In February, Canada's Dr. Jaques Balayla—an obstetrician-gynecologist and clinician scientist at McGill University—published an article in Bioethics purporting to explore the medical ethics of attempting to enable men to get pregnant. He spoke about the success of uterine transplants, that of 60 such transplants since 2014, 18 have resulted in live births. Then he said that these "advancing social circumstances have prompted the question regarding the use of this technology in transgender individuals."
Bayala suggests that wombs should be implanted in the male bodies of those who identify as transgender.
Bayala's article was promoted by David McFadden on McGill University's website. McFadden's piece about womb transplantation keeps any mention of women, or mothers, to a bare minimum. He compares what he calls "transgender women" to "genetic women–that is, people with XX chromosomes."
He quotes Bayala, who said "There isn't an ethical reason why they should be denied access to the procedure."
Bayala and McFadden conflate sex with gender identity, as though the two words are interchangeable. They are not. Sex is a material reality. Gender identity is a feeling in the head which is informed by social norms and sex stereotypes—the same ones feminists have fought to mitigate, because of their harmful effects on women and girls.
The result of this language-play is that it is easier to perform the mental acrobatics necessary to believe that a man wanting to have a baby is no longer sheer stupidity, misogynistic envy and hubris. If having a baby is the entitlement of anyone with a feminine gender identity, this creepy fantasy is re-framed as some kind of human right.
Balayla made an astonishing sales claim in McFadden's piece: "A woman who is born without a uterus and a man who transitions into a woman because of gender dysphoria have a similar claim to maternity if we consider them to have equivalent rights to fulfill the reproductive potential of their gender [natch]," Balayla said. "And I think that we should."
Let's unpack that. Women and men have "a similar claim to maternity"? Women evolved to make babies. Sometimes they can't. Men evolved to fertilise women, not to make babies. Men can never make babies, because that is not their mammalian role in sexual reproduction. Their bodies are not evolved for it, and the medical industry cannot change the course of men's evolution to enable them to gestate without, in all likelihood, killing the men reaching for that fantasy, thus removing them from the gene pool.
Men having babies is an evolutionary cul-de-sac, but a potentially lucrative one for quack medics. Balayla denies sex as a material reality, denies the natural limitations of the human body, and asserts the primacy of mind over matter. His is an extreme case of misanthropy—contempt for human nature—and of misogyny.
We are not Lego. You can't remove bits of us and assemble a new "woman." Yet that is exactly what medics like Balayla want their potential customers—foolish men—and their victims—women as a class, to believe.
In a remarkable TED talk entitled "Moving the Womb"—a phrase which recalls Andrea Long Chu's description of "transitioning" as "like moving into a new apartment"—Balayla took to the stage brandishing his 12 week old baby as a living prop to disarm his audience.
It is obvious that he hoped to domesticate his chilling vision of harvesting the organs from a living or dead woman's abdominal cavity, to somehow squash them into the pelvis of a male indulging his extreme sexual fetish of physiologic autogynephilia, without the man dying for the sake of a sexual thrill.
Gender non-conforming biological males who identify as transgender are open about this desire on social media.
In his talk, Balaya invited the audience to think about how they feel about the children in their life. "Imagine that forces outside your control" prevent you from having children, he says. He battens onto mothers' feelings of empathy for the childless, and channels that empathy in the direction of a very specific group of people—men who reject their own male fertility, and say "I want yours," pointing at us. At women.
One often wonders, in researching the frontiers of biotechnology, whether any of the scientists operating there have even the most basic education in the humanities. Perhaps the ultra-specialised nature of scientific training, in these market-driven times, mean that aspiring new demigods of biotech have neither the time nor the inclination to read Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, or to reflect on the concept of hubris explored by the ancient Greek tragedians.
In his rather unconvincing and paper-thin argument, Balayla speaks of the goal of evolution being the perpetuation of the species. Notably, he avoided mentioning the principle of the survival of the fittest—that organisms best suited to the environment they find themselves in will thrive and reproduce, whereas the less well-adapted will be filtered out of the gene pool by competition. Nature doesn't care about individuals, but the species. Increasingly, a subsection of private medics don't seem to care about humanity in general, and medical ethics, but how they can maximise profit and status by predating on groups with vulnerabilities. Survival of the "fittest," indeed.
Balayla strategically takes the reproductive drive of living organisms out of its wider context—adaptation to environment—in the service of an argument that men ought to be able to make babies, despite their bodies having evolved over hundreds of thousands of years to perform the complementary reproductive role of providing sperm and, at the best of times, protection to the pregnant woman.
Feminists have been noting, for several years, that this sci-fi procedure has been garnering significant research funding, despite the idea occupying the ultra-radical loony end of unethical and futile medical experimentation.
In the UK it has become common for women to opt-out of the NHS organ donation scheme because of mounting mistrust in the medical ethics of an institution which would see no reason not to transplant a woman's uterus into a male sex tourist.
If Dr. Balaya and others get their way, he stands to get rich from performing medical experiments on porn-addicted men with autogynephilia, experiments which are doomed to fail.
Balayla's paper is open about his aspirations towards policy capture to enable men to attempt to have babies:
"As transgender rights gain increasing mainstream acceptance, the political and social environment could also be ripe for broadening the scope of the surgical innovation. The paper suggests a transgender woman could possibly undergo a uterus transplant sometime in the future if an ethical framework is absorbed into clinical practice and research trials demonstrate the safety and success of uterus transplantation in this population."
For a woman's reproductive system is just that—an extremely complex interlinked, interdependent system of organs and hormonal choreography which takes place within a body which evolved over hundreds of millions of years to adapt the skeletal form capable of undertaking the feat of creating new life.
Why do men like Jaques Balayla want to make it possible for men to gestate babies? It's all about money and ego, nothing more. Like all trans activists in this field—see two more influential males in this sector, Petra de Sutter, and Martine Rothblatt—he wants what he wants to be ethically acceptable to the population at large or, failing that, he wants to be able to impose what he wants with no public scrutiny.
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