the techincality you are speaking of and more a moral value put on the act. I would be right with you when you said "body modification." Mutilation is just a bit more loaded than I'd like to put on this.

 

There is even moral value placed in the definition which I am not comfortable with here "so as to make imperfect" and in the following definition "destroy...an essential part of."

 

The argument could easily be made on values towards the latter definition that it is not "destroying" nor is it something "essential." I imagine the essentiality of the process is the end point. Not what was lost or gained previous to. And towards the former definition, the use of the word "imperfect" conveys an obvious relationship to societal aesthetic standards. Which again I am less than willing to give to this conversation as what we are speaking about is from the get go outside of societal norms.

 

So. It's either bad diction, or the value is there and we just straight disagree on our place to make that value statement.

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Further more, your last comment about the degree of seperation between gettin one's dick split and a sex change versus "corrective" medical procedures is in and of itself troublesome.

 

There is only a seperation of degree with intent in a physical procedure. It is easy enough to argue that any "corrective" medical procedure is against the wishes of god. For if god didn't want me to have cancer that needed to be removed, he wouldn't have given it to me in the first place. (I am just posing a line of argumentation based on values and probably ones that are a bit extreme for either of us to consider, to show the irrationality of value statements and how anyone of these calls could be considered such). Think of all the people in the world that refuse medical services because they do not believe it is within the values they hold.

 

Same situation here. We receive certain medical procedures because we call them essential, but really it is what we hold essential to our values. It is a lot harder to say what is physically necessary for life. The age old question of quality life comes in to play here as well.

 

These are the types of questions and technicalities that Insurance companies use to fuck people out of "essential and necessary" procedures all the time. I personally would prefer to opt towards the side that sees this less as an issue that focuses around what the essneital functions of life and our physical relationship to that is, and more on the side of those that see it as a deeply personal decision that should it occur requires no moral or value based critique on my part. I certainely have the freedom to choose not to do it, so they certainely have the freedom to choose to.

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Ok, but the thing is this argument was citing examples of transgender people who regretted their decision. They are discovering that, in fact, from a medical standpoint they have mutilated their genetalia. They can never go back, they cave removed a part of their body surgically and permanently altered the remains.

 

Just because there are people who chose to have a limb amputated (and there are people who do this completely voluntarily) enjoy the process, decision, and result of the procedure, it still has no bearing on the fact that they have mutilated their body. I realize you don't like hearing the term, but I pretty much do agree with the basis of this argument. It is mutilation even though the recipients at the time view it as a corrective procedure. In essence there is nothing biologically corrective about the surgery. It is purely cosmetic and completely irreversable.

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And as for your religious/moral argument, this is completely irelevant when I am speaking from a purely physiological and medical position. That's just the thing, people want to argue morals and dogma over this issue, but the fact is there is very little medical basis for this procedure. Nothing about it makes you more "man" or "woman" and all effects beyond the cosmetic are within the mind of the patient and the perception of others.

 

A man who had a sex change is still biologically just a man with modified/mutilated genetalia (I prefer mutilated since the genetalia is actually removed and in no way "modified" but that's splitting hairs"

there are no ovaries

there is no vaginal passage

hormone therapy is essential to retain physical features

if you were to do genetic tests, she would still be a man

 

 

Honestly I don't think it is an essential medical treatment and as a taxpayer I have a huge issue with it being covered in Medicare as such, just that I feel a flat chested woman or a big nose man doesn't have the right to say "I feel like a big tittied woman in a flat chested body" or whatever. Exceptions would be people with partially formed genetalia, hermaphrodites, and genetically opposite sex where they are genetically one sex but have the organs of the opposite gender. These and certain hormone therapies that are of corrective purpose I am ok with covering, but not an expensive purely cosmetic procedure, either male or female, that truly does nothing corrective medically. You guys wanna pee sitting down, that's ok with me but you gotta foot the bill on that one, just like someone who wants bigger tits or a longer dick.

 

I'm not speaking from some moral perspective, I'm speaking from a scientific one

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Well, this is where we will have to disagree.

 

It's not that i don't like hearing the word. I just have a different view of science and medicine.

 

You can't remove dogma from science. It's part of it's structure just as anything that prescribes to say what exists and what doesn't.

 

I think it does your argument harm to say it is coming from an unbiased position.

 

I just think it is very hard to parse the terms "biologically corrective" from the values which determine what is correct functioning and necessity to human existence.

 

Not to wax philosophical about it, but I think the depth to which I have studied the foundations of science and its varying forms (albeit admittedly still not as much as can be studied nor to say I am an expert, to which I certainely am not) leads me to have very different views about the language we use with it.

 

Most of my analysis derives from the attempts to set logic above morality and value based judgements, but the greatest attempts at such by thinkers much brighter than you or I ended with the result that there is in fact no seperation between them. So, I am going to take that into account when discussing the "medical necessity" of a given procedure. To say that this or that procedure isn't necessary begs the question of how to determine essentiality. Is there a way in your mind to verify what is and isn't essential medically? These questions lead in to very murky waters past the simple examples of a tit or nose job.

 

 

Gonna go check on my pizza.

 

More later.

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Just to give some perspective on how I view science, I don't even believe in electrons. So, yeah. We are probably going to differ on how we treat theory and it's applications.

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I think medical necessity has been pretty clearly defined as a procedure that must be performed lest the recipient suffer fatal or debilitating effects without it.

 

How is the person made worse (save psychologically/emotionally) by not having the surgery? Keep in mind nobody is claiming this is medically a procedure to correct a psychological condition, so I don't think claiming such would be accurate)

 

 

 

 

Honestly, it doesn't seem like you are aproaching this thing as a purely scientific issue at all, the only dogma involved with scientific methods don't really seem to be applicable. If so, how is this procedure physiologically corrective?

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Just to give some perspective on how I view science, I don't even believe in electrons. So, yeah. We are probably going to differ on how we treat theory and it's applications.

 

 

 

 

You don't believe in electrons?

Why?

 

 

Do you not believe in microbacteria either?

Not enough evidence to support simple physics?

I mean we can SEE electrons, you can map them in atoms.

Please explain before I write you off as some overly pilosophical airhead

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I think medical necessity has been pretty clearly defined as a procedure that must be performed lest the recipient suffer fatal or debilitating effects without it.

 

How is the person made worse (save psychologically/emotionally) by not having the surgery? Keep in mind nobody is claiming this is medically a procedure to correct a psychological condition, so I don't think claiming such would be accurate)

 

 

 

 

Honestly, it doesn't seem like you are aproaching this thing as a purely scientific issue at all, the only dogma involved with scientific methods don't really seem to be applicable. If so, how is this procedure physiologically corrective?

 

 

I reject the premise that there is a seperation between "physiological" and "psychological" concepts.

 

Simply put.

 

Cartesian models of seperation don't hold in contemporary science. There is not the external and internal world. They are one and the same. Not to sound overly ridiculous, but it's the easiest way to put it. We are constantly putting out and taking in information.

 

I think this view you are espousing of seeing the body as seperate from the mind has been classically one of the big problems with Western Medicine (I believe whole heartedly in western medicine, I just think it can be improved).

 

So yeah, I just don't agree that they are seperate nor can you speak on an issue such as gender identification without taking them in a holistic yet still analytic perspective.

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You don't believe in electrons?

Why?

 

 

Do you not believe in microbacteria either?

Not enough evidence to support simple physics?

I mean we can SEE electrons, you can map them in atoms.

Please explain before I write you off as some overly pilosophical airhead

 

 

Well, I sort of say that with a hint of absurdism to it. Although I very much mean it.

 

I say it to draw out the difference between pragmatic modelling of reality and the dogmatic view of our models as reality.

 

An electron doesn't exist in that it is considered a mathematical object. It is purely conceptual. We do not "see" electrons at all. We speculate their existence and map effects that we attach to their existance. We calculate the probability of their existence at a given point at a given time.

 

The scientific structures we have built and accrued remain because they have a certain level of explanatory capacity that takes into account old data and can predict new data. But the point of it all, is that it is just a model. Any word or mathematical object we put down as "existing" exists only in so much as it continues to viably fit into theory and to be used to predict new events.

 

Take "phlogiston" as an example. People used to believe this tiny particle existed as a method of heat transfer, eventually it was shown this was not the case. But that's how it goes.

 

We have models, in every model is an ontology, or list of things that exists within the prescribed universe. Those objects' existential status is subject to their pragmatic value and overall consistency within the model at large. In this case, science is the model, the pragmatic value is emperical adequacy (or the ability to account for information, past and future) and the existential status is "existing" with the caveat of existing only in so long as it keeps performing it's function.

 

 

I believe in electrons as a part of scientific theory. And that they are succesful in capturing many functions of the natural world. But as an object that trully exists without our speculation, no dice. I'd rather say I don't believe in them and raise the ire of the uninformed than give the existential import.

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You may call it overly philosophical, but it is my passion. I have always wanted to study physics, but I eventually realized my aims with physics were outside the capacity of science. So I sought to learn the limits of science. Thus this conversation.

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