My Life as a Eunuch

What's a man to do if he doesn't want his balls hanging around? Simple: Just find someone to cut them off.


A few days later, Gelding screens two videos he found amid the chaos of his move. One tape shows a man named Joe being castrated; the other features a man known only as "Danny."

Danny models his crotch for the camera before surgery. "Take a good look guys," he says, "the mistake of nature is about to come off. Where they end up, I could care less. All I know is they are going, in a matter of minutes."

Next he's lying on a table. The camera shot is tight on his penis. Two pairs of gloved hands enter the frame. One pair pulls his scrotum tight while the other injects three shots of anesthetic into it with a syringe -- Gelding says he uses Xylocaine with 2 percent epinephrine to control bleeding. (He won't take credit for the handiwork on display, but it's clear he approves of the technique.)

After the anesthetic takes effect, the hands take up their positions. The pair that held the syringe holds a scalpel. A few short, quick strokes at the scrotum and the skin parts. The hands pick up a pair of scissors and work at freeing the testicle from the inner sack. In a minute, a testicle pops out, dangling on the end of a cord about as thick as a pinkie. After cutting away some surrounding tissue, the cord is ready to be tied off. The gloved hands, now slightly bloody, pick up a needle holder and pass a suture through the cord, tying it off tightly three times. A quick nip in the cord below the sutures brings forth three drops of dark red blood. Some bleeding is to be expected, Gelding says, because it comes from the testicle. A lot of bleeding, however, indicates the sutures aren't tight enough. If the bleeding can't be stopped, "It's time for a trip to the emergency room." The cord is snipped and the gloved hands display the testicle for the camera.

Another way to achieve the same result is with a Burdizzo castrator, essentially a large clamp used to castrate bulls, sheep, or goats without having to cut into the scrotum. Each cord is placed in the jaws of the clamp, which cuts off the blood supply to the testicle. Done correctly, the procedure hurts like hell, says Gelding. "You don't want to hear the scream an adult male makes when he has the sudden realization he should have asked for a local anesthetic instead of being a brave boy." But using the Burdizzo does lessen the risk of infection. The testicles are left inside the scrotum to wither into useless pebbles.

For the record the safest way to get castrated is to pay a visit to Dr. Felix Spector, a kindly, 82-year-old Philadelphia physician who has carved out a very special niche for himself -- he's probably the only doctor in the country who will handle voluntary castrations, very few questions asked. Most balk at removing healthy tissue, believing it to be a violation of the Hippocratic oath -- Do no harm. So, if you want them off and you want a licensed physician wielding the scalpel, Dr. Spector is your man.

"I don't attempt to make up their minds one way or another," Spector says. "They have their minds made up by the time they come to me. I do demand that they be serious about it."

Serious enough to put up a $300, nonrefundable deposit against the $1600 fee. For that you get a guy who performed his first transsexual operation in 1957, knows anatomy, can prescribe real painkillers, and knows what to do if things go wrong.

The procedure takes an hour, and the patient can go home the next day. Spector does about seven orchiectomies a month. "None of my patients has ever had any problems that I know of," he says.

Not surprisingly Dr. Spector frowns on home castrations. "I absolutely speak against such a procedure by someone who doesn't know the anatomy or all the rest of the workings of the body. They can cause great pain, and great danger."


Given the cost of castration, the potential danger, and the fact that most modern cultures consider eunuchs freaks, the obvious question is: Why bother?

Gelding and his brethren have a hard time answering that one. "I've heard a hundred different reasons," Gelding says. "And I always ask, 'Is that it? Is that reason enough to cut off your balls?'"

After several years of counseling would-be castrates, he does make an effort to discern the serious from the frivolous. But as to motive, he knows better than to seek a definitive answer.

"I really don't know," says Bob Capeheart, an amiable 60-year-old from Gainesville who traveled to Mexico in March to have his testicles removed, his penis shortened by four inches, and a new opening made in his urethra. "It just got to the point where I said 'To hell with it, I don't want to put up with it anymore.' I had been thinking about it for a long, long time anyway."

Capeheart is divorced, has two grown children, and works as an automotive technician. Plumbing his subconscious for some Freudian insight into motive is a wild goose chase, because he seems as happy as a schoolboy with his new genital arrangement.

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