Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Adding and subtracting - Mutilation or Modification.

For years I've had a deep interest in what is known as Amputee identity disorder. I've spent so much time reading up on the matter, and my thoughts has in the latter years changed. I used to view it as a paraphilia, a sexual fetish for deviant people. But upon gaining more knowledge, it dawned on me it has little to do with sexuality and I do no longer consider it as a form of identity disorder. For those who are new to the matter at hand: A wannabe amputee will go to great lengths to remove a limb he/she feels is not a part of their body. Usually a leg from the knee down, but also the removal of male genitalia varying from testicles to full scale nullification removing the penis it self. Some cut of a fingertip, some cut of fingers, toes and so on. It is important to state that I am not talking about the aesthetic modification or the sexual modification, that is a whole different blog. I am talking about the people who from as young as 5-6 years old will use astonishing amounts of time and effort in pursuing their main goal; to become hole through subtracting.

To make my point I want to talk about gender, transsexualism, and identity. In Norwegian we only have one word for man and woman, English language has gender and sex. Gender identity disorder, or as most know it, transsexuals, will from a very young age have a distinct feeling of being born in the wrong body, identifying with the opposite physical sex: Having a male body, and a female mind or the other way around. These people will suffer a great deal growing up fighting feelings of homosexuality, isolation and gender confusion. Some will also engage in what most would interpret as mutilation of their female or male body. Thankfully they now will get professional help with this prossess through years of therapy, medication and extensive surgery. The last 20 years or so has removed some of the stigma of transsexualism, and it is now by most of the western modern world viewed as a medical condition with biological factors, not a mental disorder.

The wannabe amputees are not so lucky however. They suffer under the lingering opinion of society in general: The human body is perfect only if not altered. If altered it is sign of mental illness. Identity cannot be as individual as one might want. Removing the genitals is a valid act of modification, only because the result it self if familiar to us: Man or woman. It's easy to relate to. But to understand someone who desperately wants to remove their leg to feel whole, for those who cannot live a normal life without waking up with feelings of disgust and physical torture, those who would rather bleed half to death than live with that limb, that is very difficult to relate to and we condemn it as a mental disorder, we refuse them the help they so desperately seek. I don't have the numbers and I'm sure none does. But many has died from self inflicted amputations or from the hands of people with little or no medical training. These people get exploited by cynicals who are in it for easy money.(Very few professionals offer help.) These people will spend years causing them self massive amounts of pain and infections all contributing to severe depression sometimes resulting in suicide. I've read about young men using pocket knifes to slowly cut off their testicles in the high school bathroom with no anaesthetics, little by little, for years suffering insane amounts of pain. I've read about men hacking into their knee caps and filling the wounds with faeces to cause infections, cutting of blood circulations to the point of loosing consciousness in hope to cause such a serious infection leaving no option but amputation. Some use shoot guns, others use chain saws. And when they are found or when they seek professional medical help, they are stitched up and put under psychiatric care for a month or two, and then they are back on their own starting all over again. Society would rather see these people die than acknowledge the fact that identity is not limited, very complex and highly individual. I strongly believe that the biological factors are present and will be located in the future.

One can argue that they are seeking perfection, can self inflicted handicaps be perfection? Transsexuals who remove their penis of their vagina cause the body a handicap. Why is removing a leg a less valid intention? Why is removing any body part so controversial? Adding to the body is not. Implants of various sorts, adding jewellery, pumping up lips, bottoms and abs. The only socially accepted form of removal is sucking out fat, and that is because the result again is something the majority of society finds pleasing: the perfect human shape. Beauty should always be in the eyes of the beholder. Another comman argument is this is just another metod of suicidal behaviour, self mutilation. But these people only get suicidal because they are denied help, they only inflict pain and wounds because no one else will help them. They don't want pain, they don't death. They are not mentally confused, they can locate the problem and point it out, look here it is, please help me. I want to be hole through subtracting.

As with any body modification, I would recommend using time to find the answers. Through therapy and through professional guidance. I really do hope that the future will treat the wannabe amputees with the same respect and decency as transsexuals. Many will die while we wait. Challenge your views on identity. Ask your self: "Who am I? Who am I willing to let others be?" What is the core of identity? And who is the only one who can and must define the word and it's meaning? You.

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