Leave it to Vice Magazine to point out the big problem that the COVID-19 coronavirus poses for trans people. It’s not that they are more susceptible to the illness, like asthmatics and people who already have compromised immune systems. But like pretty much all patients who had planned elective surgeries, those procedures are being rescheduled for after the glut of virus patients takes its gruesome toll on our medical infrastructure.
Trans affirming surgeries, such as elective mastectomies or genital reconstruction, are optional surgeries. Yet Vice claims that these surgeries are “life saving.” The only way in which these surgeries could be considered “life saving” is if in their absence, a patient who doesn’t have the surgery takes their own life. This rhetoric has been used to push trans affirming surgeries through insurance companies, prison systems, and to make parents feel terrified if they don’t go along with children’s trans whims.
And threat of suicide is being used again. “Research has suggested that gender-affirming surgery, in particular, has a notable and long-term impact on mental health, but far too often, trans people already wait far longer than is safe or healthy for this care. Further delays can be dangerous and even life-threatening,” writes Kaye Loggins in Vice.
Putting aside for the moment the falsehood that a person who kills themselves because they can’t get an elective surgery has anyone to hold responsible for that action but themselves, the claim that elective surgeries for trans persons should not be delayed in light of the global plague is an astounding display of narcissism. Trans affirming surgeries are not the only elective surgeries to be cancelled, Loggins notes. These include surgeries for leaky heart valves and benign tumours, as well.
Surgeries have been postponed across the UK, as well as in the US. Medical staff and resources are in short supply as the coronavirus outbreak continues to ravage the English-speaking world. But also complications during recovery will not be able to be treated in an adequate way, and in the aftermath of surgery patients will be at greater risk. Loggins details some of these cases, and the effects already.
Loggins writes that Daniella LaGaccia is recovering from a vaginoplasty, and those friends who offered help have all but disappeared due to social-distancing. “The person who was supposed to bring me dinner tonight cancelled," she said. "I’m dependent on my friends for caregivers, because there isn't a service directly caring for trans patients in recovery. I can't buy groceries by myself. I need someone there." That definitely sucks. We're all feeling isolated. But if more people don't want to go through what LaGaccia is going through, delaying these surgeries is the only sound thing to do.
Bringing people into the medical infrastructure who are healthy and therefore don’t need to be there puts both those patients and medical staff at risk. It takes valuable resources away from those who are suffering at the hands of a global pandemic. And it creates medical patients who will need care during surgical recovery, which puts a further drain on both their immune system, doctors, and medical resources.
As we face down the side-effects of this illness, from social-isolation to economic devastation, perhaps we can take a moment to realize how precious our health is and how insanely incredible our functioning bodies are. No one’s body is exactly as they wish it to be, but if the body is functioning, not in pain, not labouring to breathe, leaving it alone to do the job of keeping us alive is probably the best thing to do. But y’know, Vice also took some time to take issue with the lack of accommodating underwear for transwomen, so there's no accounting for priorities.
With the exception of those who are in poverty, this scourge is not targeting any marginalized group. This illness has no preference for any given identity. It’s not here to make anyone’s life more difficult than anyone else’s. It has no greater meaning, no divine purpose. A side-effect is that it does make us look inward. It makes us value our collective health and those things that sustain us. As individuals, we can perceive ourselves any way we choose, there is literally no one to judge, to tell us not to, to make a separate claim as to what we are, as we Netflix and chill on our own.
Our society is moving online. There are no bodies in that space. There is no one to say you are not who you claim to be. Creating an image does not necessitate surgical alterations in the new viral space. While an essential component of trans affirming surgery had been the effect of the new appearance on the way a person was perceived socially, that is not really a thing, for a while at least. The delivery person in mask and hazmat gear doesn’t care if you look male or female, they just want to drop your groceries six feet away from you and leave. The people on video conference won’t care if you’re wearing opposite gender clothes, because truly anything goes in a quarantine. If a body is healthy, be grateful. This is a good time to let perception go.