On learning of Mr. Jenner’s attempt to turn himself into a woman I recalled the advice of a medical school professor, a surgeon, who preached against performing surgery for any reason other than that which would remove disease or repair/return the patient to normal -- or, in the case of congenital or traumatic disfigurement, to make them whole again. He reasoned that to do so invited not only unwanted opportunities for complications but perhaps the patient’s permanent dissatisfaction. He was not a fan of vanity surgery -- nose jobs, breast enlargements, tummy tucks and such. His position of course drew the ire of the plastic surgeons at the University Medical Center.
Over the years I’ve witnessed the effects, and have heard medical histories from those, mainly women, who breeched the good professor’s wisdom, regretting having had their surgery performed in the first place. You may very well know someone like this yourself. I met a woman once who had six nose-jobs, none of which satisfied her, including the last. Of course, many plastic surgeries do well and contrariwise some necessary surgeries result in complications.
But Mr. Jenner announced recently that he “identifies as a woman” and “feels” he has a woman’s brain. This from a man born with normal male genitalia and having fathered at least two children from one marriage, not to mention that every cell in his body carries the male-determinant sex chromosomes XY.
Dr. Paul McHugh, the former psychiatrist-in-chief at Johns Hopkins and current Distinguished Service Professor of Psychiatry, reports they stopped offering sex-change surgery in the 70s after they demonstrated that the practice brought no important benefits. Dr. McHugh points out that people like Mr. Jenner are enamored with the idea and image of themselves as a woman, a condition referred to as autogynephilia -- from gynephilia (attracted to women) and auto (in the form of oneself). He and other specialists report that people suffering from this disordered assumption will, like Mr. Jenner, cross-dress for many years so much so to the point they are eventually moved to attempt to change their sex – because of this “feeling.”
The idea that one’s biological sex is a choice, borne out of the “feeling” of being a different gender, began with the earlier examples of “Christine” Jorgenson, “Jan” Morris, and “Renee” Richards and has amazingly affected much of our thought about sex. And those who champion this notion, which has now become a meme, claim that whether you believe you are a man or a woman is more of a feeling about yourself than a fact of nature.
It’s a dangerous meme, this notion of “feeling” one is in a different reality than the biological one. That the fawning media parade and propagate this bizarre and strange notion as the new normal is an indictment on a culture that has truly taken a turn. The flurry of interest reflects our culture's belief in the religion of Me.
As laws inform culture, and culture informs behavior, we can expect to continue seeing behavior of all kinds acted out by people who believe the distortions, dysphorias, and various other false assumptions swirling in their minds must materialize regardless of who else it involves, at any expense, for the good the bad or the ugly.
With the help of professionals, Mr. Jenner has now managed to materialize his dysphoria. Can one fairly ask if these professionals are abusing for profit vulnerable people with mental disorders? Mr. Jenner is now an illusion of something he isn’t. For those still adhering to reason and reality, we now look upon Mr. Jenner as the illusion of a woman, notwithstanding the great photo shopping of Vanity Fair magazine -- presenting Mr. Jenner not as a man (or woman) in his 60s but rather a pin-up woman in her 30s. We get it.
Mr. Jenner’s attempt to change himself into a woman, based on a distorted assumption, is not unlike the anorexic who’s convinced she is obese, or the woman who believes she is pregnant and not actually being so lives out the disordered assumption that she is. Doctor, help me. I’m in a bird’s body. Please remove my nose, sew on a beak, feathers, and wings.
Those medical professionals who perform sex-change operations claim that these individuals live a more contented life. But a study of over 340 such people in Sweden, a country where sex-change has been accepted and promoted for years, reveals a preponderance of those undergoing reassignment surgery harbor mental unrest for many years, including a 40% increase in suicides among sex-changers compared to the general population. This is an astounding outcome for a therapeutic intervention of any kind. If the side effect of a new medication was a 40% chance of one committing suicide there would be a loud outcry and a move to bar its release.
With respect to the psychopathology it’s difficult to say where the deeper pathology lies. Is it with the man who’s convinced he is in a woman’s body? Or is it with those who look at such a man and believe it is normal for him to act on his delusion to the extreme, attempting to actualize a biological impossibility. To the former, understanding, treatment, and prevention is in order.
The apostle Paul once urged the people living in Corinth, Greece, to honor God with their body. And the Church Father, Saint Irenaeus, taught “the glory of God is man fully functioning.” In light of these teachings it would be easy to castigate Mr. Jenner and others who suffer from such dysphoria. But the more decent thing to do would be to have pity and pray that God would see fit somehow to bring them to the peace of mind they so desperately seek – including those who, for profit, abuse and push the vulnerable and mentally ill to act on their self-delusions.