THE doctors decided that Viktor would be a girl, and at six months old they removed his penis. But Viktor was born a boy, and was never a girl. This evening he is Eias’ trump card on the latest Brainwashing.
“That they could do something like that to a small child. A defenseless little child. I am speechless,” Viktor told Dagbladet.
All people experience in their lifetime what it is like to be exposed to injustice. Viktor was exposed to something that is not so easy to wrap your head around: they tried to turn him into a girl. It was not until he was 16 that he was even made aware of it.
This evening is the last program in the [Norwegian television] series Brainwashing in which Viktor is interviewed by Harald Eia. One of the main themes in the series has been that boys and girls are not born the same, and this has led to a rare heated debate. Harald Eia said this evening that Viktor is an illustration of what the consequences might be if you do not take into account one’s innate sense of self.
Dead at 6 Months
“I never felt like a girl. When I was little I played with boy’s stuff, and had male friends. Very early I had an imaginary friend, Patric, a male figure who has constantly there for me as a role model. He gave me the motivation to live,” said Viktor and added “I usually say I died when I was six months old, but the Patric figure stuck with me as a standard for the man I would once be. And with today’s surgery, that has largely come true. I feel like I’m 90 percent back to being a man, and the doctors say I will reach 95 percent. I do not know what the last 5 percent is. Perhaps it is psychological,” he said.
Viktor’s story is about the injustice done to him, and against thousands of other children around the world. Probably it also says something about innate gender differences.
Viktor into Viktoria
VIKTOR was born in a country in South America in the middle of the 80s.
“For some reason I was left outside a hospital. There I was found by a nurse, and quite soon it became clear that I was malnourished and that there were complications down there,” says Viktor.
Hospital tests performed showed that Viktor was a boy with testicles intact, but the external genitalia were underdeveloped. Medical practice at the time was that children who were born with unclear sex were operated on and assigned the gender that was the easiest for surgery. The doctors decided to turn Viktor into Viktoria.
The method was based on the work of psychologist John Money. In 1972 he became world famous by claiming to prove that it did not matter what gender children were surgically assigned, because it was society that formed one’s gender identity. If you were a boy, but were operated on and raised with dolls, baby carriages and doll houses, you would become a girl. It was not until 1997 that the truth behind the Money’s work was revealed.
In the meantime, 15,000 children worldwide have been treated using Money’s theories, one of them Viktor. Isolated At the orphanage in South America Viktor was left to himself because of his special condition. From the age of one to two, he was more and more isolated. At three, Viktor was adopted in Norway where the treatments continued according to Money’s model.
“It must have been terrible for my parents too. They had to keep the truth hidden from me,” said Viktor.
When he was 6 years old, he was admitted to the National Hospital for Cosmetic Surgery, and afterward he met a doctor and child psychiatrist Trond H. Diseth for the first time. Diseth asked him to draw himself.
“Then I drew a boy with a big penis and explained the story behind the drawing to Diseth: that the penis had to be cut off, and that the boy died. The penis and the boy were buried separately. All the people came to the penis’s funeral, but not the boy’s,” Viktor told Dagbladet.
Viktor has big problems with looking at pictures from his childhood when he was dressed in female clothing. When he approached his teens, he became very depressed and at one point he tried to take his life.
“At home, I had a terrible temper, which led to severe conflicts that could get out of control. Out among people I was an introvert, who did not take part in what the other children did.”
When Money was unmasked in 1997, child psychiatrist Diseth had long been critical of his treatment program – and had met a number of people with similar fates to Viktor’s.
DISETH says in the book Born that way or become that way, the book about the television series Brainwashing that he felt the time was ripe to reevaluate this. He used the story of Viktor/Viktoria in his medical doctorate, and in the course of the year, changed the Norwegian medical profession’s treatment program for children with unclear sex.
Diseth and Viktor’s parents had decided to wait until he was mature enough to tell him the truth.
“When I was 16 we went to the hospital and slowly but surely Diseth told me my life story. It took almost six years before I fully realized that I was actually a man,” says Viktor calmly. They stopped the treatment, and later Viktor was prescribed hormones to return to his original self.
“I’m glad that those who receive treatment currently do not have to go through the hell I’ve experienced.
TODAY Viktor has a job, his own apartment – and feels he has begun to make up for lost time.
“I have friends, family, interests. A friend of mine told me a couple of years ago: “Imagine that you are Viktoria, and meet Viktor.” That made me look squarely into myself: just think how I live now. I’m actually incredibly strong. That has become indelibly part of me.
“For it sounds very strange that I should use my experience as something positive. I will probably never totally get over it, but I try to learn to live with it so I can see a little light in my world. Telling Dagbladet and Brainwashing his story this evening is a way to use these experiences in a positive way.”
“If this can help others,” said Viktor and continues: “There are others who have experienced difficult things in life. There are many who have a story they carry about. It’s like a backpack. There are many different ones and there are many ways we carry them.”
Curtis E. Hinkle, OII