Re: Sex Change

Kathryn Aegis (
Thu, 17 Jul 1997 21:28:45 +0000

>I don't see why it carries a vested interest in preserving the binary
>sex system.

Woof, where do I begin? Most directly, the medical profession exists
as an extension of the society that it resides in, as evidenced by
the different medical codes prevalent in various cultures.

There is a long and sordid history of medical science being used
against persons who do not conform to whatever the contemporary
gender stereotypes happened to be at the time. In fact, as the
gender perceptions changed, so did the treatments inflicted upon gay or
transgendered persons and the populations targeted also changed. We would
like to think in this modern era that we have moved past all that,
but gender 'anomalous' persons still suffer tremendous abuse at the
hands of doctors and psychiatrists in the name of 'curing' or
'normalization'. Aversion therapy, reparative therapy, involuntary
surgery, involuntary commitment or imprisonment, beatings and torture
occur with such frequency even in Western countries that Amnesty
International has added sexual orientation to its charter and
produces an annual report of such abuse yearly (my copy is outdated,
so I won't quote stats).

If you were to take a poll of your gay/bi/les/trans friends, chances
are that a majority could recount some experience, ranging from
unpleasant to terrifying, that involved a medical or psychiatric
professional. Those who live in rural areas, out of access to a gay or
trans-friendly clinic often skip necessary treatment altogether.
Recent examples: (i) Loree Cook-Daniels, is compiling a study on elder
abuse and already finds a very high incidence of mistreatment and
abuse of gay and trans patients by the staff, more so than in the wider
patient population. (ii) In Washington, D.C., last year a transgendered
person was left to bleed to death in the street by paramedics who
stood by and ridiculed him, and a gay man who was stabbed was also
denied treatment and had to find his way to the hospital on his own.
(iii) In my home town, a man known to be gay was left to bleed to death
in the corner of the emergency room.

In the world of psychiatry, the Bem Sex Survey, an instrument used to
determine whether a person is 'masculine' or 'feminine' has come
under fire because more and more persons are scoring as
'androgynous'. Rather than undertake an examination of how this
might indicate some serious human evolution, researchers are calling for
a new instrument that would definitively score persons as masculine and
feminine, thus preserving the division. Such an approach could not
possibly reflect a 'conservative' approach by these researchers,
because it blatantly ignores the data.

I wish I could remember the name of the book, but it can be found in
university bookstores, a history of medical treatments directed
against gay/bi/les/trans persons in modern history, and the thing is
over five inches thick, small print, dense documentation and
citation. It recounts the instances individuals singled out for 'treatment'
for not adhering to physcial and psychological expectations for their
assigned gender. In some cases, student populations in high schools and
universities were screened against the worst stereotypes and
assumptions, and women who did not look feminine enough were
particularly singled out for further 'treatment' or 'counseling'.

I could go one, but this message is rather long and plenty of
literature exists on the topic, not to mention plenty of persons
willing to recount their expereriences if asked.


Kathryn Aegis