by: Shelby Green
Despite years of trying to assign meaning to it, the act of paraphrasing my penis has been a failure for society. Good. Nietzsche wrote that language assigns concepts to an object that are separate from the reality of the object itself. I understand this for a couple reasons. One, I just completed a required philosophy course and feel all smartificated and two, my body as a Trans* person is created and viewed as concept by others without any connection to my own experience or reality. As a Trans* person who also deals with body dysphoria as well, my physical form and my attempts to minimize its affect on my mental state fit into the traditional model of ‘Get surgery, be happier’ but this is gross over simplification. It should be noted (Constantly and Loudly) that not all Trans* people have body dsyphoria. While my gender presentation varies my physical body radiates with a need to fulfill a certain biological form.
Let me establish my position. I am a white, roughly low- to middle-class Trans* female, which is to say, when I was born someone (I think it was a doctor, but my memory is fuzzy) examined me for dangly bits, found some of sufficient composition that matched a glossy picture in a guidebook and stamped MALE on my butt. Having had a few decades to mull this decision over I have lodged a formal complaint on the process and am now self identified as Trans* female. I believe that’s vague enough to be precise here. But I digress, let’s talk about “The Surgery.”
The Surgery. With these two words it’s assumed I mean SRS, GRS, or GCS; respectively Sexual Reassignment Surgery, Gender Reassignment Surgery, and Gender Confirmation Surgery. There are more names but these are currently the most common. They seem pretty darn specific; I mean you know exactly which surgical procedure I am referencing with those big words all strung together, right? No? The fact is these ubiquitous acronyms apply to at least two, and as many as six or more, types of surgery. They also in no way distinguish between assumed male or female people which is an ironic bit of unintended gender neutrality considering their use, but anyway.
These terms are vague in two main ways; they do not specify what exact surgical procedure they reference, or what they are changing at all. They claim to reassign Sexual stuff or confirm Gender thingies. Since a person’s sex is not something that can always be isolated to a single biological tag or design, and gender is a socially and mentally created tautology I am in serious doubt that these can be operated on with any degree of accuracy. Reading up on the various procedures, I know that none of them involve me being knocked out with aesthesia so a surgeon can then confirm or reassign my philosophical outlook on sex or gender. Leastways not in any of the handy pamphlets the docs have sent me. They are very colorful and show people smiling and playing tennis. I suck at tennis so I am excited about that part though.
SRS, GRS, or GCS are surgeries for concepts. You cannot surgically change a person’s idea of gender, by that I mean that we are what we are, and that our gender experience shifts from moment to moment. That is something beyond the reach of medical hardware. These procedures have an effect on body dsyphoria which is often concurrent with Trans* experience but not inherent to it. These acronyms are simply meanings ascribed to medical procedures in an attempt to explain what these surgeries do for a person in relation to society. They are rarely accurate in what they do for the individual person. They are creations of the medical and societal need to classify our sex and gender into the binary and ensure that any changes made fit into these two ubiquitous boxes. In stating so definitively that they reassign or confirm sex of gender, they create the illusion that either of these things are within the realm of the medical world to control.
It is telling that no other surgical procedures have fun euphemisms attached to them in an attempt to assign meaning. I had my tonsils out when I was a kid and they didn’t call it a “Throat Clearance Reassignment.”, they called it a Tonsillectomy. We don’t call Gastric Bypass surgery “Body Mass Confirmation” or a Cis-woman’s Breast Augmentation a “Confidence Reassignment Surgery”. While those last two surgeries are rife with social commentary there are no euphemistic titles attempting to control the meanings of the procedures.
So no, I am not getting SRS, GRS, or GCS. Those don’t exist as anything but vague concepts. I am getting a Vaginaplasty. That is exactly what it is. The name carries no meaning beyond stating exactly what it does. I am not becoming more femme, less butch or anything else. I am getting a Vaginaplasty. That’s all. Any meaning beyond that is mine to make. I cannot, of course, stop others from assigning meaning for themselves but the separation of physical form from gender is as important to me as the separation of being Trans* from body dysphoria. I will not allow my penis or vagina to be paraphrased into some vague idea of what they mean in an effort to reinforce the myth that physical form defines gender.
Shelby Marie Green is a 3rd year at DePaul University where she is currently Co-President of the Trans*(formation) student group. She is Trans*female and managed to create a loophole in Pennsylvania long enough to get a legal gray-area federally recognized same-Sex marriage to her wife. Shelby is weirded out by writing in third person. Yes, Shelby is. She rarely speaks seriously even when she is being serious and loves nothing more than being a fun exception to rules and expectations. She has two cats, a snake and an unhealthy obsession with Willow from Buffy the Vampire Slayer.