Female genital mutilation, the ritualistic cutting or removal of external female genitalia that is associated with Islamic religious beliefs or cultural practice, is almost universally denounced in the United States by both the Left and Right.
The practice is illegal under federal law and in 40 states. In five states, it is even illegal for the practice to be performed on adults. The states that have enacted such strict laws against the practice are a mix of red and blue states: Illinois, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, and Tennessee.
Multiple UN agencies have classified it as “torture.” The UN understands all female genital mutilation, even that which is conducted on adults, to be a human rights violation.
The current federal law against the practice, which was signed by President Donald Trump in 2020, was sponsored by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, a Democrat. That law was signed to replace a 1996 law prohibiting female genital mutilation, which was ruled unconstitutional in 2018 by a district judge in Michigan.
Outrage over the reversal of the 1996 federal law inspired social conservatives and feminists alike to protect the estimated more than half a million women and girls in the United States who are considered at risk for the practice. Over a dozen states added laws outlawing the practice and the new federal law gave greater emphasis to the federal government’s jurisdiction over interstate commerce.
The political momentum to end female genital mutilation in the United States comes at the same time that another cultural practice involving the cutting and removal of female genital organs, which is euphemized as “gender-confirmation surgery,” has grown exponentially.
Types 1, 2, and 3 of female genital mutilation, as defined by the World Health Organization involve the partial or total removal of external female genitalia. “Gender-confirmation surgeries” for females consist of a vaginectomy, surgery to remove part or all of the vagina, as well as a metoidioplasty, which, according to the Cleveland Clinic, “uses the tissue from your clitoris to create a neophallus,” or phalloplasty, which, according to the same organization, involves taking “a large section of skin and tissue” and “attach[ing] it to the groin.” In both cases, healthy genitalia are mutilated for the sake of cultural practice.
Female genital mutilation and “gender-confirmation surgery” have similar motivations. According to the feminist human rights organization Equality Now, female genital mutilation is partially motivated by the belief that removing external female genitalia removes body parts that are believed to be “male” and thus “unclean.” Gender-confirmation surgeries similarly seek to remove healthy body parts because they are believed to be improperly feminine or masculine.
The similarity between the two abhorrent practices and yet the total incongruence in how the two are treated by the American Left provides a path for activists: Social stigma and laws against female genital mutilation could be utilized to lobby for an end to genital mutilation as associated with transgenderism. Conservatives can point out the Left’s total hypocrisy in lauding one genital-mutilating procedure while denouncing the other as a human rights violation. (READ MORE: Castrating Your Child’s Future)
It is even possible that preexisting laws could be used to prosecute doctors who mutilate the genitals of females seeking to appear male. However, it will be extremely difficult to do so. These laws are written to prevent “non-medical” female genital mutilation. Doctors justify “gender-confirmation surgeries” on the basis that they are medically necessary. They claim such surgeries alleviate a person’s gender dysphoria and decrease suicide risk (despite the fact that studies have cast doubt on both assertions).
U.S. federal law defines female genital mutilation as “any procedure performed for non-medical reasons that involves partial or total removal of, or other injury to, the external female genitalia.”
If a doctor performing “gender-confirmation surgeries” was charged, a judge or jury could find that alleviating gender dysphoria and decreasing suicide risk were medical reasons to mutilate external female genitalia.
The moral urgency behind stopping female genital mutilation should be applied to stopping “transgender” genital mutilation.
For these reasons, states would be better off outlawing so-called “gender-confirmation laws” separately from ritualistic female genital mutilation.
That doesn’t mean laws against female genital mutilation wouldn’t be useful.
States could outlaw “gender-confirmation surgeries” under the banner of illegalizing a form of genital mutilation. That would give the laws a better chance of withstanding legal scrutiny because state laws against female genital mutilation have withstood legal tests. Moreover, it would communicate that “gender-confirmation surgeries,” are, like female genital mutilation, barbaric procedures that disfigure rather than heal.
States could also take these laws a step further and outlaw all transgender medical treatments because they culminate in and lead up to the genital mutilation of so-called “gender-confirmation surgery.”
There is growing public support to outlaw “gender-confirmation surgeries” and other procedures and medications associated with transgenderism for children. The vast majority of gender-confirmation surgeries are performed on adults; however, some hospitals perform the surgery on minor children in certain instances. In addition, children are prescribed testosterone and estrogen with the intention of mutilating their genitals once they become legal adults.
In recent weeks, much media attention has focused on the fact that “gender-confirmation surgeries” are cash cows. Last week, the Daily Wire’s Matt Walsh exposed the transgender clinic at Vanderbilt University for being motivated by money in offering these treatments. One doctor at the clinic explicitly reasoned that so-called gender transition is a “big money maker” because so-called bottom surgeries require numerous “follow ups.”
Last year, Arkansas passed a law banning doctors from providing children puberty blockers or cross-sex hormones and from performing mastectomies, metoidioplasties, phalloplasties, and other surgeries associated with “gender transition.” In August, a federal appeals court temporarily blocked the ban, and a trial on the issue will take place in October.
A similar law in Alabama makes it illegal to perform medical procedures or prescribe medications to attempt to alter a child’s gender. A judge temporarily blocked the part of the law that outlaws providing children with puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones but upheld the portion of the law prohibiting “gender-confirmation surgeries.” Bills have been proposed in at least 13 states that would prohibit transgender medical treatments for children.
One state, Wyoming, attempted to ban transgender surgeries for children under its law prohibiting female genital mutilation. The bill specifically exempted “gender confirmation surgeries” for those over 18 years of age. The implication was that “gender-confirmation surgery” for female children constitutes female genital mutilation and thus should be illegal. The Wyoming bill was blocked in the state Senate due to activism from transgender activists.
Wyoming would likely find more success outlawing “gender-confirmation surgeries” under a separate genital mutilation law specifically geared toward mutilation motivated by transgender ideology. This would preserve the stance that such surgeries constitute mutilation and would utilize the courts’ acceptance of laws against female genital mutilation to help the ban withstand legal muster. It would also allow lawmakers to advocate against “bottom surgeries” without trying to outlaw female genital mutilation at the same time. Wyoming could further outlaw all transgender medical treatments on the basis that such treatments find their conclusion in the genital mutilation of so-called “bottom surgery.”
While passing new anti–genital mutilation laws is the best course of action, there are potentially some applications to using preexisting laws against female genital mutilation to stop “gender-confirmation surgeries.”
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton argued in February that such surgeries, including “castration, vasectomy, hysterectomy, oophorectomy, metoidioplasty, orchiectomy, penectomy, phalloplasty, and vaginoplasty” constitute child abuse.
He used laws against female genital mutilation to back up this claim, writing that many “procedures and treatments” used in transgender medicine “can constitute ‘female genital mutilation,’ a standalone criminal act.”
Paxton argued that the existence of a Texas law outlawing a certain type of genital mutilation for children — the ritualistic cutting of female genitalia — could potentially support the argument that other types of genital mutilation — “gender-confirmation surgeries” on females and males — qualify as child abuse under Texas state law.
The health impacts of “gender-confirmation surgeries” can be catastrophic. Extreme complications are common. Madeleine Kearns, a National Review staff writer who reports on transgenderism, wrote: “Some phalloplasty patients’ testimonies are disturbing, to put it mildly. Patients complain of pain, bleeding and tissue damage. Wounds, as well as disfigured and non-functional phalluses, are also reported.”
Similarly, the health effects of female genital mutilation can be catastrophic. The WHO explains that complications from female genital mutilation include severe pain, haemorrhage, wound healing problems, urinary tract infections, bacterial vaginosis, menstrual problems, scar tissue, sexual problems, need for later surgeries, and psychological problems.
Two Indian doctors who support “gender-confirmation surgery” wrote about so-called “male-to-female bottom surgery.” They explained:
[S]ometimes, the vagina turns out to be smaller or denser. Moreover, it might even reject the skin grafts. In such cases, a part of the intestine is used to create the labia. The parts of the intestines then have to be reattached, in a complex surgical procedure. Besides, secretions might come out from the part of the intestines that are attached on the vagina. Around 30% of people might require more surgeries to fix these….
It is difficult to achieve or maintain the shape of the organs when they are recreated. So, it is quite natural that the individuals might be disappointed with the end result.
Jazz Jennings, who became famous growing up on reality TV while “transgender,” had debilitating complications after receiving “gender-confirmation surgery” at age 17. After a third surgery, Jennings’ doctor said: “For me, it looked like there’s some type of bulge or bubble…. That’s some of the residual erectile tissue. And I think the urethra, you know, that should be a little bit smaller.” A fourth surgery was conducted. The scarring was reportedly extensive. That doctor later publicly expressed concern with the conventional course of treatment of providing 11- and 12-year-olds puberty blockers, saying: “I think there was naivete on the part of pediatric endocrinologists who were proponents of early [puberty] blockade thinking that just this magic can happen, that surgeons can do anything.”
The claims by trans lobbyists and their supporters in the media that such surgeries prevent suicide or lessen gender dysphoria are highly suspect. Ryan Anderson, the president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, explained that the most thorough long-term study of postoperative patients who received “gender-confirmation surgeries” showed that their suicide rate rose most rapidly 10–15 years after surgery, reaching a suicide rate 20 times that of peers.
“Gender-confirmation surgery” is a deceiving euphemism. “Genital mutilation” more accurately describes what occurs in these procedures and makes clear their inherent harm.
The moral urgency behind stopping female genital mutilation should be applied to stopping “transgender” genital mutilation. Consent to either of these procedures doesn’t excuse them. (“Consent” to female genital mutilation is not a defense under U.S. and state laws, though it is common.) These are harmful surgeries on healthy genitalia with the potential for severe consequences.
Leftist activists were horrified when Wyoming attempted to ban “gender-confirmation surgeries” under its female genital mutilation law. Doing so, they argued, equated a human rights violation to a supposedly necessary medical procedure.
But the Right should point out the disturbing similarities between the two in both law and rhetoric. This would help to protect those at risk of being coerced or convinced into having their genitals mutilated by the abusive transgender lobby.