Gender Benders

Gender Benders

Why you should care

Because live and let live, people. 

Regarding Bruce Jenner, it’s time to leave well enough alone when it comes to other people’s gender and sexuality. Even aside from issues of respect, which are paramount, we’re just not interested. For starters, our own sex lives are usually much more titillating, thank God. And when they’re not, we’d prefer to devote our energies to fixing them than to the half-public, half-private and probably painful identity struggles of a celebrity. You do you, Bruce. We’ll take care of ourselves.

For what it’s worth, OZY has delved, often, into the trans world. Our recent piece on Iran’s Tragic Approach to Sex Change detailed the paradoxical position trans people occupy in Iran. On the one hand, sex-change surgeries are fully legal and even financially supported by the authorities; indeed, more sex-change surgeries are performed in Iran than anywhere else, except Thailand. On the other hand, transsexuals remain socially unaccepted throughout much of the country. It’s not unusual for knife-wielding fathers to turn up at surgery. Some doctors even tell of murders in their waiting rooms. For those who make it, life can be a never-ending purgatory that, at an alarming rate, often ends in drug addiction, prostitution and even suicide. Read more here.

Not that transgender individuals have an easy time in the West. In A Case Against Sex-Change Surgeries, Melissa Pandika reported on studies finding that sex-reassigned people had a fivefold risk of attempted suicide and were three times as likely to have a psychiatric disorder as those who hadn’t undergone surgery as controls. Many sex-reassigned individuals have grappled with gender dysphoria for years, as well as major depressive disorder or other psychiatric disorders, she reported. And surgery doesn’t make them just “go away.” All of that raises the question of whether some sex-change surgeries are misguided attempts to solve inherently psychological problems. Read more here.

Old photographs of Felicia during Vietnam (right) and a few years before her surgery while living in Chicago (right).

Old photographs of Felicia Flames during the Vietnam War (left) and a few years before her surgery while living in Chicago in 1970 (right).

Source Felicia Flames

But the story of Felicia Elizondo, aka Felicia Flames, showed how painful conforming to societal expectations around gender can be. Even deadly. Felicia volunteered to serve in Vietnam because, she says now, “I figured if I got killed in Vietnam, all this pain and hurt and confusion would be gone.” Felicia kept it up, through boot camp and training and all the way to Da Nang. “I didn’t want to be this way anymore,” she told OZY. “Who would want to be a person that everybody makes fun of, always harasses them and is always getting hurt by people?” Eventually something snapped. Felicia went to the priest, told him she was gay and was sent home. “They interrogated me because it was time of war, of course. They didn’t want me to be guilty of treason.” Read more here.

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