On September 20, 2015, a video entitled “I Made Myself Blind: Living With BIID” was uploaded to YouTube by Barcroft TV, a company that specializes in short documentaries about strange but purportedly true stories. This video featured a woman named Jewel Shuping who claimed to have blinded herself using drain cleaner.
Shuping committed this remarkable act of self-mutilation because she suffers from a rare condition called body integrity identity disorder (BIID). People with BIID are whole and normal physically but identify as disabled, and believe they would be happier if they were really disabled. Shuping identified as a blind person, and felt a strong psychological need to be blind. She began researching ways to blind herself. She researched lye, but read that lye was too painful. She next researched drain cleaner, and found out that it was less painful, but would still blind her.
The most troubling aspect of this story is that Shuping did not act alone. She enlisted the aid of an anonymous “psychologist.” This “psychologist” first put two drops of Alcaine, a topical anesthetic, in each eye. Then, after waiting for the numbing agent to take effect, the “psychologist” put two drops of drain cleaner with sulfuric acid in each eye. It burned severely and Shuping was in pain, but she was also pleased: “In the moment, all I could think of was, ‘I’m going blind, it’s going to be okay.”
After waiting half an hour so that the drain cleaner would not be washed out too soon to do permanent damage, the “psychologist” drove Shuping to the hospital and dropped her off. At the hospital, doctors did what they could to save her eyesight.
“The next morning,” Shuping says, “I was joyful until I rolled over on my back, opened my eyes and could see the TV screen. I was so enraged when I thought it hadn’t worked.” But over the course of several months, Shuping claims, the sight in both eyes slowly ebbed away.
“I was so happy. I felt this was who I was supposed to be.”
Shuping claims to have identified as blind from earliest memory. “I first developed the idea that I needed to be blind when I was around six years old. I was told by my mother that if I looked into the sun I’d go blind, so I stared into the sun for hours on end.”
The Psychology of BIID
Dr. Michael First, a professor of clinical psychiatry at Columbia University, is an expert on this disorder. Dr. First coined the term body integrity identity disorder. The condition is not an official diagnosis, is still under discussion, and thus has yet to be added to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, Fifth Edition (DSM-5).
Dr. First states that most people who have this condition suffer quietly, but a few are so obsessed with it that, like Jewel Shuping, they take steps to impose on themselves the disability that they identify with. The condition does not seem to respond to therapy or medication.
Persons with BIID often want their doctors to help them effectuate their desired disability. But is permanent mutilation ethical? Professionals often focus on consent, but can a person who is obviously suffering from a mental illness give effective consent to the permanent mutilation, disfigurement, or disabling of their body?
Dr. First believes such permanent mutilation is ethical. “The ethics of whether it is okay to take a normal person and make them disabled—I think you can make an ethical case for that. If you conceptualize it as treating a condition, then it is okay to do it. . . . I like to encourage people to do what makes them feel better . . .”
I believe it is always inappropriate for professionals to perform permanent bodily alterations on mentally disturbed persons. No sane person should indulge the delusional fancies of the mentally unwell by permanently mutilating them. That professionals like Dr. First believe that permanently disabling a mentally ill patient is “treating a condition” just demonstrates that, in today’s America, the professions are not a source of wisdom or moral authority.
Laws should be enacted making it a criminal violation for anyone to participate in the physical disabling of a mentally ill patient. At a minimum, guidelines and panels should be created to prevent any professional from making a solo decision to mutilate such a patient. No practitioner should be allowed to make such a decision on his own. A panel of at least five practitioners should have to vote to carry out such an operation. If I were a voter on such a committee or panel, I would vote NO! every time, but getting control of this insanity may need to happen in a step-wise, incremental fashion.
The Comparison to “gender dysphoria”
The comparison between a person with “body integrity identity disorder” and someone with “gender dysphoria” is obvious and instructive.
That a person has identified with the other sex from early childhood, it is argued, must mean that they need to have sex re-assignment surgery and are even justified in asking the government—the military for instance—to pay for it. But Jewel Shuping has identified as a blind person since the age of six. Should the government pay for her to be blinded? Suppose someone has identified as a paraplegic since the age of six; should that person be allowed to have surgery to sever their spinal cord at the waist and make them a paraplegic, so that they require assistance and nursing care for the rest of their lives? What about the cost to society of persons who have been intentionally disabled? Should the taxpayers be made to pay for their care?
To even ask these questions is to recognize that we’ve entered a twilight zone of organized societal insanity.
We have been programmed by society to view gender re-assignment surgery as acceptable, whereas most of us recognize the nuttiness of intentionally blinding a sighted person. But is there any crucial difference between these two forms of self-mutilation?
I would argue that it is less insane to accommodate the delusional fancies of someone suffering from BIID than it is to do sex re-assignment surgery on someone who suffers from gender dysphoria. If someone wants to be blinded or crippled, that can certainly be done. By contrast, it is not possible to turn a man into a woman; if you try to do that, you will only end up with a mutilated man who still has XY chromosomes in every cell of his body.
Dr. First states that his greatest fear with, for example, amputating the leg of someone with BIID is that the person will later regret the decision and sue the practitioner who performed the amputation. But people who have undergone gender re-assignment surgery often later regret their decision. Gender dysphoria is no different from BIID where it concerns the possibility of later regret over a drastic, permanent bodily alteration.
Why shouldn’t BIID sufferers become the next cause célèbre of the social justice warriors? Columnist Paul Watson writes, satirically:
Now that the battle for transgender acceptance has been won, pouring drain cleaner in your eyes should be heralded as the next social justice movement, and anyone who questions the logic behind that should be publicly shamed and outed for the intolerant bigot they are.
And yet I do not think this will become the next insane bit of nonsense that the bien pensants tell us it is bigoted to oppose. Why not? Because BIID is not finally about sex.
The Worship of Sex
You see, in today’s post-Christian, neo-pagan value system, sexual fulfillment is the highest value. It thus becomes our right—one of our most important and fiercely protected rights—to do whatever we want, or think we need, to achieve sexual fulfilment. You’re a man who has sex with men? Great, notwithstanding that disease is spread at much higher rates by that lifestyle. You’re a woman and you want to marry another woman? Great, I’ll go get a minister. You’re a man who thinks he’s a woman? Great, I’ll find a surgeon to cut your member off, turn your scrotum into a vagina, and prescribe you female hormones for the rest of your shortened life.
The new paganism makes a god of sex. It is idolatry, in which we worship the created thing rather than God Himself. It is unalterably opposed to the Christian worldview. Those who accept the new paganism are like Jewel Shuping, intentionally blinding themselves because they prefer to live in darkness. “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.” John 3:19
Our sex-worshiping neo-pagan society may deny it, but the truth is that gender re-assignment surgery is just as crazy as having someone squirt Extra-Strength Drano into your eyes.