Hanne Blank's commentary on an article in the NY Times about the first penis transplant here in America. i agree - there is so much to think about here. here's the link should you want to read it first.
This is fascinating to me, and the kind of issue that makes me happy I am training as a bioethicist while I do my Ph.D. in history. I have so many questions. SO MANY.
"Dr. Dicken Ko, a team leader and the director of the hospital’s regional urology program, said the team had not planned a set number of transplants. Instead, he said, the hospital would evaluate candidates one at a time and decide whether to allow surgery. For now, he said, the transplants will be limited to cancer and trauma patients, and will not be offered to transgender people."
This part, though, is not really one of them. Although it is of course disappointing in some ways, from a surgical perspective it also makes sense: connecting a donor penis to a body where the relevant nerves, ducts, and vascular apparatus would not need to be relocated as well as attached to a donor organ is going to be a much less complicated and likely much more successful surgery. As the techniques and clinical protocols get worked out, this is an eminently reasonable decision. Transplant surgeries can be tricky at the best of times and there are often quite a few failures along the way to figuring out how to do a particular kind of transplant successfully. Having a surgery become better understood and learning what makes it optimally successful -- as well as simply removing it from the "experimental" category -- increases the chances that these surgeries will be considered safe enough and effective enough to be offered more broadly and in more/different medical contexts.
I am, as usual, sighing at the repeated assertion that for male-identified people, not having a penis means that "intimacy" is "out of the picture." Someday perhaps the world will wake up to the fact that sexual activity, even for people with factory-original penises, does not wholly consist of doing a thing with the penis. Also that "intimacy" and "sexual activity" are not the same things, although there is sometimes some overlap between them if visualized as a Venn diagram.
Also and as usual, I am fascinated by the racial politics of transplantation... one of the criteria for a donor in this case, as with most of the externally viewable body part transplants I've ever read about, was that the donor penis have "the right blood type and skin tone." The cosmetics of transplant surgeries ain't just cosmetic, y'all, especially when we're in the USA and we're talking about penises. - Hanne Blank
Anandalila is a tantric hatha yoga teacher and moksha magick practitioner. When she is not on the mat, she enjoys reading, writing, music, birdwatching, and, of course, chocolate.