Chastity Bono: Becoming a Man
What that actually means
-Lissa Rankin, M.D., Betty’s OB/GYN on Call
Word on the street is that Chastity Bono, the daughter of Cher and Sonny Bono, is getting a sex change. News like this makes big headlines – some might say it’s shocking, even. And yet, if you truly understand what it means to be transgender, it wouldn’t shock you.
As an open-hearted OB/GYN physician, I have cared for many in the transgender community, both before and after surgery. In fact, some of my patients who are genetically male but post-sex change come to me for pap smears. One patient came year after year for a pap smear, and I finally had to ask her why she did it. After all, she doesn’t have a cervix, so the risk of cervical cancer is zilch. My sweet patient held my hand, smiled, and said, “Every year, I come to your office, and I sit here among other women who are getting pap smears. Some are young, some are old, some are pregnant, but it’s just us girls, sitting in your waiting room, taking good care of ourselves.” She looked earnestly into my eyes. “I get pap smears because that’s what we girls do.” She forgave me my ignorance, and I have never forgotten the lesson in identity she taught me.
I find that most people who are repulsed by the idea of sex change simply don’t understand it. What does it mean to get a sex change? Most individuals undergoing what we call “gender reassignment surgery” experience “gender identity disorders” or “gender dysphoria,” meaning that they don’t identify with their genetic gender. Chances are that Chastity Bono feels male, even though she was born into a female body. Gender reassignment surgery seeks to help these individuals inhabit a body that better fits their sense of self.
If Chastity Bono undergoes the types of procedures that are typical for those having gender reassignment surgery, she will likely undergo multiple surgeries to change her body into one that appears male, including genital reconstruction to create a penis, removing her breasts via mastectomy and removing her ovaries to reduce her body’s circulating estrogen levels. Genital reconstruction for transmen (female-to-male) requires fusing the labia to form a scrotum and inserting prosthetic testicles. Skin grafts are then used to create a neo-penis, and an erectile prosthesis or other implant can then be inserted to give the penis its rigidity. Sensation is maintained via the clitoris, and the urethra is reconstructed so urination occurs via the penis. Hormone replacement with testosterone helps change the physical appearance into a more male body. This way, transmen can urinate, enjoy sexual intercourse and feel comfortable in the skin they’re in. And don’t we all want that?
It’s easy for those of us who were fortunate to be born into the right gender skin to judge those who aren’t. But I admire you, Chastity. What you’re doing takes courage – and BALLS! It’s a struggle for most of us to learn to Own Our Bodies. But imagine how hard it is when you look in the mirror and see the wrong gender. Let’s send love and blessings to Chastity Bono as she faces this difficult, painful and life-changing decision. She doesn’t need our judgments. She needs our support, as we would want if we were in her transgender shoes. I feel grateful that I love being female, but I feel for those who don’t. I’m a big fan of living authentically and if it takes gender reassignment surgery to let your essential self shine through, I say more power to you.
Tell me what you think? Has Chastity lost it, or is she simply doing what she needs to do to get her mojo back? How would you feel if it was you- or your child? Do tell…
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