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Free fake penises raise functionality flap

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17:56 CET+01:00
A decision to allow transsexual men in Sweden to get prosthetic penises free of charge from local health authorities has drawn criticism because the prostheses on offer don't get erect.

Starting on January 1st, 2009 transsexual men (men who were born as females but have undergone sex-change operations) will, with a note from a doctor, be able to receive a prosthetic penis from a plastic surgeon at no cost, according to Ottar, a magazine published by the Swedish Association for Sexuality Education (RFSU).

The move is meant to correct what has long been considered a glaring case of gender bias against transsexual men when it comes to the support they receive to help them fit into society following sex change surgery.

While transsexual women have long been eligible for publicly funded wigs, breast implants, and hair removal operations, transsexual men have previously been without any corresponding cosmetic adjustment assistance.

While Cecilia Dhejne, a sexologist and specialist in psychiatry at Karolinska Hospital in the Stockholm suburb of Huddinge, agrees that the measure is an important step forward, she remains critical of the decision because the prosthetic penises cannot be used to urinate and cannot become erect.

“It's easy to think that it's pretty strange to approve prosthetics that can't get erect, because that is after all what penises do—get erections. It would be appropriate to pay for those as well,” she told Ottar.

Swedish health authorities justify their decision to only fund fake penises for cosmetic rather than functional purposes because of regulations which prohibit the use of taxpayer money to pay for products or procedures considered to be sexual aids.

Because, like Viagra, functioning fake penises help sexual performance, they do not qualify for public funds.

Immanuel Brändemo, a lobbyist from Kim, a group which advocates for issues related to gender, identity and diversity, understands the health authorities' argument.

However, he nevertheless feels that transsexual men are getting the short end of the stick when it comes to how the medical community and society view the challenges they face following sex change operations.

“I know girls who even after the operation are met with resistance from their doctors who don't think that they should have a sex life at all. They should be happy to have a sex organ that looks good,” he explained.

“Transsexualism is seen as some sort of disability and 'handicapped' people are still not expected to have a sex life.”

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