This article on India’s limb-lengthening industry is fascinating—people are getting dodgy procedures done to make themselves taller in a desperate attempt to be treated better in a society that values height. The parallels between this and transgenderism are striking.
From the Guardian:
“Young Indians are paying for complex, painful procedures despite the absence of medical oversight in the race to improve career and marriage prospects”
“Komal never told her friends where she really went for six months last year. The 24-year-old, from the town of Kota, in western India, went to see Dr Amar Sarin, an orthopaedic surgeon in Delhi, who made her eight centimetres (3in) taller, a procedure which involved breaking the bones in her legs and wearing a brace until she could walk again. Her parents had to sell the family’s ancestral lands so she could get the surgery, but for Komal, the extra height is worth it. “I have so much confidence now,” she says. “I was just 4’ 6” [137cm]. People used to make fun of me and I couldn’t get a job. Now my younger sister is doing it, too.” In a country where height is considered attractive, Komal is one of a growing number of young Indians using their increasing prosperity to improve their marriage and career prospects, and fuelling a cosmetic surgery boom.”
Doesn’t this sound familiar? Height is valued, so people feel they need to be taller, so they go to great lengths to get surgery to make themselves taller. It’s all about changing the body to fit other people’s expectations.
“Dr Sarin says: “This is one of the most difficult cosmetic surgeries to perform, and people are doing it after just one or two months’ fellowship, following a doctor who is probably experimenting himself. There are no colleges, no proper training, nothing.”
That sounds familiar too. Performing risky operations on people without knowing what the health consequences will be because they really, really want to change their bodies to conform to other people’s expectations.
“Last month, an ethics committee in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh summoned orthopaedic surgeons who had operated on a 23-year-old man, after doctors raised concerns about why “unusual, experimental surgery” was performed. The surgery divides orthopaedic specialists in India, many of whom contend that the surgery is extremely difficult to perform and can cripple people for life.
The surgery should be used only as a last resort, he adds. “We often turn people away,” he says, explaining many of his patients have suffered acute psychological disorders. “We try counselling first, but we’ve had patients who even threaten to commit suicide if I refuse to do the surgery. Twice I’ve had to call the police in emergency situations like that.”
Hmm, the surgery is risky and might cripple people for life, but they threaten to commit suicide if they don’t get the surgery, so doctors are performing it anyway. That sounds familiar too!
“Though he has performed the surgery successfully on hundreds of people, Sarin admits: “It’s madness to do it.”
Still, he feels successful limb lengthening can transform a person’s life: “You can barely recognise them. It’s worth it when you see how much their self esteem grows.”
It’s completely mad to risk being crippled for life by lengthening your limbs, but it’s worth the risk because their self esteem improves? Unfortunately, that sounds familiar too.
Dysphoria means anxiety, depression, unease, restlessness, dissatisfaction. It’s no surprise that people get body dysphoria because we live in a society that judges people based on their physical characteristics. We make assumptions about people based on their height, their age, their sex, their abilities, their skin colour, their hair colour, their clothing, and the list goes on and on. We also have a multi-billion dollar advertising industry whose entire purpose is to make people feel bad about their bodies so they will buy stuff to fix them. Of course people feel anxiety, discomfort, and unease about their bodies in a world where bodies are constantly judged, where people are treated badly because of perceived problems with their bodies, and where some bodies are regarded as less than human. This dysphoria is inevitable as long as we have this culture. The solution is not for a few individuals to have radical surgery. The solution is to change the culture. Stop giving people anxiety and unease about their bodies by teaching people that all bodies are good bodies and that all people deserve respect.
There are all sorts of forms of body hatred and body modification. It’s not just transgenderism. There’s also anorexia and bulimia, there’s also limb-lengthening, there’s also weird extreme surgery like this guy who looks like a dragon, the woman who looks like Jessica Rabbit, the guy who looks like a Ken doll, and the list goes on. Some people get the idea in their heads that they have to look a certain way and will go to great lengths to look that way. This isn’t about being their “authentic selves.” It’s about them feeling really uncomfortable with their authentic selves.
If you ask me, acceptance and respect for all bodies and for people’s natural differences is a much better plan than radical body modification.