Category Archives: Essay

Personal Update – Liposuction


Some have noticed that I’ve not updated the site for a week. The reason is that this week I underwent liposuction surgery, and have spent a lot of time catching up work and recuperating from the pain. I expect to start making updates from the tremendous amount of backlog I have this week. I have received many original historical photographs and documents via the post over the last few weeks, and am way behind in sharing them.

The sole purpose of the liposuction I underwent was to shape my waist area into much more of a feminine hourglass shape, so one could consider this to be part of my gender transition. I was not excessively chunky there – I weighed about 136 at the time of surgery, and am 5’5″ tall. However, I had a small band of tough fat right at my waist, much of which were lipoliths (literally: fat stones) from insulin injections in my waist area when I was younger. These could not be dieted nor exercised away. As such, it’s the first of four procedures I have outlined in my path to completion.

I’ve actually experienced some “blowback” in the community about even describing liposuction as surgery, solely from folks who have undergone SRS but have never undergone liposuction. To them, it’s not “real enough” and doesn’t qualify in their artificial gender transition “pecking order” which they’ve established. I also received a significant amount of criticism from people who advised me I didn’t need it, I was wasting my money, it was too risky, etc. Some of the same people whom I supported wholeheartedly as they underwent their SRS, hysterectomies, breast augmentation, and breast reductions, did not support my personal cosmetic surgery decision. Several acquaintances have offered not one word of support nor even attempted to contact me to see how I am doing since the day of surgery, something which, excuse my proverbial French, I find to be really shitty – especially when I was there for them when they underwent their surgeries.

Setting aside all that psychodrama, let me just convey some facts about abdominal liposuction. Please note that my experience may not reflect yours, or anyone else’s experience, and is merely a sample size of one for you to consider.

In my opinion, liposuction is not nearly as simple as they advertise it on television. Just because they don’t make huge incisions and don’t put you under general anesthetic doesn’t mean your body doesn’t take a lot of punishment. In fact, I wish I had been under general anesthetic, because it HURT LIKE YOU WOULD NOT BELIEVE during the start of the procedure. Thankfully after about 15 minutes it stopped hurting, mostly, because I either passed out or succumbed to the massive amount of lidocaine they inject into you. Given that I have large memory gaps, I’m assuming the latter.

They start by putting you on the table, fully awake, and injecting lidocaine into the incision areas. This is a minor pain. Within about 2 minutes they made 5 small incisions with a scalpel, about 3-4 mm in length and perhaps that deep as well. Then the rigid cannula is unceremoniously forced through the incisions, and shoved under your skin to start to “pop” it free from the layers underneath. It’s horrifying to watch your skin move and stretch up from you, like a toned-down version of the chest-exploding scene from Alien.

There is a visceral sound and feeling when they tear through what the surgeon called “gristle,” that sounds like popping bubble wrap under your skin – painful bubble wrap. Then comes the inflation, where the tumescent solution is injected under your skin, and you swell until you appear 4 months pregnant. Shortly afterwards, the suction and motion begins, and you can see what looks like an inordinate amount of dark, bloody tissue being removed by the cannula through its clear hose. About at this point there is a large “SCENE MISSING” sign, and although I have brief flashes of events happening, for most of that first day I remember less than a few seconds of time.

Afterwards they stick what are essentially maxi pads and Poise pads over your incisions to soak up the copious amounts of fluid which will drain from you, wrap you in another absorbent bandage, then put you into an industrial-strength Spanx-type bodysuit, THEN wrap you with a tight binder similar to that used by transgender men to compress their chests. This is intended to make your now loose skin adhere to your body, and to help reduce swelling.

This is where the true pain starts, and the first 2 days afterwards, if you get a complete 360-degree waist reduction, it is difficult to impossible to work, even at a sitting job. By 3-4 days afterwards, light activity is possible. I’m in day 6 now, and doing reasonably well, except for great pain from my ribs to my waist, and a lot of swelling.

The depressing thing is that you will have to wear the tight binder for a full week, and it hurts. The bodysuit stays on for a couple of weeks, then you are fitted for a much tighter bodysuit. While this may help slim your figure itself, it’s intended to really squeeze the last of the swelling out of you. In 1-3 months, maybe 6 (!), you can see your full results. It’s not quick, and it’s not easy. Don’t let the slick advertisements fool you. It’s serious stuff and you will hurt.

Knowing what I now know, I would be reluctant to do it again. I think the pain was very under-appreciated at first, and I was not prepared for it. It was made worse by the fact that I cannot take codeine, morphine, or other strong medication, I avoid acetaminophen because of its liver effects, and they don’t allow you to take aspirin or ibuprofen for a week. I begged for some relief, and they let me start taking ibuprofen after 5 days. But for the first 5 days, I had almost no pain killers at all.

All in all they only removed about 1-2 pounds of actual fat from me. When you take into account fat cells which are damaged or dislodged during the process and which will be metabolized soon, I likely only lost 2 pounds out of 136. Liposuction, as they tell you, is NOT a weight-loss method; it’s a shaping method.

If you are thinking of doing it yourself…think hard. Take it seriously, and don’t let the “pecking order” make you dismiss how disruptive and how painful it can be.

Exclusive – Photographs of Transgender Women from Sydney in the 1970’s


A couple of years ago I stumbled across a very interesting book which I managed to purchase for a steal, not realizing how rare it would become. The book is “As a Woman” by Barry Kay, and it is a photographic essay book of transgender women of Sydney, Australia, who were photographed from 1974-1975. Kay, a stage designer who was a fair hand at photography, had many encounters with the Sydney transgender community in the early 1970’s, and he collected photographs which he took of both crossdressers and transsexuals in their private spaces, at home, with friends, at work, and about the town.

The book is made up of 80 photographs of more than 60 different women, all of them in black and white save for a sepia print which makes up the cover photograph. The photographs are often shot with a soft filter or soft focus, which either helps soften the images of the women, or else serves to create an air of gentle unreality to the photographs.

I selected 16 photographs from the book to highlight here on Transas City. Each photograph is scaled for easy display online, but if you right-click and save the file you will see the high-resolution scan.

Barry Kay – Transgender Women of 1970’s Sydney in “As a Woman”

TRANSforming Normal – Book Hopes to Show Different Side of Transgender Community

For 58 years, author Faith Eileen Bryan lived what any reasonable person would call a “normal” life – married, with a family and a career. Faith also was not Faith; she was “John,” the name given to her at birth by parents who never knew their son was really their daughter.

“For me, “normal” was defined in the standard gender binary terms,” says Bryan, author of an upcoming new book, TRANSforming Normal: Ten Stories That Will Change How You See Transgender People. “You were either a boy or a girl.”

Bryan, 61, who came out as transgender in 2012, says society is redefining what is considered normal and acceptable in terms of the growing LGBT presence, and part of that transformation must include how society perceives transgender people.

“I believe there is a general perception that transgender individuals are somehow flawed, not ‘normal’ or in some other way do not make a positive contribution to the social construct,” Bryan says. “This work hopes to portray our community in its most human terms.

“We have careers and families, dreams and hopes like anyone, yet we do this in the face of extraordinary amounts of misinformation, blind hate and ignorance. This is what TRANSforming Normal is about … showing that transgender people are just like anyone.”

The book, projected for Summer 2015 publication, tells the stories of 10 remarkable people who work in a variety of careers: an air traffic controller, a baggage handler, an advertising sales person, a movie director/HIV counselor, a writer, an attorney, a chemical engineer, a beauty pageant director/politician, and a performance artist.

Oh, and they all just happen to be transgender, and all are actively working to advance equal rights for their LGBT sisters and brothers.

“These are vibrant and passionate people who care about others,” says the author. “People need to know that we’re not all drag performers or sex workers. Most of us have jobs, families, mortgages or rent payments, and dreams of something better. In other words, we’re normal human beings.”

Bryan, a former newspaper journalist and editor with 30 years’ experience who now teaches business and management for an online university, says this topic is not widely covered in previous works.

“A substantial body of scholarship exists on this topic that is based in scientific and medical research, and political discourse,” she says, noting there is a growing discussion of the increasing social impact of the transgender community.

“This book seeks to shine a positive light on that aspect of the transgender reality and to help fill the gap in understanding that exists between the societal mainstream and our community,” says the author. “My hope is that my book with help foster understanding where little exists.”

To donate to this project, go to or

To learn more about the author and to read her blog, go to

The Transgender Women of Cuba in Living Color

I recently purchased a wonderful photographic book titled “TransCuba” by New York-based photographer Mariette Patty Allen. The book contains 80 photographs of transgender women and men and the spaces they live and work in within Cuba, and brings to focus in sharp, living color a tiny window into their lives.

The photographs tell a tale of an incredibly strong people, who not only must survive in the third-world conditions of Cuba, but must also survive as transgender people. Unfortunately, most of the subjects happen to be prostitutes, as the discrimination which they face denies them most other occupations. And even in the “Socialist paradise” of Cuba, one must work to have any kind of life over a bare sustenance level, especially if they are supporting a family.

The photographs are reminiscent of those of Christer Strömholm and his photographs of French transwomen prostitutes from the 1950’s and 1960’s, but where in that case the black and white media gave a sense of unreality to the photographs, in this case the bold color of the images does the opposite. I’ve included some samples of the photographs from the book so you can get a feel for the scope and detail of Ms. Allen’s work. You can see them at the link below.

Mariette Pathy Allen – The Transwomen of Cuba

Debi Jackson, Mother Of Transgender Child, Gives Moving Speech

You must watch this video which is part of the Listen to Your Mother series of videos, and features our very own Debi Jackson, contributor to Transas City and a close friend of mine. Her story is incredibly touching, and the video conveys fully the emotions she feels over standing behind her transgender daughter.

Again, you must watch this video and see if you have a dry eye afterwards.

Debi Jackson, Mother Of Transgender Child, Gives Moving Speech.

ESSAY: Some Words of Hope for Those Who Are Older and Must Transition

Essay 1 Guanyin Bodhisattva

Although finally accepting that you are transgender may happen at any time in your life, it is the nature of being transgender that we are seemingly divided into two pools. The first pool consists of the young ones who can for the first time in history make plans for transition before puberty. Guided by loving parents and accepting physicians, transgender youth now have the options to take puberty blockers and to take hormone therapy from a very early age. The benefits of such a path are manifold – not only will most of their bodies develop in-line with their mental gender, but they will have been spared much of the trials of progressing through their years fighting gender dysphoria every step of the way.

But what about the rest of us, most of whom only start to realize with a grim certainty that we will transition, we must transition – but at a slower pace? Being a transwoman in my 40’s I feel this acutely, as do all of my sisters and brothers who are well past their youth. It’s very easy to think wistfully to what was and what will never be, and to mourn the untold losses resulting from maturing in the wrong body. For some the joy of transition and being themselves is overshadowed by their biological clock. They feel as if they are caught in a ticking trap, fearful of growing too old for SRS and knowing they will never again be a youth with clear-skinned smile and lightness of being. This can lead to jealousy and resentment towards the young ones, and what I want to discuss is why that is unwarranted.

Seat in Clouds
“A Seat in the Clouds,” Unknown Artist (1800’s)

Think on these things

We who have been forced to walk in another gender for much of our lives have gained a unique insight into the human condition. We have experienced the innermost details of the other side of life, and we have gained incredible richness from it. Having now accepted and transitioning into your correct gender, or having already transitioned, you now carry with you a knowledge and insight which very few human beings ever will. If you are a woman now, you may carry with you the feeling of being intimately in the company of men. You have seen their bullying and bragging, their contemplative sides, their soft sides on occasion. You may know what it feels like to have a group of close male friends. Late-night talks over beers. The feeling of having male strength and testosterone. The feeling of being automatically privileged – and of having to extend privilege by social convention. Most likely no one ever held a door or a chair for you, but you likely did it for women a hundred times. You know what it’s like to dress like a man, walk like a man, talk like a man. Even if you believe you were always “effeminate,” “an outsider,” and “never felt male,” you cannot but help having male culture and male life washed over you through most of your prior life.

Wait, you say you hated your old gender and life? I understand – believe me, this is one of your sisters talking to you. You can continue to hate the prison you were locked in, it’s OK. But haven’t you also gained a richness of experience and being? Will you not be able to empathize more with your old gender? If you have children of both genders, you now start to see how both of them really feel. You will be able to appreciate co-workers, friends, people on the street better, for you know now what it’s like for men and women. Oh I do not delude myself for a second that I grew up with a “female experience.” I will never know what my first period felt like, nor what it’s like to have a close circle of girlfriends as a teenager. I will not know the quiet desperation of waiting for a boy I have a crush on to ask me to the prom. I will not have had parents who treated me like a girl. Nonetheless, as an adult woman and living the life of such, I have experienced much of what genetic women experience. The small social privileges and the greater business disadvantages. Not only have I faced sexual discrimination, I know what men are saying behind my back. When a chair is held for me, I know what is going through the head of the man helping me into my seat. When I’m at a bar or a party I can recognize instantly the signs of a man who is interested in me, because I know what it feels like to be interested in a woman.

Ecstacy“Ecstasy,” by Maxfield Parrish (1929)

And when it comes down to it, one could choose to spend their lives yearning for that which is impossible – a second chance. Or, one could try to focus on how their past gender has created a greater depth and breadth of experience. We who walk through this life as transgender do not have to drag our past behind us through the mud – rather, we can wear it, underneath and hidden, and soak in the richness.

And do so with pride! Because you who read this right now are a survivor. You, my sister or brother, have survived something which is so destructive with its morbidity and mortality that it can very aptly be compared to cancer. Take ownership of your past, make your past what YOU want it to be – an experience which you carry with you and which makes you a greater spiritual being.


Cover image “Guan Yin Bodhisattva,” by Una, taken 2007.