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Are sex change operations justified?


1 August, 2007  

Debate over sex change operations say it was the only solution to a distressing condition.

However a leading feminist campaigner claims that sex reassignment surgery is based on unscientific ideas – and could be doing more harm than good.

“I should never have had sex change surgery,” Claudia MacLean, a transsexual woman told the audience at a recent debate organised by the BBC Radio 4 programme Hecklers and the Royal Society of Medicine in London.

“As a result of the surgery, I am incapable of sex and I have lived a life apart.”

Claudia was speaking out in support of Julie Bindel, a radical feminist and journalist, who was arguing trying to persuade medics and trans people that sex change surgery is unnecessary mutilation. 

Radical feminists have ideological reasons for opposing sex change surgery. To them, the claim that someone can be “born into the wrong sex” is a deeply threatening concept. Many feminists believe that the behaviours and feelings which are considered typically masculine or typically feminine are purely socially conditioned. But if, as some in the transsexual lobby believes, the tendency to feel masculine or feminine is something innate then it follows that gender stereotypical behaviours could well be “natural” rather than as the result of social pressures and male oppression.

As a feminist, Julie Bindel therefore has a strong political motivation for her scepticism about sex change surgery.

But, her argument goes beyond ideology.

Having looked into the medical research on transsexualism, she claims there is a lack of science behind the diagnosis, no satisfactory research into the outcomes for patients and individual stories of post-operative regret.