Sunday, 15 May 2011

A cure for Gender Dysphoria - would you take it?

(Having had further ideas about this post, I have rewritten and expanded the second half, introducing the euthanasia aspect)

A friend of mine was telling me how she was still getting some odd questions about the 'why' of her transitioning, despite being 15 months post-op and her surgery being (you would have thought) old news. One question was, if it's about not feeling male, why don't they simply give you massive injections of testosterone? My friend pointed out that many transsexual people do already have a high level of testosterone that has to be suppressed, and that feeling female (and not male) has nothing to do with how much testosterone may be swashing about inside. It's a mental thing.

Clearly transsexuality was being seen as a kind of disease, a mere hormone imbalance, amenable to medication that could counter that oh-so-inconvenient aversion to one's body.

Now you already know my view here, that an MTF transsexual is born with a female mentality regardless of bodily appearance, a mentality that is present from the very beginning, even if unrecognised. You can't 'cure' this mentality. All you can do is deal with it by minimising the mismatch between mind and body - which is why the standard treatment is feminising hormones and surgery.

But what if there really was a cure that would make hormone treatment and surgery unnecessary, and reconcile that mind-body conflict? A way of expunging forever all those female tendencies? This raises several interesting points. For instance:

The nature of the cure. A certain type of robust therapy, possibly very stressful? A powerful drug? Some kind of electrical shock treatment that changed the brain? Or even irreversible brain surgery? What about side-effects? What about the risk of death, or unforeseen personality change beyond what was intended?

Who would be competent to administer this cure effectively and safely? What would happen if they made a mistake?

Isn't radical intervention just another form of 'playing God'?

Doesn't it smack of Nazi sterilisation programmes for non-Aryans or the mentally subnormal?

And if there was such a 'cure' for transsexuals, why not extend the principle of such treatment to anyone with a non-standard personality, whatever it might be? Root out and subdue all eccentrics, all oddballs, all troublesome and contentious folk?

It's basically about altering someone's feelings about themselves, to make them fit better into an established life pattern. It's putting their own feelings second to other people's feelings. Would that be a just or ethical thing to allow?

Would it be compulsory to accept the cure, or so unreasonable to refuse that sufferers would feel under huge pressure to accept it, despite private fears and objections? How wrong is that?

I think the question of a cure for Gender Dysphoria is in the same area as euthanasia, which my Concise Oxford Dictionary defines as 'the bringing about of a gentle and easy death in the case of incurable and painful disease'. And indeed it would be dealing out death to part of the self, possibly the best part, the part with the most potential. Simply to make the mind conform to outward physical appearance, and habilitate the sufferer to the status quo. Rather than letting the real person within have a life hitherto denied.

And like euthanasia (and at the core of the objections to it) is the potential for abuse and recrimination - the psychological pressure from others to 'kill off' an inconvenient part of the mind that thought one was female; the fostering of guilt feelings if the sufferer held out for their femaleness; the condemnation if the sufferer refused treatment and those around suffered themselves. And worse, if there were arbitrary legal 'rules' that determined whether treatment should be applied regardless of the sufferer's wishes.

Would any of us want to face a legal lobotomy or similar, in order to keep us 'male'? Even if we became cheerful, relaxed, compliant people as a result? Or, if it all went wrong, zombies? I know what my answer would be if offered a cure. No thank you. I'd rather attempt a physical conversion, however imperfect, and let my mind have full expression.


  1. This may sound strange but I would rather die, than accept that degree of manipulation of who I am as a human being.

  2. The trouble with trying to "cure" brain-body sex discrepancy is that anything that did so would have to remove or drastically alter an essential part of your personality. You would basically have to become a different person. Who would want that?

  3. Ariel has beaten me to it...

    Any cure would mean that I am no longer me... Surely that is no good for anyone?


  4. I'll interject here. I've now expanded the second half of my post to specifically cover euthanasia.


  5. Hi Lucy,
    An extremely interesting post. Thank you. I have my own thoughts on euthanasia that I won't go into here and all staying well will never have to face.
    As for the gender issues what would define a cure and who decides. The simple fact is I think we are talking about something that has been part of the human race since as far back as you can go.
    I don't understand what would be cured, but I would not want a part of me destroyed. What would be left ?


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