A shorter version of this article appeared in Ceylon Today on October 14, 2021.
Sri Lanka’s first president, JR Jayewardene, famously boasted that the executive presidency gave him the power “to do anything except make a man a woman, or a woman a man”. (This was first said by Jean-Louis de Lolme 1740 – 16 July 1806. De Lolme was a political theorist born in the then independent Republic of Geneva. He was referring to the British Parliament).
Today, there is much conflict about making a man a woman or a woman a man.
I spent a day in Casablanca in 1976, but luckily got out in one piece. George Jamieson went to Casablanca in 1960 and came back as April Ashley and achieved some success as a model, pictures appearing in Vogue. Jamieson/Ashley was 25 at the time of the operation. Wally Stott wrote music for radio shows such as Hancock’s Half Hour and the Goon Show. He also worked with Shirley Bassey, Noel Coward and Dusty Springfield. Scott Walker compared him to Delius. Stott married twice and had two children. Stott went to Casablanca and came back as Angela Morley at the age of 46. Walter Carlos had a hit record with his Moog synthesizer versions of Bach and wrote scores for two Kubrick movies. He went to Casablanca in 1972 and came back as Wendy Carlos. Carlos was 33 at the time. James Morris served in the British Army in World War II and was a member of the 1953 British Mount Everest expedition, which made the first ascent of the mountain and was the only journalist to accompany the expedition, climbing with the team to a camp at 22,000 feet. He was the father of five children. James went to Casablanca in 1972 and came back as Jan. Morris was 46 at the time of the surgery.
Casablanca was the destination because it was the base of French surgeon Georges Burou and his sex reassignment clinic, called “Clinique du Parc”. In 1973, he reported his experience with over 3000 individual cases. He is said to have worked at the clinic seven days a week, and frequently up to fifteen hours each day. Burou refused his services to minors even if they had parental consent, because he felt “the operation is definitive and irreversible and one . . . could not risk making a mistake.” His fees were said to be modest for the time and he was willing to make “enormous” financial concessions to his fees whenever a case “merited the operation.” An essential part of the procedure is orchiectomy – castration. Between 1956 and 1958 Burou independently developed the anteriorly pedicled penile skin flap inversion vaginoplasty in his clinic. You can see pictures of this on Wikipedia if you wish.
Dr Marci Bowers is a world-renowned vaginoplasty specialist who operated on reality-television star Jazz Jennings.
She was once Dr Mark Bowers, father of three. She has built or repaired more than 2,000 vaginas. Bowers says “I never use the colon. It’s the last resort. You can get colon cancer. If it’s used sexually, you can get this chronic colitis that has to be treated over time. And it’s just in the discharge and the nasty appearance and it doesn’t smell like vagina.” Bowers does not use the bowels. Bowers felt the need to say this because there is a shortage of suitable tissue. Dutch researchers noted back in 2008 that in natal males “the genital tissue available for vaginoplasty might be less than optimal.” This is because of the use of puberty blockers can lead to “non-normal pubertal phallic growth.” Many American gender surgeons augment the tissue for constructing neovaginas with borrowed stomach lining and bits of bowel. Intestinal vaginoplasty uses a section of the sigmoid colon to create the neovagina.
Gory details can be found here if you are not squeamish.
Here is Jazz Jennings.
With current surgical procedures, trans women are unable to receive ovaries or a uterus. They may not be able to enjoy sexual pleasure. They are unable to bear children or menstruate, and they will need to remain on hormone therapy after surgery. As far as one can generalize, Joe or Josephine Public is rather bewildered by these things but is probably sympathetic to someone who feels the need to transition. That was until the self-identity bullies came along.
Susie Green is the CEO of Mermaids, an NGO which supports “transgender, nonbinary and gender-diverse children and young people until their 20th birthday, as well as their families and professionals involved in their care. We also currently offer web chat support to students up to the age of 25. Transgender, nonbinary and gender-diverse children and teens need support and understanding, as well as the freedom to explore their gender identity. Whatever the outcome, Mermaids is committed to helping families navigate the challenges they may face.”
Ms Green’s child, Jackie, was taken to Thailand for surgery to reassign from male to female at the age of 16. Jackie says in a Daily Mail article, “I was prescribed ‘blockers’ by a doctor in Boston when was I was twelve.” Jackie seems to be happy about all this.
Surgical reassignment requires orchiectomy. Kellie-Jane Keen-Minshull, who self-identifies as a left-wing feminist, pointed out in a series of tweets that in the UK, gender reassignment cannot be performed until the patient is 18. She described what had been done to Jackie in a seven-hour operation as castration. Susie Green set the police on her. A policeman told her that if she tried to leave the country she would be arrested, that if she was pulled over whilst driving she would be arrested and that if the Yorkshire force had to come to her house to arrest her she would have to spend time in the cells. Ms Keen-Minshull was forced to take down a billboard which merely showed the dictionary definition of ‘woman’. Transactivists deemed this ‘provocative’.
Ms Keen-Minshull says, “I may remind everyone here that I am a stay-at-home mother to four children and that I am a wife! I’m not Jihadi John, I am not part of a grooming gang or paedophile ring, I haven’t hurt anyone or abused anyone. I am a woman with an opinion.” Ms Keen-Minshull was described as “vile” and “disgusting” on Twitter for expressing her views.
Ms Green also reported Caroline Farrow to the police.
Ms Farrow said: “I have pointed out to police that I am a Catholic journalist/commentator and it is my religious belief that a person cannot change sex.” She added that she would “happily do jail time” for her “right to say that people cannot change sex”. She was accused of using the wrong pronoun for a trans person which could constitute an offence under the Malicious Communications Act, which carries a maximum sentence of two years in prison.
Gender dysphoria is a term that describes a sense of unease that a person may have because of a mismatch between their biological sex and their gender identity. This sense of unease or dissatisfaction may be so intense it can lead to depression and anxiety and have a harmful impact on daily life.
While one might sympathise with people in this situation, giving blocker drugs, hormones and irreversible surgery to children is a drastic response. It is indeed a reinforcement of gender stereotypes. Just because very small boys do girly things does not justify physically changing their sex. When I was about four years old, I was fascinated by the pomp and theatre of the Mass and played at being a priest. Thank God my parents did not pack me off to a seminary and force me into a life of celibacy.
There have always been lots of little boys who were very timid who grow up to be very masculine. Sometimes it’s because of the parents. Grace Hemingway so treasured the fantasy of her Ernest being a little girl that she sometimes referred to him as “Ernestine.” Lots of little girls who we used to call tomboys grew up to be very feminine and have children and be good mothers.
Ambiguity of gender at birth is very rare. Incorrect description and assignment on birth certificates is very rare. It is not wise to reorder society and suppress freedom of speech because of birth defects in an infinitesimal minority. It is even more foolish to reorder society and suppress freedom of speech at the behest of men who have decided they are women without going for the surgery. One should sympathise and protect the rights of minorities but not kowtow to bullies who want to act out outdated gender stereotypes.
We are all here clinging to this suffering planet because of sexual dimorphism. Each one of us had a male daddy and a female mummy. If the human race is to continue and if there are still to be people around to fund my pension, there will need to be mummies (with uteruses) and daddies (with penises) making babies.
More on these issues in my next column