A Twin Transitions

National Geographic gives a behind-the-scenes look at gender confirmation surgery

Emmie and Caleb Smith. Via Screenshot, National Geographic.

National Geographic is exploring what it means to grow up transgender, with a documentary called Gender Revolution, which premiers Feb. 8. It also recently put a transgender girl, Avery Jackson, on the cover, believed to be the first time in the publication’s history.

In a nearly nine-minute clip recently published online, National Geographic follows Emmie Smith, 17, and her family as she prepares for, undergoes, and recovers from gender confirmation surgery. Smith came out as transgender to friends and family via a Facebook post a year and a half prior to getting the surgery, in August of last year.

National Geographic writes:

Though she hadn’t initially considered surgery, after a couple of months Emmie had grown frustrated by the tucking and taping required to fit into women’s clothes. That fall, her senior year of high school, she decided to do it.

But waking up after the operation, Emmie felt none of the immediate relief she’d expected. In the recovery room her earbuds played a soothing loop of Bon Iver and Simon and Garfunkel, but it didn’t drown out her disappointment and fear. In retrospect, she thought, hadn’t life before been OK?

It wasn’t until months later, when she was home and could walk and sit again, that Emmie knew she’d made the right choice. “If you’re not living freely that’s time wasted, and I felt my time was wasted pretending to be a boy,” she says. “It was the best decision in my life.”

She comes from a religious family, her mother, Reverend Kate Malin, preaches at a church in their Massachusetts town. A month after Emmie came out, Malin announced the news to the congregation.

“I feel broken much of the time,” she confessed. “I’ve wanted to run away, and I’ve prayed for this child that I would gladly die for, guilty for how much I miss the person I thought was Walker [Emmie’s former name] and everything I thought might be.”

The members of the church showed support right away. She also appears to have the support of her family.

Commenting on the notoriety that might come her way as a result of this media attention she had this to say:

It’s strange, she says, knowing that her future classmates may watch Johnson’s film and learn the most intimate details of her life. She’s hopeful that her participation will evolve the public’s understanding of gender reassignment surgery. “It’s not science fiction or mythology,” Emmie says. “It’s what happens to women just trying to be at peace with themselves and their bodies.”

Watch the video below.

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9 Comments

  • Danny279

    “Gender confirmation surgery”? Aren’t trans activists constantly telling us that you can’t confirm someone’s gender by reference to their genitals?

  • kille310

    @Danny279: Look, if theres one thing i learned from trans activist is that every single one of them lives in their own world with different rules, language and ideias. They dont care about consistency or facts, the only thing that matters is what they fell inside at that moment. Gender reassignment surgery or gender confirmation surgery, its an elective surgery this ppl perform, nothing else.

  • sweetbrandigirl2004

    @kille310: The need of gender confirmation surgery is DIFFERENT for each individual based on the severity of their gender dysphoria. For some people with less dysphoria the surgery isn’t a big deal but for other with severe dysphoria the surgery is neccassary to cure thier dysphoria and left them feel whole and complete.

  • bbg372

    @Danny279: Exactly right. If gender and sex exist independently, then changes to one do not necessarily affect the other. For example, if one identifies as the gender that corresponds to the opposite sex but has no desire to physically transition, then cosmetically altering his sex would not confirm his gender in any way. Referring to sex reassignment as “gender confirmation,” effectively states that the gender identity of the person in the example is not legitimate.

  • dwes09

    @Danny279: ‘”Gender confirmation surgery”? Aren’t trans activists constantly telling us that you can’t confirm someone’s gender by reference to their genitals?’

    What trans activists are trying to tell us is that sexual equipment at birth does not confirm self-perceived gender in some people. Are you intentionally trying to be disingenuous in your comment to diminish the reality of transgender people’s experience? How is this any different from the “religious right” trying to tell us our experience of ourselves is not true?

    Seems pretty clear to me that in this case the name is given to the surgery so as to achieve confirmation between the individuals experienced gender and their physical appearance.

    I don’t make any claim to understand the experience of gender dysphoria, but the name given to the surgery and the quotes from the Geographic article seemed immediately understandable to me so I have to assume you are simply resorting to the classic dissembling of the right.

  • IDoNotHaveToAgreeWithYou

    @dwes09: And some people think they are jesus but can’t none of them walk on water. The problem isn’t the body, it’s the crazy wrapped up in it. So why are the rest of us expected to lie to suit them?

  • icntblvit

    WOW! If every body could have a mom like that.

  • Desert Eagle

    The need to have gender confirmation surgery only confirms a transwoman is really a man and a transman is really a woman, just like their dna says they were born and will someday die. Cosmetic surgery doesn’t make a person something they weren’t at birth. It only gives the allusion of being the oppodite gender. That is why trans people refer to themselces as “trans-” rather then just the gender they “transition” to, man or woman. They know. They know they are really still the gender they were biologically and physically born. Hormones and plastic surgery creates a feminiized man or a masuclinized woman. Basically, a freak of medical science. But not someone of a different gender.

  • snowfallisfun

    Transexuals are mutilated gays and lesbians. I don’t care what others say but mutilating a man or woman to make them fake members of opposite sex is gay/lesbian. And gay/lesbian groups are apologists for Transexuals which is why the word T is there. They must abolish this surgical mutilation.

    Finally, sex change maimings which is mutilating some1 to make them fake members of opposite sex is comparable to trying to make a man a fake animal because he thinks he is an animal trapped in a human body. Most feminists are not speaking against this. 1 would hope that feminists would oppose the mutilation that happened to Chastity Sun Bono as feminists have spoken against Female Genital Mutilation which happens in some nations. Transexuals are mutilations which no Dr. should take part in, yet most feminists are not condemning this female genital and breast mutilation as what happened to Chastity S. Bono where her healthy breasts were mutilated, dangerous hormone shots and her genitals mutilated.

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