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The Identity Clinic

"Become who you are," wrote the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. A century later, millions of people are taking Nietzsche's advice to heart. But instead of turning to philosophy, they are using drugs and surgery.

"I feel like myself again on Paxil," says the woman in advertisements for that antidepressant; so, supposedly, do users of Prozac, Ritalin, Botox, Propecia, Xenical, anabolic steroids, cosmetic surgery, hormone replacement therapy, and sex-reassignment surgery. Even as people undergo dramatic self-transformations, altering their personalities with psychoactive drugs and their bodies with surgery, they describe the transformation as a matter of becoming "who they really are."

"It was only by using steroids," writes the bodybuilder Samuel Fussell, "that I looked on the outside the way I felt on the inside." With sex-reassignment surgery, writes Jan Morris, "I achieved Identity at last." If Nietzsche were alive today, he might be pitching antidepressants for Pfizer.

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