My eyes change from hazel to blue to green depending on the amount of sunlight shining in them and the reflective color of the shirt I am wearing.  My lovely and beautiful wife has constant caramel eyes that I would eat like toffee if I were allowed.  Imagine my dismay when I learned yesterday that a doctor in California has a new laser procedure to permanently remove the brown from brown eyes:

Dr. Gregg Homer at Stroma Medical in California announced on KTLA-TV that he had come up with a laser procedure that removes the brown pigment, known as melanin, in the iris. Once removed, the blue color underneath is revealed, giving the person blue eyes. Homer said the procedure takes about 20 seconds.

“We use a laser that’s tuned to a specific frequency to remove the pigment from the surface of the iris,” he told KTLA.
The change is irreversible because, once removed, the melanin cannot grow back.

I’m glad there is some sensibility being brought to bear in this silliness over eye color:

Lasering the iris to destroy the brown pigment to turn it blue is “probably risky,” Dr. Robert Cykiert, associate professor of ophthalmology at NYU Langone Medical Center, told ABCNews.com.

“When you burn the brown pigment away with a laser, the debris that is created in the front of the eye — think of it as ashes resulting from burning anything — is likely to clog up the microscopic channels in the front of the eye, known as trabecular meshwork,” said Cykiert. “[It] is very likely to cause a high pressure in the eye, known as glaucoma.”

What happens if the “revealed blue” is not a preferred color?  There’s no way to go back to the original brown.  You’re stuck with the luck of your laser draw and that’s discomforting and scary.

This issue of preferred eye color, light over dark, in the undertow of our current society, has an undeniable Racist river running through it as I am reminded of an article I wrote in Urban Semiotic on November 13, 2007 called — Black Rage and the Bluest Eye

Is it Racist to label any sort of rage as “Black” to indicate internalized self-loathing? Does a blue eye have greater effect and higher status in society than a brown one? If eyes are the windows of the soul, do you believe the purchase and use of contacts lenses that change your eye color indicate self-hatred and a secret solution to overcoming branding by eye color? What do you make of this color chart for colored contact lenses?

Does it suggest satisfaction with the self or does it point to discontent with natural eye color?

Our eyes define us.  We should keep them the color they are without irreversibly changing their hue — and cry! — with laser treatment.  Our eye color is also a legal part of us used in government identification forms like driver licenses and passports.  How quickly will the criminal element adopt this laser procedure to remove an incriminating brown eye color and replace it with a more innocent blue?

Now, if the laser treatment could turn brown eyes red or hot pink or bright purple or neon orange or some other outrageous cartoon color — then I’d be all for that procedure because it would make it clear that the surgery was done to persecute instead of persuade.

6 Comments

  1. Hi,

    I’m the founder of Stroma and the inventor of its laser eye color procedure. We appreciate (and share) the cautiousness of both physicians and the press regarding safety, but with that caution has come some misinformation about the risk of glaucoma associated with our procedure. To help clarify the issue, we’ve posted a paper at http://www.stromamedical.com/Public_Papers/Glaucoma.pdf. And rest assured, we will not release our product unless and until it has been extensively tested, and our internal board of physicians are satisfied that it is safe.

    Best,
    Gregg Homer, JSD (PhD)