What would you say to someone whose deepest desire was to resemble a plastic toy? What if he was so obsessed with this fantasy that he was willing to undergo whatever drastic surgical procedures were necessary?
If you had any concern for his well-being, you’d recommend he get mental help immediately. So why does our society respond so differently when people want to change their bodies from one sex to another?
From Mental Illness to Identity
Thirty-three-year-old Rodrigo Alves, also known as the “Human Ken Doll,” has had more than 50 surgeries, including facial reconstruction, silicone chest implants, six-pack abs implants, stem cell injections into his face and hair, and even a nose job using a piece of his own rib.
In 2015, he was diagnosed with body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), a compulsive preoccupation with the defects in one’s appearance, often motivating drastic physical alterations. BDD is classified by the American Psychiatric Association as a mental disorder, and Alves is receiving treatment for the problem, which has driven him under the knife so many times that he’s now having difficulty breathing.
An obsessive belief that your body is not what it should be. A deep desire to have it changed. A drastic alteration to its appearance, including surgical realignment. Sound familiar?
If we’re talking about body dysmorphic disorder, recommended treatment includes counseling, prescription medication, dissuasion from further surgery, and the goal “to achieve pharmacologic control” of the disorder. It’s a problem to address. In fact, when Alves made headlines recently over his deteriorating health, MSN.com explicitly referred to his BDD as a “mental disorder.” There’s no attempt to hide what it is, or the fact that it’s a problem.
But what if we switched the term “body dysmorphic disorder” with, say, “gender dysphoria”? Suddenly the American Psychiatric Association changes its tune, prescribing the following treatment: “Counseling, cross-sex hormones, puberty suppression and gender reassignment surgery.”
Although the two disorders are undeniably similar, they get two very different treatments. One should be prevented. The other should be celebrated. One should be treated as a mental disorder. The other gets a parade, fawning magazine covers, and approval from our largest companies and medical associations. Why the inconsistency?
Plastic Surgery Is Not the Answer
In January, National Geographic ran a cover story on transgender children, including a cover photo of “Avery,” a nine-year old boy who has been living as a girl since he was five. Avery’s tragic, confused words occupied the face of the magazine: “The best thing about being a girl is, now I don’t have to pretend to be a boy.” Ironically, just the opposite is true. Avery is actually a boy pretending to be a girl. But instead of recognizing the danger of this behavior and providing help, as for Alves, society cheers Avery on.
Those who suffer from BDD and those who suffer from gender dysphoria are in similar situations: Their self-perception clashes with physical reality. There is a mental disconnect between who they are and who they believe themselves to be.
The identity mix-up both Alves and Avery exhibit was once rightly recognized as mental instability, and treated as such. But now gender dysphoria is embraced, and the Human Ken Doll needs psychiatric therapy. What’s the difference here? Why don’t we just admit that Alves was born with the wrong body, and he’s simply bringing his anatomy into harmony with his brain? Where are the social justice warriors demanding we all normalize BDD?
In a darkly humorous twist, Tanner Doll Company just announced the upcoming release of their newest character: “Jazz,” the first trangendered doll on the market. So while some are reshaping themselves into a doll’s image, others are making dolls in the image of the self-reshaping transgendered! It’s like mental illness squared. And it’s what happens to a society that doesn’t know the difference between fantasy and reality anymore.
So what’s next? Adults who think they’re children? People who think they’re animals? Yes and yes, actually, including a transgendered man who got horn implants and hacked off his ears and nose because he realized he’s a dragon. These various groups sound loony, yet they claim that “if you support transgender rights, you ought to support” them, too. They’re right.
People Are Not Toys
As mentioned earlier, Alves made headlines recently because his eight nose jobs have made breathing difficult. This comes less than a year after he had to be rushed to the hospital due to necrosis caused by his surgeries, which cut off blood supply and caused tissue to die.
Mark Narankevicius is a pastor at Darby Community Church in central Florida and a student at Gateway Seminary. He leads local young adult conferences focusing on doctrine, apologetics, and biblical manhood. He and his wife Trina recently welcomed their first son into the world. Visit his blog