December 04, 2009

the UNFREE, a reprint from 1965, taken from Harry Benjamin's The transsexual Phenomenon

I found this while surfing transsexual education site, thought it was worth a revisit, and I also found it to have some merit and find that nothing changes with time. Certainly make you stop and think. If you have not read Benjamin's The Transsexual Phenomenon, I would highly recommend it. In fact if you are reading my blog it should almost be a necessity as history and education are very important in everyone's life. There are many theories and ideas presented in the transsexual phenomenon and everyone should read them very carefully. Anyway this story below was taken from that manuscript.

THE U N F R E E

by William J. O'Connell

This writing is about Freedom. It is about how freedom was denied to one person and thus potentially to all, not in Russia or Germany but in the United States dedicated to its defense. It is about me, because I am involved. It is about how I was engaged in the pursuit of happiness. How I chose a certain goal, being sure that my reaching it could not harm anyone else in the pursuit of his happiness. And how I was frustrated in the pursuit of my happiness by men who were bigoted and self-righteous, constituting themselves into a sort of modern lynch mob, the more dangerous for being subtle. I do not ask you, reader, to be concerned about my frustration. Be concerned, though, for freedom, mine and yours.
The happiness I chose to pursue - had to pursue, more precisely - was simply and shockingly, an operation to change my ostensible sex; for I am a person, physically male, whose mind and heart are feminine. If you, the reader, now turn away, muttering: "Oh, one of them! You ought to be frustrated!" - then you are kindred to the lynch mob, kindred to those who judge black men and Jewish men and freckled men because they are different.
The leopard cannot change his spots, and I cannot alter, if I would, the basic femininity of my psyche. If there is indeed an eternal soul, then I suppose mine to be in gender feminine. At all events, what is certain is that from babyhood I have known - call it intuition, call it recognition - known beyond all doubt that I belonged among the women, and have longed to take my place there. Englishmen born and raised in India go home to England. So with me, always: to become a woman would be to come home. A dull home, perhaps, that of a thirty-four-year- old spinster, but still and always home. This would be my happiness: to wake tomorrow and find myself just such a woman. It is, you may think (especially if you are yourself such a woman), a curious sort of happiness to pursue. True; but plain water is more than champagne to one in desert lands.
The pain in my life is not merely that caused by prejudice and misunderstanding. Far more, it is the pain of conflict, the profound dichotomy of mind and body. I have perforce "lived a lie" as man and boy, always painful, always false. Yet to dress as a woman, not being one, is equally false, as well as dangerous. What, then, to do? A problem implies a solution: the solution to mine is to alter one of the elements, mind or body, to conform to the other. Putting aside the possibility of an unchangeable feminine soul, I still must say that my mind and heart - my
psyche - have been shaped by a thousand million longings and choices and feminine values; I could not acquire a masculine psyche without ceasing to be myself. Any psychiatrist would admit, a "cure" is hopeless.
But, if mind-conforming is not the solution, there remains the alternative: changing the body to fit the mind. This, within limits, is possible; and to a people that accept false teeth and spectacles, plastic surgery and artificial limbs, it ought not to appear unreasonable. A man may be made endocrinally female by the female hormones, which control the secondary sexual characteristics of hair and breasts; and anatomically female by the removal of male organs and the surgical creation of a vagina. She cannot bear children; but, surely, if she is female in anatomy and hormones and psyche, she is woman. This limited womanhood became my goal, this was the happiness I pursued.
My decision was made in the clear perception that my life was quite intolerable in its falseness. After some hard, realistic thinking, I went to a sexologist, a man wise in the ways of glands and their secretions. He received me with kindness and understanding, and sent me to a psychiatrist who confirmed his judgment that I was of sound mind and quite competent to decide where my happiness lay. Then he carefully began the process of feminization by the administration of estrogen and other female hormones. Months went by while my breasts began to develop and other changes took place and while my doctor studied me and tested and observed. Then at last - a glorious day - he approved me for surgery.
The surgeon, skilled and courteous, was not to be rushed; it was necessary that he be certain in his own conscience that what he was doing was best for me. I could not doubt that this great gentleman, like the sexologist, truly intended, in the words of Hippocrates, to govern his treatment by the needs of the sufferer. To make assurance doubly sure, he sent me to another psychiatrist who, in turn, convened a panel of his brethren.
After many hours of discussion and questioning and study, these three psychiatrists unanimously recommended the operation, adding that they were powerless to alter my feminine psyche and that the surgeon would be doing me a great service by operating. Even then the surgeon was not wholly convinced and there were further discussions with him before he at length consented. "Now," I thought, "now at last, the long waiting and the long anxiety are done. Now my life will take on harmony and meaning. Now my great adventure . . ."
But I reckoned without bigotry and prejudice and timidity.
After a fortnight's wait for a bed, I went to the hospital that had agreed to the operation being done provided, I was told, their psychiatrists approved. One of them turned up the first day and, after conversations and tests, endorsed the views of his colleagues. This made a total of five psychiatrists unanimously in favor of the operation. The staff surgeon, who would collaborate in doing it, also came round, friendly and sympathetic. But then there was a delay. A staff psychiatrist was supposed to come by, but, it seemed, he was unwilling to do so.
Day after day I lay there, existing on the meatless diet, having to go outside to smoke - rigors imposed not by my religious beliefs but by the hospital's. Finally a member of the all-important Tissue Committee appeared: the Committee, because of protest from the "religious elements" of the hospital, were to review my case. But my visitor, although he was perhaps to present my side of the matter to his colleagues, seemed much more interested in talking than in listening; I think his mind was made up, and I think that neither justice nor "the needs of the sufferer" found any room there.
The Tissue Committee refused to permit the operation. They did not ask me to present my case; indeed, it was quite obvious (as I was told by one of the doctors) that they did not consider me at all but only considered placating the "religious elements." Thus the careful, conscientious studies of sexologist, surgeon, and a battery of psychiatrists went for nothing. The hospital had sacrificed their honor (since I had been admitted under an implicit agreement) and their mission (to help those in need) for the sake of a bigoted few. For all that, they did not hesitate to charge me two hundred of the dollars I had so laboriously saved for the operation - two hundred dollars for discomfort and profound disrespect. No other hospital, now, would accept me after this one had turned me out; in any case, my short vacation was gone for another year. There was nothing to do but accept defeat and go home to Seattle. Later I wrote twice to the Committee, protesting, offering religious reasons for the operation. There was no reply at all - perhaps they had carried out an ecclesiastical excommunication with bell, book, and candle. More probably, the individual soul was not important to these "Christian gentlemen."
Where does the blame lie for this fiasco? I had sought my own happiness, a happiness that could harm no other living person; and I had been stopped by the bigoted and the self-righteous; my freedom had been denied. Not
very much can be said in extenuation of the particular hospital involved, for they had admitted me and charged me under an agreement which they dishonored; and the gentry who voted not to allow the operation were manifestly false to their oath to be governed in their treatment "by the needs of the sufferer" - they were governed by bigotry and timidity and my needs were not considered. But other hospitals, though less dishonorable, are as timid. What lies behind their unwillingness to permit an operation that, in the considered judgment of nearly a dozen doctors, is necessary? There are, it seems to me, three elements of their timidity: legality, religion, and disrespect for freedom.
The law is not lucid in matters of this sort. The common law and certain ancient statutes forbid mayhem. Mayhem is depriving someone of limbs necessary for self-defense - a sword arm or a trigger finger. It is somewhat difficult to regard sexual organs as being useful in self-defense. Moreover, such laws had in view, of course, maiming by force, without consent. In short, the law of mayhem is not automatically applicable, if at all, to the removal of sexual organs with the patient's consent. Especially since the courts themselves castrate certain criminals. Nevertheless, a prejudiced district attorney might drag out this law and attempt to apply it to a hospital which was a party to the operation. Whether there could be a conviction and, particularly, whether any higher court would sustain such conviction, is perhaps doubtful. The surgeons were willing to risk it, if their consciences approved. It is difficult to believe that the hospital refused me because of this law.
Religion, not necessarily genuine religion, is the force behind the hospital attitude; indeed, it would be the force behind the public opinion that might persuade a district attorney to invoke the law of mayhem. Public opinion is undoubtedly hostile to this operation, as witness the covert sneers surrounding the recent celebrated case of an American soldier who became a woman; people are shocked at femininity in a man and at castration (far more so than at the removal of a woman's ovaries). Undoubtedly this attitude is based on ideas of the inferiority of women, ideas that receive a certain sanction in the writings of St. Paul. Obviously, an operation never dreamed of in early Christian times is not forbidden in the Bible, nor is there any verse that can be construed to forbid it in spirit. Thus the vaguely religious hostility to the operation does not at all mean that Christianity is really opposed to it. Being myself a devout Baptist, I've had some reason to think about the morality of the operation, more deeply perhaps than the "religious element" at the hospital, more deeply than many who condemn out of hand. I do not assert my reasoning to be valid; indeed, 1 shall do no more than suggest the lines of such reasoning. Christian belief in the immortality of the soul does but strengthen the view that, if there is conflict between body and soul, the corruptible body ought to yield. Some have argued that to remove organs is mutilation - but "if thine eye offend thee . . ."? In truth, if the soul is feminine, this operation is a species of healing. But all this is an argument that need not be made; for nearly all Christians agree that man has free will to choose Heaven or Hell and the way thereto. When the hospital imposed their religious views upon me, without so much as a call from the Chaplain to learn mine, they denied me the exercise of that free will.
And freedom, both religious and secular, was denied me, by that hospital specifically, and by every hospital tacitly, that refuses to allow the operation. It is necessary to be very clear about this. What is this freedom we cherish? Someone has said that to define freedom is to limit it, and to limit it is to destroy it. This is not quite true. There is one, and only one, necessary limit to freedom: one must not exercise it so as to infringe on the rights of others. Thus one may not put arsenic in the salad, or sell atomic secrets to smiling Soviets, or run down old ladies with one's car. There is no other rightful limitation of human freedom. As to defining freedom, it can be said at least that it is not a negative thing, not "freedom to conform" or "freedom from want"; a slave has those - and still he is unfree. Freedom is the right to choose, to act, to pursue one's happiness. "The philosophy of the First Amendment is that man must have full freedom to search the world and the universe for the answers to the puzzles of life" - so wrote one great jurist; and another: "The essence of an individual's freedom is the opportunity to deviate (from the norm)."
I searched for an answer to the puzzle of my life, but the answer I found was denied me. I chose, but my choice was denied me. "Yes, but what you chose was abnormal," I hear someone say. And, yes, I agree; precisely so; a deviation from the norm. Freedom is freedom to differ, or it is nothing. No one would have been harmed by my attaining my happiness; I've no dependents except an indifferent cat. And Society, which has so much to fear from criminals and bombs and too much government, would certainly not be harmed by one woman, no longer young, having a cup of tea with a friend or growing a geranium in a pot. If the day comes in America when one who is different is condemned for that reason only, when courts (and hospitals) have no courage to defy such irrational condemnation, then freedom will be dead.
Ought you, reader, to be concerned about this, since you do not want - certainly not! - what I want? Of course you should, for freedom is indivisible. If it is denied to me in this, it is precedent for denying it to you in your
deviation from the norm. Does the fact that what I want is wanted by few rather than many alter in the slightest degree my right to have it? If you love freedom, you should paraphrase Voltaire and cry: "I do not agree with what you do, but I will defend to the death your right to do it." I tried very hard to do it, and skilled men stood by to help me: but between me and the happiness I sought there stood a formless specter compounded of bigotry and self-righteousness and disrespect for freedom, supported by all the Little Timid Men - and it won. That's what is so horrifying - it won! We frequently hear an anthem rendered with spirit if not precision, which includes the inspired phrase, "the land of the free." But freedom here has been denied me.

Thank you, for reading I hope it provided some insight.

B

3 comments:

Stace said...

Wow, that is definately a must read.

Whilst not religous myself, I have to say that I like the argument for TS and religion based on the incorruptable soul and corruptable body.

Thanks for posting it.

caroline said...

Not come far really have we despite the perfectly argued case.

Caroline xx

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