Monday, November 19, 2012

Sad Story Of Self-Mutilation

I've made the point in the past that compared to having a sex change, homosexuality almost seems normal and natural.  At the end of the day, you can at least go straight (as people that I have known over the years have done).  But once you spend a fortune getting your sexual organs removed (or created, depending on direction), it is a bit late to say, "Whoops!  I guess that doesn't help my sense of worthlessness any."  I've mentioned the work by both specialists in the field and the British National Health Service that finds that a shockingly large percentage of those who have these dramatic procedures done...still aren't happy.

But compared to this?  Sex change is positively mainstreamSay Uncle links to this tragic story in the November 13, 2012 Daily Mail about...well, too weird for me to paraphrase:
Dennis Avner, the Nevada man who spent years trying to morph his body into that of a cat has died. He was 54. A veteran of the U.S. Navy, Avner underwent a series of radical body modification procedures to make himself look like a female cat, from whiskers and ears to a mechanical tail....

 Avner's operations have included bifurcation (splitting) of his upper lip, surgical pointing of the ears, sillicone cheek and forehead implants, tooth filing, tattoos, and facial piercing.

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There's a picture of him there that is like a really bad Twilight Zone episode.  Say Uncle describes it well:
People who feel the need for such extreme body modifications tend to not only have issues, but subscriptions.
I am not surprised that his life ended in suicide.  Someone who felt so badly about himself that he needed this kind of weirdness is a tragedy -- one in which all the weirdos who chose to take his money and do this sort of stuff to him should feel some sense of responsibility.  They did not make him so sad and sick, but by going along, they helped him to avoid confronting the real issues.


  1. I saw someone that had lots of body modifications in Boise earlier this year or maybe it was last year. Very strange indeed.

    The thing is why not invest in a body costume if you want to dress up to change your look. For the kind of money they are spending (thousands of dollars) I would think they could get a very sophisticated prosthetic costume--like one that is used in sci-fi movies. At least you could then undo the look should you find it doesn't work out!

    Too bad there isn't a prohibition against this sort of thing---can't see how someone in good conscience could do such "surgeries." I'm sure those who do this rationalize that they are "artists" along with doing sort of service to help such confused people.

  2. What's worse is that they will collect disability because they can't get a normal job due to the modification(s). Even one of my socialist friends recognizes the limit when things become ridiculous.

  3. It seems to me that someone who wants a sex change probably wants to be normal, to change to fit in and be comfortable in society, just on the other side of the gender divide. Homosexuality on the other hand is a desire for society to change to fit them.

    I imagine that guy had a terribly empty, hopeless life. That's the root of most people's descent into drug addiction, crime, or other deviancy-- empty, hopeless lives.

  4. There are a pretty good number of folk that do just dress up in body costumes, but it's seldom newsworthy. Midwest Furfest just had a parade of at least a hundred 'fursuiters', people who dress up as cartoon-like animals similar to mascots. And that's not a once-a-year thing. There are similar cons every few weeks or months, and some fursuiters dress up for Ren Festivals a la that Disney Robin Hood deal.

    As for prohibitions on extreme body modification, there are some -- if Avner had anesthesia during any of his alterations, it was illegal -- but these sort of folks are so very rare an outlier that is simultaneously highly mobile and not likely to report an individual surgery to police that it'd be very, very hard to tailor laws to deal with it.

    I'd note that, while overall satisfaction against post-operative transsexual individuals is not terribly high (especially transmen, not surprising given how limited the tech there is), there's a good deal of scientific evidence that treatment, including transition and/or reassignment surgery where appropriate, correlates with a rather significant drop in rate of suicide. There's a difference between being upset and being suicidal that's relevant.

    @RobK : most transpeople tend to want society to change to fit them, too. Everybody wants what they desire, and to not be punished for that -- doesn't matter whether you're gay, lesbian, or straight, transgender or not. Trans activists are the primary mover for a number of anti-discrimination lawsuits and public-funded healthcare, as well as some less obvious stuff like gender-neutral restrooms. There are also some really heated discussions about matters like what extent transpeople need present as typical for their gender, when and if there's an onus to to a potential romantic partner, so on and so forth. It's just not stuff you hear about much, in the same way not many folk hear about gays wanting to change things before the 1950s; a couple percent of the population isn't enough to make newsrooms, only 'average' folk making waves on the behalf of the small set do, and transactivists haven't gotten progressives really wrapped up yet.

  5. A reduction in suicide rates does not surprise me. This is hardly evidence that being the wrong sex was the core problem. The British NHS has done a surprising number of M->F and then F->M conversions. That anyone would go through this much pain and suffering the first time and then try to have it reversed suggests that the core problem isn't their sex.

  6. The core problem's almost certainly something involving deep neurochemistry. That's not terribly meaningful, though; psychology is very much a field without perfect or even good tools. There are people who were diagnosed as transsexual and eventually reverted to the gender they were assigned at birth, but you've got a vastly better opinion of the medical community than I if you think less than one percent misdiagnosis rate is surprising.

  7. I admit that there might be people for whom there is a deep biological cause for their confusion. But considering how easy it is to screw up someone's sexual identity, which do you think is more likely? I went through a sexual abuse identification training class many years ago, and over lunch, my wife and I talked with a woman whose husband had been raised in a very abusive situation. Dad was a macho Marine; Mom wanted a little girl. Until he was old enough to go to school, Mom dressed him as a little girl, did his nails, etc. Dad berated his girlie son. Now this grown man wanted a sex change. What do you was the underlying cause?

  8. Some months ago I commented here that while there is therapy and surgery for "gender dismorphia" there wasn't a similar program for lycanthropy, or the belief that one was a wolf, i.e. one did not receive injections to grow fur-like body hair, one got therapy.
    I stand corrected.

  9. Unless you're taking a very unusual level of dualism to solve the mind-body problem, deep neurochemistry's going to be involved somewhere: anything that's been in place for a half-decade isn't exactly easy habit for most humans to drop. We can talk about long-term causes as if there were a time machine, but it's honestly not terribly important whether someone is depressed because they've got a natural tendency toward low serotonin production or because their daddy was mean as heck.

    Effectiveness at dealing with the condition kinda rule the game, here, especially for conditions where there's even a slightly significant jump in suicide.