I have always considered myself lucky having spent most of my life in New York, a city that celebrates diversity, culturally and sexually. As a result, the LGBTQ rights movement has never been a foreign subject to me, especially over the course of the past ten years in which several milestones were made in the U.S. and New York in particular, for the LGBTQ community including nationwide legalization of same-sex marriage, acceptance for LGBTQ identifying people in the military, the rise of transgender rights, and an increase in talk and buzz about transitioning celebrities, particularly Caitlyn Jenner (formerly known as Bruce Jenner, known for her Olympic decathlon gold medal win in 1976 and as the father of the Kardashian sisters on the hit reality TV show ‘Keeping Up With The Kardashians’).
Over the past few years I’ve come to realize that there are a few people that I grew up with (some of which I don’t even know anymore) who have — or are in the process of transitioning. Seeing the process from an outside perspective made me wonder what it must be like from their perspective. I know that for many of them the journey is a long and hard one, from coming out, to accepting the often negative responses from loved ones, and at the same time going through a ton of physical changes. I have no problem with it and I believe that everyone should do what makes them happy. I know what it’s like to watch someone grow through their transition, but what is it like for the person actually transitioning?
Gender change can take an enormous emotional toll on the individual transitioning, based alone on the feedback that they receive from the public. In her “Vanity Fair” interview Caitlyn Jenner commented on some of the negative feedback she had received from the public about how she was “only transitioning for publicity and attention”. Her response was “You don’t go out and change your gender for a television show”.
The sad truth is, that being transgender still is not accepted by everyone, making it incredibly difficult and stressful for many in the process of transitioning. I spoke to my friend, who had transitioned from female to male, about it. He told me that he always knew but didn’t feel comfortable transitioning until he got older because it was always something that seemed wrong and taboo, even though he was always surrounded by open-minded people.
When Caitlyn Jenner first transitioned, not only did she go through a profusion of personal emotional and physical changes, but also had to deal with millions of people watching. I will never know what that feels like, but I can only imagine that the process is both exciting and freeing as well as terrifying and intimidating.
Of course, being who she is, Caitlyn had a team of amazing plastic surgeons to transform her into the woman she is today, but what kind of procedures are typical for this kind of transformation? Are some more popular than others, or is it based off of personal preference and whatever it is that makes the individual feel like themselves? Aside from the obvious social and emotional changes that these individuals go through, there must be (at least for some) a fear of one of their surgeries going wrong, or not turning out the way they expected, right? I also found a more detailed explanation about plastic surgery procedures on this resource.
First let’s go over the most obvious male to female transitioning procedures (and this is from my perspective only — everyone is different and what I may think would be the obvious go-to procedure may not be the same for someone else).
The two main things that stand out to me are breast augmentation and a vaginoplasty. Both procedures are surgical and require several weeks of downtime, however, are fairly common and have been around for a long time (breast implants were invented in the 1960s and vaginoplasties were invented in the 1950s).
Even though those two procedures were the first thing that came to mind, if we take a look at an article written by Diana Tourjée, a transgender female who goes into detail about her transition from male to female and accompanying procedures, it becomes obvious that genitals and body contouring aren’t necessarily the main focus for everyone. In her article, Diana mentions how she spends “more time talking to my girlfriends about face work and breast augmentation than getting a vagina,” which makes perfect sense to me as these features, and perhaps a big bootie to match the curvy bust, are ones that really stand out to the general public.
Aside from that, I suppose it is also the simple fact that for Diana personally, her face was the main area that she focused on, which confirms that everyone is different and there isn’t a general “one size fits all” type of transition. What does it mean to look and feel like a woman? Where do you see your femininity? Everyone will have slightly different answers to those questions.
What it means to feel like a woman is different for everyone, but touching on the topic of facial procedures in male to female transitions, there are quite a few that actually don’t require any surgery at all.
Twenty-three year old Khanh An who transitioned from male to female explained in an interview that in addition to several other procedures, she got botox in her face to make it look more feminine. She also got a vaginoplasty and said that “it was a difficult and dangerous operation”, but also knew that she couldn’t reject her past, but would live a better life in the body of a woman. Botox works by relaxing the muscle in which it is injected, reducing wrinkles, and, in this case, slimming down the jawline.
There are obviously several surgical procedures to contour the face, like rhinoplasties, facelifts, cheek implants, and other facial feminization surgeries. Many of these areas can also be addressed with dermal fillers, if you are someone who wants to go with the less invasive route.
There are a few different kinds of dermal fillers, some, like hyaluronic acids, that are more commonly used in the face, and some, like sculptra, that are more commonly used in the butt.
You can get facial fillers for almost anything, under eyes, cheeks, chin, jaw, nose, lips, and even your forehead. I’m sure that all this also depends on each individual’s face, and again, what stands out the most to them.
Sculptra can also be used in the face, but seems to be more common in the buttocks. It works by stimulating your own collagen production to grow whatever area is injected with it. Unlike the fillers I mentioned above, sculptra takes up to two or three months to show results, since the collagen is produced over time. I was kind of surprised to see that statistics on this one, because I assumed that butt implants (that give you immediate results) would be more popular. But according to national plastic surgery statistics, there were only 1,179 butt implants administered in the U.S. in 2020, compared to a whopping 134,123 sculptra procedures!
I would be interested to learn if these minimally invasive and non surgical options are becoming more popular because they have less possible risks and side effects, or because they are generally more natural and dissolve over time, making maintenance and upkeep easier. With sculptra for example, the results are supposed to last up to three or four years until you need to get more to fill out the area again, while with butt implants you have your results for about ten years before you need to follow up on them, but if you do need to get them fixed, it requires a whole other surgery. I found more useful information about the Sculptra butt lift procedure by going to this site.
The main reason I’m interested in this topic is because I think it’s important to stay educated and try to understand what the people around you are experiencing. Living in New York, there is a large LGBTQ community, which means that it is something that I am surrounded with every day. Every now and then I overhear conversations about the topic, sometimes involving judgement and hate towards the transgender community. For me it is primarily about being considerate and hopefully also being able to educate others on topics that they wouldn’t personally explore.