Thursday, October 27, 2016

Would You Outlaw It?

     The following comes from the Executive Summary of a study by Dr. Lawrence B. Mayer, titled “Sexuality and Gender: Findings from the Biological, Psychological, and Social Sciences:”

     The hypothesis that gender identity is an innate, fixed property of human beings that is independent of biological sex — that a person might be “a man trapped in a woman’s body” or “a woman trapped in a man’s body” — is not supported by scientific evidence.

     According to a recent estimate, about 0.6% of U.S. adults identify as a gender that does not correspond to their biological sex.

     Studies comparing the brain structures of transgender and non-transgender individuals have demonstrated weak correlations between brain structure and cross-gender identification. These correlations do not provide any evidence for a neurobiological basis for cross-gender identification.

     Compared to the general population, adults who have undergone sex-reassignment surgery continue to have a higher risk of experiencing poor mental health outcomes. One study found that, compared to controls, sex-reassigned individuals were about 5 times more likely to attempt suicide and about 19 times more likely to die by suicide.

     And from the preface:

     [N]early all children ultimately identify with their biological sex. [Emphasis added by FWP.]

     The implication of the quoted material is quite clear:

The majority of sex changes have net-undesirable (i.e., bad) consequences.

     However, it has a second implication as well:

A minority of sex changes do not have bad consequences.

     Let’s stipulate, entirely for the sake of argument, that Dr. Mayer’s assertions as quoted above are as accurate as contemporary science can make them. Would that constitute a sound basis for outlawing sex reconstructive surgery (SRS)?

     We humans have an irritating tendency to want to extinguish what we disapprove. Once governments arose, particularly the sort whose officials are chosen by ballot, this tendency entered our laws. The best current example is, of course, the War on Drugs.

     That tendency isn’t always wrong. I dislike and strongly disapprove of murder, assault, robbery, kidnapping, fraud, rape, advertising that insults my intelligence, and taxation. I’d like to see all of them outlawed, especially that last one. (My hopes in this direction will probably be forever unfulfilled.) But my desires in this regard are modest compared to most Americans. They’d like to see the long arm of the law reach much further. Many believe that a heavy enough weight of popular disapproval should suffice to have something banned.

     We’ve experienced a number of such bans. Probably the best known is alcohol Prohibition. However, there have been many others, including some that are still in force. For example, the state of New York still has laws on the books that outlaw adultery and fornication. Until recently, several states outlawed sodomy, both anal and oral. And of course, we all know about Massachusetts’s statutes against witchcraft. That these laws are seldom enforced makes no difference to their legal standing.

     A significant majority of Americans disapprove of sex reconstructive surgery. Some would like to see it outlawed, though their arguments against it vary. Once again, if we stipulate that Dr. Mayer’s assertions above are as accurate as medical science can make them, would that plus the weight of popular disapproval constitute sufficient rationale for banning SRS?

     The history of laws passed to suppress some disapproved practice that affects only voluntarily participating adults is not a happy one. In the usual case, such laws are used selectively, to harass or punish persons the political elite dislikes. That aspect of them contributes to the general loss of respect for the law. This is particularly the case when the enforcement of the law requires the violation of rights guaranteed by the Constitution. But none of that has ever slowed the charge of those who think to create the Kingdom of God on Earth by legislative action.

     As Darrell Huff observed in his classic How to Lie with Statistics, it’s a dangerous thing for any researcher to present his conclusions about some controversial practice without including his personal opinion of it. My own opinions, therefore, follow:

  • Sex reconstructive surgery is a drastic step no matter at what point in one’s life he chooses it.
  • It appears to work out badly (i.e., the patient is made miserable by it) more than half the time.
  • The consequences of a bad decision appear very serious.
  • Therefore, I would seriously question the judgment of anyone who opts for it.
  • Nevertheless, for consenting adults, it should be as legal as any other elective surgery.

     But that’s just me, Fran the freedom-weenie, who’s ever ready to let you go to hell in your own chosen fashion. (Cf. Eric Frank Russell’s classic novelette “Basic Right.”) How do you stand, Gentle Reader?


Anonymous said...

As long as YOU don't ask ME to pay for any part of it. Knock yourself out.

Doesn't change my opinion that YOU are a stupid idiot for wanting the SRS but don't ask me to be a part of it.

Anonymous said...

Hi Fran,

I have been reading your blog for about a year now, and you are one of the most sane and thought-provoking writers out there.

Regarding gender surgery, I completely agree with you, with one reservation -- Insurance, whether private companies that serve the public, or (especially) government provided coverage should not be paying for these procedures. If the individual, through their own resources or through private donation funding, can pay for it then I'm fine with that. We all should have to freedom to choose for ourselves.

Stewart said...

Fran, I completely agree with your conclusion in principle, but as we often see in the current environment, the governmental inhibition of the right to free association means that such actions don't affect only the consenting adults.

Sex reconstructive surgery is in essence a physical manifestation of a delusion. In matters of employment, housing, and even normal social interaction, I am therefore required by law to "play along" with that delusion, or risk social and economic ruin at the hands of an all-powerful and vindictive government. It would be no different than if someone had surgery to become a cat, or Napoleon, or to have the visage of a demon (which I have no doubt will soon all be protected classes).

As long as the government forces me to play along with delusions and emotional disturbances, I become a part of the decision to manifest such delusions, and I am not a "consenting adult".

Groman said...

My issue with sex reconstructive surgery, gastric by-pass and other elective surgeries is that insurance companies, whether by choice or government coercion, pay for these surgeries. This forces you and I to fund them indirectly, regardless of our thoughts as to the sanity or morality of the individual's receiving said surgery.

Manu said...

Don't ask me to fund it, and don't ask me to approve of it... Those are the issues I have. But banning? No.

ΛΕΟΝΙΔΑΣ said...

I am casually acquainted with only 1 individual who has undergone sex reconstructive surgery. That person underwent the surgery at "his" own expense at the age of about 44. He (now she) has a long history of mental issues and believed that the procedure would result in an improved mental outlook. It was not to be. The result is what one would expect and is an extremely unattractive “drag queen” having difficulty earning a living in the auto customizing industry.
The cost of the procedure completely depleted a recent windfall from an inheritance and now she is even more miserable.
Ideally such elective procedures would be available without the involvement of unwilling third parties; but as is the case in virtually all areas where the government involves itself in an otherwise free market, it is a complete clusterfuck.


Anonymous said...

These results also support what should be obvious. 'Transgenderism' is a mental disease. It is a complete lack of being able to deal with objective reality. That pretty much sounds to me like a major mental defect. If the 'medical' community continues to not call this what it is then by extension all forms of mental defect are acceptable behaviours. Then things start to get really dicey. However, I'm sure NAMBLA wouldn't mind this all all.

Amy Bowersox said...

As usual, I'm going to be the contrarian voice here. :)

If we want to look at anecdotal evidence, I personally know several trans women who have undergone SRS, or what is more properly termed gender confirmation surgery (GCS). All of them are happy with the results. If they have any mental issues, the current state of their genitalia has no bearing on them.

The World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) has declared that surgical intervention is both effective and medically necessary. You can find a discussion of the issue in Chapter XI of the Standards of Care for the Health of Transsexual, Transgender, and Gender Nonconforming People, Version 7 (available here).

As for the question of insurance paying for it...well, would you say that insurance should pay for an arbitrary medical condition affecting, say, 0.01% of U.S. adults? That would be a condition over an order of magnitude less prevalent than merely being transgender. (Do bear in mind that not all trans people opt for surgery. I myself am presently undecided.) Perhaps insurance should pay for neither one; this might be the most rational position for them to take, based solely on financial analysis.

Also note that the co-author of the paper cited by our host is Dr. Paul McHugh, former psychiatry chair at Johns Hopkins, who has a lengthy history of anti-LGBT positions. In this, he not only takes a position opposed by WPATH, but the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics as well. (See e.g. this article.) This looks like a case of "consider the source."

Francis W. Porretto said...

Heavy Sigh. It seems easier to get people's opinion of a practice than it is to get them to comment on whether overwhelming disapproval of a practice is sufficient reason to outlaw it. But I suppose I should have been prepared for that possibility.

I've seldom met anyone so principled that he'd categorically state that disapproval, disgust, religious condemnations, etc. should have no bearing on the law. It suggests that nearly everyone would like to ban something, merely because he disapproves it.

So tell me, Amy: Is there anything you'd like to see outlawed specifically because it displeases or disgusts you?

Amy Bowersox said...

Yes, yes, I recognize we've gone far afield from the subject at hand. Blame my overenthusiasm in responding, upon seeing the other commenters. :)

In general, I try to hold to the philosophy that people should be free to do anything they want as long as it doesn't hurt someone else unnecessarily. But, if there's one thing I would see outlawed, it would be the practice of Islam in countries not specifically run under Islamic law and standards, i.e. in the United States, Europe, and so forth. The practices of Islam certainly displease and disgust me personally, and ought to displease and disgust all right-thinking folk. But, even then, I would not completely outlaw it, merely confine its practitioners to the parts of the world they have presently, and only those forevermore. If that be equivocation, make the most of it.