If a surgeon uses her scalpel to cut into and permanently alter the reproductive organs of a young girl in the name of Third World religious and cultural traditions, we call it “female genital mutilation.”
It’s now a felony under a stiff federal law passed with bipartisan support in 2020 and signed by Donald Trump shortly before he left the presidency in January 2021. Anyone who enables this drastic surgery, from performing the procedures personally to transporting the young victims to more accommodating physicians outside the United States, is subject to a five-to-ten-year prison term.
But if a surgeon uses her scalpel to cut into and permanently alter the reproductive organs of a young girl in the name of First World medical ideology, we call it “gender-affirming care.”
It has the full approval of such august physicians’ organizations as the American Medical Association and the American Pediatric Academy. The procedure can be “bottom surgery”—removing ovaries and uterus and attempting to construct a penis to replace the girl’s vagina—or it can be “top surgery”—slicing off her breasts. But we are simply forbidden to use the same vocabulary in describing this form of body-modification that we use when we talk about the body-modifying cultural practices of Asians and Africans.
It’s like Fight Club. The first rule of genital mutilation of minors is you do not talk about genital mutilation of minors.
“These chemical procedures prevent a person’s body from developing the capability to procreate,” Paxton wrote.
Texas is one of about 19 states that have passed or have pending bills that would limit access to such surgery and drugs for minors. Texas’s Republican governor, Greg Abbott, directed child-protection services to investigate such cases. Earlier, Abbott had used the forbidden m-word in a radio interview: “Any type of genital mutilation is child abuse.”
The progressive Texas Tribune—not to mention the Texas medical and civil-liberties establishments—went ballistic.
“The Texas Legislature already tried to ban transgender kids from accessing puberty blockers, hormone therapy and gender-affirming surgeries,” Houston Public Radio reporter Sara Willa Ernst sniffed.
The NPR segment included an interview by Ernst with a 17-year-old biological female renamed “Alexander” who had been taking testosterone for “several years”—which translates to starting at age 13 or 14.
Never mind that there’s something unsettling about subjecting 13-year-olds—or even 18-year-olds—who find adolescence stressful or feel dissatisfied over the way they look—to drugs that will make it impossible to have children of their own, much less body-deforming surgery and the excision of perfectly healthy tissue and organs.
If a teenage girl is injuring herself by binding her chest so as to look like a boy, wouldn’t it be less intrusive to counsel her about accepting her body rather than scheduling her for a double mastectomy? Can a 14-year-old meaningfully contemplate the implications, medical and psychological, of having to inject herself with a massive dose of testosterone once a week for the rest of her life?
But even worse is the policing of honest language about what “gender-affirming care” really consists of. That affects all of us. A society is defined in great part by its language. And language needs to be honest in order to present a clear and truthful picture of what’s at stake. In this case, we need to say that surgically and medically modifying young people’s bodies simply because they feel uneasy about their biological sex is mutilation pure and simple.