Trans Surgeries Are Not Cosmetic

Image result for trans rightsI wish I didn’t have to be writing this in 2017, but there’s still disagreement, even among those who vocally support trans people, around whether trans surgeries are really medically necessary. To me, this is an obvious “yes,” but perhaps it’s harder for those who don’t experience dysphoria to understand, so let’s try an analogy.

Imagine that a woman is born without a vagina or a penis. I’m simplifying here, as actual intersex biology is more complex than this, but let’s say that our hypothetical little girl is born without identifiable characteristics of either common genitalia. Undoubtedly, it would be considered a serious issue and the doctor would assume that something needs to be done. In other words, once we decide (often non-consensually) that someone fits into the category of “male” or “female,” we’ll go to desperate lengths to make sure they conform. There are still plenty of cases of parents deciding for an intersex child that she is female before she’s able to consent, and authorizing surgeries to create a more recognizable or deeper vagina. But I also suspect that if our hypothetical child did not undergo operations as an infant, and then sought medical intervention as an adult woman with a fully developed gender identity, most anyone would be fine with that and insurance would cover it.

Contrast this with another woman who is born without a vagina, but with a penis. We arbitrarily decide in this case that her confirmation surgery is medically unnecessary and that she falls into a different category from the first woman, even though they are both adult women who are seeking vaginal reconstruction so that their bodies align with their gender identity within our current societal framework. Suddenly, the surgery is cosmetic or elective, not a necessary medical procedure.

Now, it’s one thing to argue that society is the problem, and that all bodies should be accepted as aligned with the gender identity of the person inside, or to question the idea of a vagina aligning with a woman in the first place. But given the world we live in, where women who don’t have those specific genitalia experience greater discrimination, abuse, and dysphoria, I’d argue that for those who want such a procedure, it’s medically justified regardless of whether the woman in question was born with intersex traits or with a penis and XY chromosomes.

About Avory

Avory Faucette is a queer feminist activist, writer, and public speaker. Zie graduated from the University of Iowa with a JD in 2009, focusing on international human rights and gender/sexuality issues in the law. Hir current work focuses on queer identity, policy, and marginalized identities under the queer umbrella. As a genderqueer person, zie comments frequently on non-binary identity, transgender and genderqueer issues, and media coverage of these populations. Zie also speaks at colleges, universities, and events on transgender and queer issues and conducts trainings on related topics.

Posted on October 12, 2017, in human rights, trans and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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