Baptist Medical Center sex reassignment surgery controversy

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The Baptist Medical Center sex reassignment surgery controversy occurred in 1977 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Surgeons at the Baptist Medical Center, a hospital owned by the Southern Baptist Convention, were prohibited from performing sex reassignment surgery.


In 1973, David William Foerster and Charles Reynolds founded the Gender Identity Foundation at the Baptist Medical Center for the purpose of providing care to transgender patients.[1] It was composed of six doctors,[2] including Foerster, Reynolds, Fenton Sanger, and endocrinologist Jonathan Drake.

By 1977, Oklahoma City was one of the major American centers for sex reassignment surgery (SRS) for transsexual people.[3] The number of surgeries rivaled those of Stanley Biber of Trinidad, Colorado.[citation needed] Most of the patients were trans women.[citation needed] The hospital was one of about seven U.S. hospitals offering sex reassignment surgery.[1][3]

The surgical procedures offered by Foerster and Reynolds were essentially the same male to female transsexual sex reassignment procedures pioneered by Georges Burou of Casablanca.[citation needed] Foerster used the penile inversion procedure.[citation needed] The famous transsexual actress and activist Christine Jorgensen came to Oklahoma in the late seventies to have some minor corrective surgery on her surgically created genitals.[citation needed] The Oklahoma team handled Jorgensen's care at this time.[citation needed] The surgical team required patients to pay in full prior to any genital surgeries.[citation needed] Each patient was required to sign a waiver that they would never sue for malpractice if anything went wrong with the SRS procedures.[citation needed]


In July 1977, the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma (a state convention of the Southern Baptist Convention) learned that the Gender Identity Foundation had performed more than fifty SRS procedures.[4] Joe L. Ingram, then the state convention's executive director, issued a moratorium on SRS at Baptist Medical Center, until a final decision could be made.[4]

Gene Garrison, an Oklahoma City pastor who was on the hospital's Board of Directors,[5] supported sex reassignment surgery, calling it "a Christian procedure".[citation needed] He seemed confused about the details, however, believing that post-op trans women could menstruate and get pregnant.[citation needed] Foerster and Reynolds released a statement saying "If Jesus Christ were alive today, undoubtedly he would render help and comfort to the transsexual as he did the leper, the blind and the lame".[2] The hospital's medical staff and lay advisory board voted overwhelmingly to continue allowing SRS.[2] Foerster told the press that "We won't even touch the patients until they have lived as a woman for two years. Our work ranks up there with that of Johns Hopkins."[citation needed] Foerster mentioned that a few transsexual patients treated by the team had committed suicide.[citation needed] In one case, a transman who had cancer committed suicide; Foerster blamed his suicide on the cancer.[citation needed]

Reynolds had his 25-year-old son appear with some post-op trans women at the meeting to decide the fate of the procedures at Baptist Medical Center.[citation needed] Many of Foerster's post-op patients were male to female transsexuals who were in the sex trade.[citation needed] Reynold's son told the Daily Oklahoman newspaper that 'these women are genetically female'.[citation needed] The wife of Foerster told The Daily Oklahoman, "my husband won't abandon these people. One of his latest patients is a psychotherapist from a neighboring state".[citation needed]

On 14 October 1977, the Board of Directors of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma voted 54-2 to ban SRS at Baptist Medical Center.[1][3] Curtis Nigh, a pastor from Midwest City, Oklahoma, opposed the decision.[4] Foerster warned that the vote would cause Baptists to be "viewed as bigoted buffoons".[4] At the time of the decision, Baptist Medical Center had been offering SRS for four years, 50 transsexual people had had SRS there, and another 50 were in the process of transitioning.[1][2][3]

Foerster told the press that "this is a disease probably beginning in early embryonic life best treated by surgical methods".[citation needed] Pastor Curtis Nigh stated to the Daily Oklahoman newspaper that "this is about healing for women who feel trapped in men's bodies".[citation needed] A post-op transsexual patient of Foerster stated to the Oklahoma news media that "I think they do better work here. I know a gal who had surgery in Colorado (performed by Biber) and she ended up having a colostomy. I have everything that a woman has including the sensitivity".[citation needed] The patient then ended with a sexually explicit description of her post op sex life and the functioning of her spongiform clitoris structure.[citation needed]


Foerster and the Gender Identity Foundation appealed, but without success.[citation needed] They then transferred their operation to Oklahoma Memorial Hospital, which had been allowing a small number of SRS procedures.[citation needed] Oklahoma Memorial Hospital ended its SRS program in 1981, leaving no hospital in Oklahoma that provided sex reassignment surgery.[6]

Current situation[edit]

Sex reassignment surgery still occurs in Oklahoma, but the state is not a major center for SRS. Foerster continues to provide SRS for trans women and top and bottom surgery for trans men.[7] A few other doctors, including the Oklahoma Memorial Hospital Gender Reassignment Program, provide FTM top and bottom surgery.[7][8] Most transsexual Oklahomans have their surgery in Colorado or Thailand.[citation needed] In the decades since the controversy, Charles Reynolds has died.[citation needed] Fenton Sanger no longer takes part in SRS procedures.[citation needed]

Both Pastors Gene Garrison[9][10] and Curtis Nigh[11][12] in time left the Southern Baptist convention.[citation needed] Garrison later moved to North Carolina and he died in 2017 at age 85.[13]. Nigh continued his counseling practice[14] but also served on the ministerial staff of the United Methodist congregation 'Church of the Servant' in Oklahoma City until his retirement.[citation needed]

Before retirement, plastic surgeon Foerster was responsible for creating and patenting the foerster clamp used in body piercing.[citation needed] He is now retired from his medical practice and is 81 years of age as of March 2015.[15]


  1. ^ a b c d Jerry Scarbrough (15 October 1977). "Baptists Vote To Ban Sex Change Operations". Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Retrieved 29 December 2009. 
  2. ^ a b c d "Hospital Doctors Defend Sex Changes". The Evening Independent. 13 October 1977. Retrieved 17 December 2009. 
  3. ^ a b c d "Sex changes banned at Baptist hospital" (PDF). Arizona Gay News. 21 October 1977. Archived from the original (PDF) on 17 July 2011. Retrieved 17 December 2009. 
  4. ^ a b c d "Oklahoma Baptists Ban Sex Operations, Study Hospitals" (PDF). Baptist Press. 19 October 1977. Retrieved 17 December 2009. 
  5. ^ "Gene Garrison". Mainstream Oklahoma Baptists. 7 April 1999. Archived from the original on 5 January 2010. Retrieved 18 December 2009. 
  6. ^ "Sex-Switch Surgery Banned". Reading Eagle. 26 January 1981. Retrieved 18 December 2009. 
  7. ^ a b "Transgender Surgeons". Lynn's Place. 2008. Archived from the original on 12 December 2009. Retrieved 18 December 2009. 
  8. ^ "Doctors". S.T.A.G. Archived from the original on 11 June 2010. Retrieved 18 December 2009. 
  9. ^ [1]
  10. ^ [2]
  11. ^ [3]
  12. ^ [4]
  13. ^ [5]
  14. ^ - Note: Nigh is listed as having a license as a Licensed Professiona Counselor and as a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Oklahoma as of October 2017
  15. ^ "Dr. David W. Foerster, MD". Retrieved 19 March 2015.