I’m a little surprised to see this opinion piece appear in the Washington Post. The gist of the piece is that the author had sex reassignment surgery as a 19-year-old and while not exactly regretting that choice outright, does have enough perspective as an adult nearing retirement to say it was a choice made too soon with not enough thought over all that it would mean.
I once believed that I would be more successful finding love as a woman than as a man, but in truth, few straight men are interested in having a physical relationship with a person who was born the same sex as them. In high school, when I experienced crushes on my male classmates, I believed that the only way those feelings could be requited was if I altered my body.
It turned out that several of those crushes were also gay. If I had confessed my interest, what might have developed? Alas, the rampant homophobia in my school during the AIDS crisis smothered any such notions. Today, I have resigned myself to never finding a partner. That’s tough to admit, but it’s the healthiest thing I can do…
What was I seeking for my sacrifice? A feeling of wholeness and perfection. I was still a virgin when I went in for surgery. I mistakenly believed that this made my choice more serious and authentic. I chose an irreversible change before I’d even begun to understand my sexuality. The surgeon deemed my operation a good outcome, but intercourse never became pleasurable. When I tell friends, they’re saddened by the loss, but it’s abstract to me — I cannot grieve the absence of a thing I’ve never had.
The author says her parents were out of her life by this point because she’d pushed them out. Instead she found support in an early incarnation of the internet (IRC channels). But she suspects modern social media and pressure on doctors and therapists to offer affirming care would make it far easier now than it was 30 years ago.
She believes she might have undergone the same surgery even if it had taken a few extra years, though that’s not certain. Nevertheless, it’s clear that some level of regret has set in. The piece closes with this advice.
The prospect of sex can be intimidating. But sex is essential in healthy relationships. Give it a chance before permanently altering your body.
Most of all, slow down. You may yet decide to make the change. But if you explore the world by inhabiting your body as it is, perhaps you’ll find that you love it more than you thought possible.
All of this flies in the face of some of the left’s culture war talking points on trans affirmation. The author is essentially saying that 19 was too early for surgery when she was already legally an adult. So what about the use of hormones and surgery in children? The author doesn’t specifically address that.
The comments are a mix. For instance, here’s one response from someone who very much agrees with the author. He’s hoping someone will read his comment and reconsider a sex change.
Thank you! If I’d been given the opportunity to change genders at adolescence, I would have gone for it. After a dozen or so years of psychoanalytic work as an adult, I’m glad I didn’t. The counseling I underwent taught me many things, but perhaps most important of all, to accept myself as I am. My identity is no longer tied up in the arbitrarily rigid gender norms that I grew up with, and I find this so much more liberating than if I had gone under the knife and endured a lifetime medical regimen in order to conform to a physical ideal that I would have fallen short of anyway.
Gender fluidity is a state of mind, and a perfectly healthy one that needs no surgical augmentation.
Honestly, I think no one can make an informed choice who hasn’t had a sex life or gained significant social maturity beyond young adulthood. Not an easy message to impress upon young people who fervently believe that a sex change is the one thing they need in order to find fulfilment when they’ve gotten it from nothing else. But I’m willing to go out on a limb and risk being called a stodgy old fart and a buzzkill if I can persuade even one young person to reconsider. Next to getting myself some good counseling, it was the best decision I ever made.
Others didn’t like the tone of the article:
Do you know what is missing in Corinna’s story? Any mention of having been through years of counseling with a psychiatrist of psychologist who specializes in gender dysphoria. “I had to persuade two therapists, an endocrinologist and a surgeon to give me what I wanted.” I don’t know what things were like when she had her surgery, but TODAY, no competent professional would allow themselves to be “persuaded” if they did not think it was the right choice for the patient. I’m very sorry that Corinna did not include this information in her advice for such people today, because it is absolutely crucial to a successful outcome. And I really don’t like the tone of this article, because it almost seems designed to play directly into the narrative that the homophobic Republicans are using to pass these intrusive and abusive laws.
There’s definitely a lot of arguing going on in the comments but I’m sure this will go to 11 on Twitter. Will there be calls to fire whichever editor allowed this to be published? It wouldn’t surprise me.