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Monday, September 8, 2008

CBS Sunday Morning reports on sex reassignment surgery

CBS Sunday Morning presented a feature story on sex reassignment surgery yesterday. It was startling to see the topic presented in that venerable forum. The real story here is the idea that CBS Sunday Morning would present the story at all. CBS Sunday Morning is a revered television show. It is almost 30 years old, rarely heard of in the ratings-driven world of television, and still going strong. With 4.5 million viewers, many of whom are long-time aficionados, it has dominated the Sunday morning market practically forever. Its viewership is high in the 25-to-54 age demographic, which explains why many of the show's sponsors are large, stolid, conservative organizations — pharmaceutical companies, agricultural conglomerates, brokerage houses. The presentation of a segment on sex reassignment surgery to such an audience with such a sponsorship suggests that this is an issue whose time has come.

I was pleased to see the topic presented in the usual optimistic but offbeat tone of the show. It tells the story from the oblique angle of "ho-hum" town residents in what is known colloquially as the "sex change capital of the United States," Trinidad, Colorado. (I say colloquially, because "sex change" is a non-preferred term because of its often-pejorative connotation.) The residents express their amusement at the cast of CBS Sunday Morning because the story is old news from forty years ago, when, in 1969, Dr. Stanley Biber started the first private U.S. clinic in the field, now a venerable institution in Trinidad, Colorado. The chummy mayor and the brotherly pastor were amused by the idea that yet another media outlet is coming to town, expecting to find a salacious new story, and instead finding a very old story in a small Western town where everybody knows their neighbors and "live and let live" is alive and well. They've lived through Giraldo and Oprah and their ilk, and they're like battle-hardened media veterans at this point. Dr. Biber's partner, Dr. Marci Bowers, gives an interesting interview, as do some of her patients, patiently explaining (yet again) the psychology that drives people to sex reassignment surgery.

You can see the video and transcript here.

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