Wow, this temporary free 2-day shipping deal with my Amazon Prime test membership is really liberating me to purchase books that I have long yearned to buy, but never gotten around to. Today's purchases include two books about conjoined twins [Fearfully and Wonderfully Made and The Lives and Loves of Daisy and Violet Hilton], Sex Changes: Transgender Politics and The Development of Imagination [about paracosms!].
I'm quite curious about Fearfully and Wonderfully Made, the story of Millie-Christine McKoy, conjoined twins who were born into slavery in the US in the 1850s and became well-educated entertainers, dying in 1912. They were treated both as one person and as two. For example, their family called them Sister, but also gave them separate names. From what I recall of Fearfully and Wonderfully Made, they had a joint sense of self, referring to themselves in the first-person plural. I look forward to finding more about Millie and Christine's concepts of their personhood as I read Fearfully and Wonderfully Made.
Conjoined twins fascinate me. In One of Us: Conjoined Twins and the Future of Normal, Alice Dreger actually touches on two of my interests — conjoined twins and trans subjects — by discussing the case of conjoined twin boys who shared a set of genitalia. When they were separated, one boy got the penis and was raised as a boy. The other penisless boy was raised as a girl. I haven't read the book yet, but I'm eager to learn more about these twins, especially since their case addresses both non-consensual separation surgery and non-consensual genital change surgery. [NB: Non-consensual genital change surgery rarely goes well. See David Reimer for details.]
Non-consensual separation surgery and non-consensual genital change surgery both piss me off for the same reason. In both cases, people with abnormal bodies [either conjoined twins or people with ambiguous genitalia] are changed against their will. Guardians and/or medical professionals decide that the conjoined twins and the intersex people must be modified to find societal concepts of personhood. In the case of conjoined twins, they go against our deeply ingrained belief that a single person must have a single body. In the case of intersex people, they go against our deeply ingrained belief that a child's genitals must easily appear to belong to one sex or the other. So we cut them up because we have problems with them, not because they have problems with themselves. We disrespect the autonomy of such people and the self-acceptance that they show in the vast majority of the cases because we get queasy seeing two people share a body or a person possessing ambiguous genitalia. They're not wrong; they have no need to be altered; it's our narrow definitions of personhood that must be changed.