The Use of Technology to Help People Change Gender

The Use of Technology to Help People Change Gender

The Use of Technology to Help People Change Gender

(Based on the Article: Pope Denounces Technologies That Help People Change Gender)


The use of technology and science to help people change gender is a topic that has raised widespread debate all over the world for the last couple of decades. Various societies and religions have interpreted the use of such technology to propagate change of gender differently. While some people clearly find it a just and noble thing, others have argued that use of such technology is defying the laws of nature and should not be allowed to continue. As recently as October 2017, the catholic pope; Pope Francis made a statement denouncing and making a stand against the use of technology to change one’s gender. This is part of the Catholic Church’s long drawn stand against gender change. It reflects the idea and opinion of many other people who follow the catholic faith.

Traditionally, change of gender surgery and technology is founded on the transgender movement. Surgeons and other scientists have over time tried to develop a surgery system that would allow for seamless transition of a person from being a boy to a girl or vice versa. The Baptist medical center sex reassignment surgery controversy of 1973 is the initial incident that sparked the gender change controversy.[1] This incident occurred in the year 1977 in the City of Oklahoma. The controversy occurred after the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma banned a foundation known as the Gender Identity Foundation that had been performing gender/sex reassignment surgeries in the state from carrying on and continuing with the same.

This brought forward a vicious debate as to the nature of gender change and its acceptability in society. The Gender Identity Foundation later appealed against the decision to ban them but this was eventually unsuccessful as the ban was upheld. The effects of this debacle can be still be felt today as many people quote the incident whenever the sex change debate arises.

The Relevance of the Sex Change Dilemma to Current Life

The move to give people a say to determine their own genders has seen a significant rise and glut of court cases over the same issue. This has been the development due to various sagas in the sports world, the entertainment world and so on. In the year 2008 at the summer Olympics in Beijing China, an 18 year old South African athlete by the name of Caster Semenya caused heated debates across the sporting world after she strolled to an easy win in the women’s category of the 800 meters run. The debate arose as to her physicality with many people averring that her physique was more of a man than a woman. This led to a rather dehumanizing medical test on the athlete to establish the true identity of her gender and establish her testosterone levels. She was eventually allowed to continue competing in the women’s category although this debacle would later have great effect on the gender debate. Eventually at the 2012 Olympics in London, measures were put in place to ensure that anyone competing in the women category had to take tests to ensure their testosterone levels were below a certain percentage.

This is one of the reasons why the gender change debate is of great importance in our society today. It is too great a debate to be overlooked. While on the one hand, proponents of the gender change argue that it is their right as human beings to decide what gender they want to be, on the other hand people against gender change argue that it is against religious and societal ethics. People who argue against gender change through technology and surgery have pointed out at the side effects of such a procedure. It has been widely documented and reported about the misfortunes befalling those who have undergone sex change surgery and such other gender changing procedures. Some of them have suffered trauma and untold psychological torment with many opting to commit suicide. It is therefore absolutely crucial that this debate is addressed and a way forward be chartered.

There are various reasons that have been given for the use of gender change technology and the most common is that it is of good intent. However, the same cannot always be held to be true as some cases of gender change transformations do not go by that rule. It would therefore be crucial to address the topic and find a moral standing as to whether technologically advanced gender change is good or bad.[2]

The article on the pope denouncing the use of technology to propagate change of gender is therefore important because it sheds light on a long drawn controversy. After critical analysis of the article, one is able to determine whether gender change is really a human right and whether it should be outlawed as has been proposed by some people.

The Controversy

The controversy in the article relates to the acceptability of gender change technology. On one side some people contend that gender change as a result of surgery is acceptable while on the hand the opposing side contend that this should not be allowed and that use of technology to change gender should be illegalized.[3]

Some people do state that the mechanism of sex change through the use of surgery and other means of technology are perfectly acceptable because it is within the will of the person undergoing the procedure. They say that gender change procedure is only a process done by Doctors to ratify the choices of their clients. Some argue that change of sex is indeed a human right. The idea behind argument is the concept of ‘a woman trapped inside a man’s body’.  As is common knowledge, most people are traditionally either male or female. This is because of the biological arrangement of chromosomes in the human body. Men bear the XY chromosome and are traditionally attracted to women. Women on the other hand bear the XX chromosome and are attracted to men. However there arise queer cases whereby some people don’t have such chromosomes. It has been medically documented that some people have the XXY chromosome while others have XX chromosomes in some of their body cells and XY chromosomes in some other body cells. These people generally are the rare and true hermaphrodites.

Medical reports also document cases whereby some people with XY chromosomes for one reason or the other fail to transport the testosterone hormone in their body to the brain. This results in the concept of a person who is a ‘female trapped inside a man’s body’. The people who advocate for the use of technology to advance gender change argue that it would be right to have such persons to undergo surgery to change their gender.

Deontological and Teleological Arguments relating to gender change arguments

One of the arguments relating to gender change is that it is perfectly moral. It is suggested that taking into account the bioethical principles of medicine, then gender change surgery and technology can be considered moral in some instances. It is argued that a rational person is free to make their own choices and as such he possesses the ability to make his own decisions regarding his healthcare and his place in society. As a result of this argument, it is therefore assumed that adults who are competent enough and have identified themselves as transsexuals do possess the right to self determination. It is therefore within their confines and rights to request for gender change surgery or any other available gender change means. The process of arriving at a decision as to one’s gender identity is a long drawn decision that involves deep thinking. It has been argued that the process through which every man arrives at determining their own identity is quite complicated and long. However, for transsexuals and persons who want to change gender, this process is often more complicated than for other human beings. This is because they must take into account the perception of society and it is common and trite knowledge that society has strong perception as to change of gender.[4]

Utilitarian philosophers have argued that a person should make decisions such as change of gender to satisfy himself and his needs only. He should make such decisions regardless of any contrary opinion of close friends, family and society as a whole. The idea behind this argument by utilitarian philosophers is that the person stands to enjoy happiness and gain from making such decisions and as such this happiness should not be curtailed. Transsexual persons willing to undergo gender reassignment surgery should therefore be given a go ahead and be allowed to do so irrespective of the opinions of others. Personal happiness and joy for a person trying to claw his way out of the barriers of gender identity is paramount and should be given priority over the happiness of the other people around such a person.[5]

The feminist moral theory also supports the idea advocated by the utilitarian theory to the extent that the feelings and considerations of persons who want to have sex change should be paramount over that of people related to them.

That being said, there are counterarguments as to the morality of gender change. Some people argue that gender change through surgery and other technology is immoral and should not be allowed. Since the time of the Baptist medical center sex reassignment surgery controversy of 1973, the argument that gender change through science is immoral has always been pushed forward whenever this debate arises. The first argument against the moral permissibility of conducting gender reassignment surgery is that it is unethical and against morality for a Doctor to remove proper functioning organs of a patient in the name of gender change. It is argued that such actions are against the basics and ethics of medicine as a profession and should therefore not be allowed. The Hippocratic oath undertaken by doctors, physicians, surgeons and other medical practitioners states that the first duty of such professionals is ‘to do no harm.’ It is therefore against the rules of medical practice to remove properly functioning organs of a human being.

The second objection to the morality of gender reassignment is that the concept of sexual or gender reassignment implies that the gender one is born with at birth is capable of being altered through surgery or some other technological means such as the administration of gender reassignment pills. This in itself is a fallacy. The gender of a person is written in their DNA and the same can never be changed through any scientific means. Therefore calling a person born male a ‘woman’ later on in life after them undertaking various surgical operations only amounts to fooling the society.[6]

The use of the words transsexual to describe persons willing to undergo or have undergone the process of gender reassignment means that there is the ability to move one’s sex from that which they were born with to another sex or gender altogether. This comes into play as a result of the perceptions of different people of the words gender and sex. John Money, a controversial American doctor and psychologist who used to champion for the use of gender reassignment surgery came up with the word gender identity which is impliedly a person’s own categorization of themselves as either male or female or alternatively ambivalent.[7] This idea has been picked up by various other theorists who have sought to separate the meanings of sex and gender. They define sex as the biological reality of a person, while gender is the person’s perception or judgment of his social image as to whether he is a man or woman.

The idea of separating gender and sex is flawed in so many different ways because they are essentially one and the same things and are inseparable.


As stated by the Pope, the subject of gender change by technology and surgical means is one that ought to be keenly considered and evaluated. The ethical nature and success of gender reassignment has come into question over time with no permanent stand having been given. While it may be said that it is the right of persons to decide what gender they want to become, the same flies in the face of nature and reality. As a result, there needs to be serious debate on the issue.