In 1963 a Buddhist Monk in Saigon, South Vietnam wanted world attention to understand the persecution of Buddhists under South Vietnam’s Ngô Đình Diệm administration. So this monk, Thích Quảng Đức, went to a busy intersection in the heart of Saigon. Once there, with much buildup so that the cameras of reporters around the world could witness the event, he performed ritual suicide by setting himself on fire. The action was a success. The world turned its attention to Vietnam. Photographs of the self-immolating monk resonate to this day.
Much more recently, a trans woman embarked upon a mission at least as shocking, trying to call attention to the plight of trans women facing barriers to obtaining basic transition related medical procedures. She didn’t succeed at winning the world’s attention to the extent of the Buddist monk. But her attempt to do so was no less courageous or outrageous.
Jadis Illiana Argiope recently attempted to perform a self-orchiectomy (a.k.a. castration) while broadcasting the event on web-cam and publicizing it on Twitter.
Her description of the event (which she dubbed Operation Tranny Freedom) is NOT for the faint of heart. And yeah, this strikes me as insanely risky. And yeah, the parent in me would have caused me to try to stop her by any means at my disposal had I been aware at the time. And no, I’m not going to be cool with this if any of my friends or readers tries to repeat the procedure. But still.
I don’t want to read too much into Jadis’ motivation. Clearly most of it was about her personal trans anguish over being in the wrong body. But she was just as clearly ALSO motivated by trying to send a message to the medical establishment. Here’s an exerpt making it plain:
I didn’t get into any of this out of ego, I got into this out of desperation. I had to remember my mission, my purpose. I had to collect my bearing. Back to business then. I explained, how, where, and why I did all of this. I even made sure to mention that I was attempting this live on stickam, while tweeting, and talking to people on the phone, just to show how important this public service announcement of mine really was! T-Girls simply can’t get the help they need without sacrifising a great amount of their quality of life.
It’s a message the medical establishment needs to hear. Just like some women are going to have abortions even if you make them illegal, some trans people are going to take medical matters into their own hands if their medical providers play keep-away with their medical needs. Many of them will fare worse than Jadis and die as a result.
Transsexualism is not a medical condition that solely afflicts the wealthy. People of all ages and income levels are equally afflicted. Yet the current situation in the U. S. is to price access to trans surgery like a luxury commodity. It’s considered “cosmetic surgery,” akin to that sought by wealthy women in Beverly Hills who turn themselves into living Barbie dolls by paying buckets of cash. That is the medical model applied to treating transsexuals with one exception… Transsexuals ALSO need to spend months in therapy to get “official” permission before they’re allowed to spend buckets of cash out of pocket on their medical procedures. That’s kind of funny if it’s only “cosmetic” surgery, eh?
I think what Jadis did was foolish, reckless, crazy, ill-advised, and horrifying. I also think it was brave, self-sacrificing, and understandable once you understand what transsexualism really is. And if you can’t understand it you clearly don’t know what transsexualism is.
No one should have to resort to this. But people will continue to do so until this condition is treated responsibly by the medical community at large.