We have created a world where everything is possible. We have pregnant men, Coke with vitamins, live birth videos on YouTube, Kindles, Skype and Oreo Fun Stix (edible cookie straws to make milk more palatable). Apple iPhone even has a new app called “Email ‘n’ Walk” to keep pace with the changing times. With Email ‘n’ Walk there is a live feed from the phone’s camera which is mounted on the back of the device. The application shows the user what’s in front of them as they type—and the text appears superimposed on that image.
In today’s world we can Twitter, grow strawberries as big as tennis balls, harness lightning for electricity and make noses in petri dishes. When pathogist Beck Weathers lost his nose to frostbite in the 1996 Everest disaster (chronicled in Jon Krakauer’s Into Thin Air), he had a new nose constructed out of tissue from his forehead and ear. Connie Culp, who was shot by her husband in the face in 2004, recently received a near full-facial transplant. Pieces of her ribs were used to create cheekbones, and during the 22-hour operation a team of doctors replaced her face with the bones, muscles, nerves, skin and blood vessels from another woman. Culp’s surgery was the fourth face transplant in the world.
The advances in the medical world are exceptional—and the reminders of the not-so-advanced past are showcased by the immunization and appendix scars of the 70s and 80s. Knee scopes and Caesareans performed in those decades resemble horrific shark attacks. And now there’s near-foolproof laser eye surgery, labiaplasty (labia reduction and beautification), vaginoplasty or “vaginal rejuvenation” (for women who have had several children and are seeking surgical tightening and increased sensitivity). Clitoral unhooding, or “hoodectomies” promise women increased arousal and personal satisfaction. Such options make silicone or saline breast implants seem as outdated as Ms. Pacman and Arsenio Hall! Even lip enhancement offers a bevy of options like Gore-tex implants and “fat transfer.” Surgeons can harvest fat from areas of the client’s body and inject it into their lips for a Jolie-esque upgrade. “Kiss my ass” takes on a whole new meaning in this circumstance.
Gore-tex lip implants are also available (really), and not just for the woodsy, Mountain Equipment Co-op types. Known as EPTFE (expandedpolytetrafleuroethylene), or commericially as UltraSoft and SoftForm, it’s delivered to surgeons in 2-3mm strips and tubes. I can hear the campfire-side taunting now: “Hey, North Face!” Imagine though, wind and rain-resistant lips to go with your jacket!
So, is gender reassignment surgery really that shocking? This week Chastity Bono, now assuming the name Chaz, announced that he would be undergoing the surgery described as a medical treatment for those with “gender dysphoria,” “transexualism” or “gender identity disorder.” Can you imagine the turmoil of being trapped in a body where your own blood is like oil and vinegar? We have the technology now, and the medical brilliance—why should anyone suffer? So what if Sonny and Cher’s daughter wants to be a son?
Boys Don’t Cry (1999), introduced the issue of transgenderism to a lot of water coolers, thanks to Hilary Swank’s ballsy portrayal of Brandon Teena. Many movies have bravely broached the topic, like The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975), The Crying Game (1992), Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert (1994) and Transamerica (2005)– but Boys Don’t Cry was based on a true story. It gave a thundering voice to the otherwise hushed rape and murder of Brandon Teena on December 31, 1993. Swank took home the 1999 Academy Award for Best Actress, and Chloe Sevigny (who portrayed Teena’s girlfriend) was nominated for Best Supporting Actress. The film also helped generate unprecedented sensitivity and awareness of the murder of Matthew Shepard in Laramie, Wyoming in October, 1998. His death, provoked by his gay lifestyle, brought international attention to hate crime legislation. Melissa Etheridge smacked the world with his story when she wrote and sang the high-wattage “Scarecrow” in Shepard’s memory.
Following Etheridge who came out publicly during the first Clinton inauguration in 1993, Chaz Bono outed himself in an interview with The Advocate in 1995 (after k.d. lang in ’92, but before Ellen in ’97). He quickly established himself as a tireless advocate of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights. Bono has written two books—Family Outing: A Guide to the Coming Out Process for Gays, Lesbians and Their Families and The End of Innocence. The latter book chronicles his outing, short-lived music career with a band called Ceremony, and the death of his partner, Joan, who died of Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Chaz Bono’s publicist has said, “It is Chaz’s hope that his choice to transition will open the hearts and minds of the public regarding this issue, just as his coming out did.”
I’m pro Bono, are you?
Boys Don’t Cry trailer–