Folks of a certain maturity will remember adorable little Chastity, daughter of Sonny and Cher, on her parents' weekly variety show. Fast-forward three decades or so and Chastity is now Chaz, son of the same famous couple.
As Chaz tells it (note: vulgarity in comments), she, er, he, had been conflicted over his gender “as far back as I can remember” and so has been undergoing surgical reassignment. After all, as Chaz explains, "Gender is between your ears and not between your legs.”
If nothing else, Chaz gets the difference between sex and gender: sex is determined by our chromosomes, whereas gender is determined by our feelings about our sex. The former is about our reality, the latter is about our desire. Sex reassignment surgery (SRS) is the attempt to fix the mismatch by conforming reality to our desires, rather than the other way around.
Regarding his change, Chaz reports, “it is the best decision I've ever made. I'm happier. I'm more confident. I feel great."
But it’s a bit like the person who owns a Toyota Versa and wants an off-road vehicle. Instead of modifying his desires to fit the vehicle he has, he modifies the vehicle he has to fit his desires. Tricking his Versa with mud tires, grill guards, and heavy-duty shocks may partially slake his desires, but eventually, it only exacerbates his frustrations between what he has and what he wants.
Indeed, after studying follow-up research on SRS individuals, Johns Hopkins psychiatrist Dr. Paul McHugh writes, “…only a few regretted it. But in every other respect, they were little changed in their psychological condition. They had much the same problems with relationships, work, and emotions as before. The hope that they would emerge now from their emotional difficulties to flourish psychologically had not been fulfilled.”
Dr. McHugh went on to conclude that, in prescribing SRS, psychiatrists were “fundamentally cooperating with a mental illness… [and] would do better to concentrate on trying to fix their [patients’] minds and not their genitalia…”
Consequently, Johns Hopkins and other hospitals have since stopped prescribing and performing the procedure. Still there are others, sadly, in the U.S. and abroad that are ready to wield the scalpel and transmogrify the body, rather than to do the hard work of addressing the underlying psychological issues.
Seeing pictures of Chaz, I can’t forget that little girl who was so darling, so many years ago.