Sunday, May 24, 2015

Operation Sex Change

For the record: I am a boring CIS white female. I was born female I will die female, and I will most likely spend my whole life only interested in men. The wrong men usually. But there is this thing called EMPATHY that Human Beings are supposed to be able to do; do give it a try.

*Disclaimer: I am very far from being an expert, and have only knowledge gained by giving a fuck. Remember, not all transgender folk are even seeking gender reassignment surgery, people come to their own decisions for their own reasons and having a bit of respect for that will make you a better person. I promise.

Gender reassignment has a had a little bit of air time in the last couple of days. Partially because a politician I normally have quite a bit of respect for said a couple of very insensitive and ill considered things. Andrew Little I'm looking at you. It's usually the Nats wearing my abuse but for today you can wear the douchebag crown. I expect better from you. He wasn't the only one, but as I said I expect Nats to be Twats. And a new slogan is born.

I've asked my readers before, to take a trip down Imagination Lane and try to picture what it must be like to wake up every day in the wrong body. To have most of the people around you treat you as if you are what you know you are not. We all need to understand that this is something that is wrong with a person, in exactly the same way that nerve damage is something that is wrong with me. It's possible that the damage is being caused by something that can be fixed surgically. If this is the case then I can have funded surgery to fix my problem, because it's a repairable medical problem that is impairing my quality of life. Sometimes the signals that go on inside our bodies are messed up and they tell us things that aren't true. I have damage on a nerve bundle telling me that my left arm is a screaming pile of agony, as if it is in the midst of a terrible injury all the time. The signals are false, my arm is mostly fine. Oh, except that on top of the pain signals my arm is getting steadily weaker and deader. Fun. The false signal is coming from another part of my body altogether. Somewhere between my brain and my left shoulder there is something messing up the pathway. People happily accept this as being a horrible thing that I shouldn't have to live with. But when the signal that's wrong is affecting our sexual identity, our GENDER, suddenly a lot of people get funny ideas about what it is. And about what taxpayers should be responsible for. We live in a country with a funded health service. Necessary surgery can be had under government health services, for anyone. But a lot of people are arguing the necessity of gender reassignment. Not many EXPERT people mind you. Mostly just busy-bodies who think that because they don't understand something and it squicks them a bit, that somehow makes that thing WRONG. 

I cannot even begin to imagine how hard it is to wake up in a male body while KNOWING I am a female. (or the other way) My brain has no valid comparison to make - because I have all the right body parts despite the fact that a number of them don't work very well. But I can empathise. I know what it is to have an illness. I know what it is to have an illness that few people recognise. I know what it is to have people tell you that you are making it up. Making up the thing that causes me misery every minute of every day. It isn't the same, but it gives me a window to look through. And I'm telling everyone out there who doesn't understand to GET A GRIP. People don't choose to live miserable existences for your attention. That's another illness altogether - and it STILL isn't a choice. Look at your own life, oh lucky unaffected by hardship person... and tell me that you don't choose the path of least resistance more often than not? Tell me that the times when you chose the harder path in life were not ENTIRELY because the other choice went against your sense of being? 

Human Beings. We're very good at being stubborn motherfuckers. But only when the payoff is worth it. We'll only tolerate the intolerable when to do otherwise is WORSE. This above all else, to thine own self be true! (Thanks Shakespeare, you the man.) For many of us, being untrue to ourselves is intolerable. I can't keep my mouth shut in the face of douchebaggery for example. I really can't. It makes me feel bad about myself to ignore people being stupid cunts to each other. It makes me feel bad about humanity to just let it slide. (Obviously I can't respond to literally EVERY example of stupid cunt douchebaggery, but I make an effort.) This is part of who I am and it would be uncomfortable for me to have to pretend to be otherwise. And you, you douchebags in your glasshouses, you would be very uncomfortable if you were not being stupid cunts to people I suspect. But to be perfectly frank I don't give a rats arse how you feel about it, because you are being stupid cunts to other humans. When you learn not to be doucheholes about your opinions I'll listen.

Back to the transgender equation: because here in New Zealand we currently have a HUGE problem. Until last year we had ONE, yes just one, surgeon who could perform sex change operations. As part of a team of 3 surgeons they carried these out, to both paying customers - some from overseas, and also just 3 male to female government funded operations per year (1 female to male per year is carried out overseas under government funding). But then our ONE surgeon retired. Leaving us with NONE, for everyone who can do basic maths. And a debate over whether anyone should worry about this has begun. Should this be funded like so many other surgeries are in New Zealand? YES. A lot of people appear to be raising the 'it's a want, not a need flag' well let's talk about that a bit shall we? Why are you defining it as want rather than need and what goes on your need list? (Rhetorical)
Is my surgery to fix the nerves in my arm a need? The government thinks so, and so do the majority of people who know about my situation. I'm in pain all day every day. It seems obvious that to remove a source of constant pain is a need. Right? But is my physical pain any more demanding on me than constant emotional torment? I've been through a fair bit of emotional torment in my life too, and I can assure you that physical pain is considerably easier to live with. You get used to it, you learn to push it aside. It's annoying and intrusive, but it won't actually kill me. Emotional pain might. Because emotional pain eats away at your self image, eats away at your self worth, eats away at your trust in everyone around you. Until you think that you have no place in the world anymore. I have been there. It's a hell of a place to try to fight your way back up from. And if you cannot at least a little bit imagine the pain of your outside gender not matching the person you know yourself to be, then please, feel free to fuck off to the planet of the robots.
I think much of the issue hails back to the ongoing inability of so very many people to see that problems that live in the mind are REAL ACTUAL PROBLEMS. Perhaps I can shine a light down that rabbit hole. Mental illnesses, and all conditions of the mind STILL HAVE PHYSICAL CAUSES. There is still a basically mechanical fault at play even when appearances are that your brain is simply being a massive massive douche. Douglas Adams, author of that wildly popular series The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, drops the idea in one of those books that ... if someone thinks they're a hedgehog, presumably you just give them a mirror and a picture of a hedgehog and let them sort it out ... obviously it's nowhere near that simple or we wouldn't have hospitals full of people who think they are all kinds of strange things. Like worthless. The mind is an unbelievably complicated device, try figuring out the physics that goes into the act of catching a ball sometime. It'll do your head in - unless you're a science-y type obviously. But the comparison between how it feels to catch a ball (for most of us) and the actual math of catching a ball is a valid metaphor for trying to fix issues of the mind. It's like trying to make ice cubes by freezing your hands and trying to mold them out of water. Not aided by us still having only a fairly vague idea of HOW to fix it. It's becoming apparent to me that the current methodology of throw a lot of pills at it and hope for the best, interspersed with one size fits all therapy techniques is not really working. Mental health issues continue to plague our society at a hell of a rate of knots. For a start the more and more pervasive medical attitude that EVERYONE who has odd health issues is DEPRESSED is not helping. If you start from the assumption that someone is depressed you are a) unlikely to bother examining them further to look for other possibilities and b) potentially giving people utterly the wrong medication. Not to mention c) alienating a lot of patients who don't feel like they are being understood.
Is Gender Misalignment even a mental illness? We don't really know - perhaps it really is a straight forward as it sounds and you have been provided with an incorrect body type. Nature has all kinds of screw ups, is that really so far fetched? Is it more unusual than Conjoined Twins? More odd than Chimerism? Could it be a form of Chimerism? And in the short term, what the fuck difference does it make? If we can make a person's life better by operating then just the fuck DO IT.
What is the definition of need, where surgery is concerned? If we're only going to fund things in this country based on REAL ACTUAL NEED then my surgery (assuming that's what they decide) should probably be off the table. I've live. I'll be fucking miserable, pretty much useless and a burden. But I'll live. And a lot of other folk can come off the surgical roster too. That hip replacement? Fuck you, live with it. Reattaching the limb you just severed? Fuck off, your stupid fault for sticking your hand somewhere dumb. Reality is, the need you all mean is 'need that fits in with my view of the world' but I'm not interested in your opinion here, I'm interested in what medical science has to say. And medical science is more and more clear every day that people are suffering because they are not what they should be, and that we can and should fix this. In this country because of the way our medical service is set up this means funding surgeries sometimes. Get over it. Given that transgender is unlikely to be an issue that insurers are going to be keen to pick up without being shoved into it (not because it's unreasonable but because insurers are bastards and will wriggle out of anything) AND SHOULDN'T HAVE TO BE BECAUSE THIS IS NOT A COSMETIC PROCEDURE, we have to make the moral and scientific decision that we government fund these surgeries BECAUSE they will improve the lives of people who are suffering for MEDICAL REASONS. People don't want to change their gender on a fucking WHIM. Seriously what sort of ignorant dumbass even entertains that idea? The smallest bit of research into the hoops people have to jump through to just be APPROVED for gender reassignment should take that utterly facile idea right off the table. NO ONE is going to go through the lengthy, terrifying, and totally life altering process of going from one gender to another for LARKS. It's so patently obviously a NEED situation that I have to wonder if perhaps the people who think it isn't are in need of some form of help themselves.

We either need to get a new surgeon (or you know MORE THAN ONE) into New Zealand, or we need to accept the cost of sending our patients to reputable facilities overseas. We need to suck it up and do the right thing, for people who need our help. But I guess this is just another thing that we're going to let slide, as waiting lists get longer and longer (or get fake shorter by the exciting new technique of declaring that we can only have 4 months worth of people on the list at a time...and when those lists get overloaded what will the new number be...) as diagnosis becomes less about actually getting it right and more about not paying for extra testing, as your chances of seeing a specialist become more and more remote... BECAUSE FUCK YOU SICK AND POOR PERSON, if you can't afford to go private why don't you just die quietly?

Peace. Out.