Balian Buschbaum, transsexual FtM
Last weekend I went to my first TG Support Group meeting. (Sounds like AA when putting it like that….) Well, it’s quite far from that, AA I mean. Being transgender ain’t an addiction and we’re not anonymous, at least not in the AA sense. Care, in the case of “coming out”, is and should be taken though.
Well, the group was in a local LGBTQ community center, and being well-received as a person and transgender is an understatement. I never knew “being me” could be that well “understood”, or even better: totally disregarded as irrelevant and simply being considered as a PERSON. It was awesome! I felt like “coming home”.
I’m very thankful to the local gay and lesbian community to extend such a warm embrace. Very often TG people are thrown into the same pot as gays or lesbians, especially by religious communities in disagreement of the “lifestyle”. Well, TG and gay is really not the same thing. Most TG people, from what I can tell and me included, were never active in or drawn towards the gay community. This are totally different issues, the one being “orientation”, the other being “identity”.
Unfortunately the group only meets once a month. I could have stayed longer, made some friends, which I will most definitely next time, but my mind was so freakin’ filled with thoughts and emotions, I just left right after, driving home thinking and thinking and thinking and having tears in my eyes all the way.
There was no greater joy than to sit in a room with people just like you, and be that MTF or FTM or anything other. The term transgender does incorporate a host of gender expressions and identities.
Well, I’m not gonna say much more as, by the way, although open to everyone, whatever is said in the meeting stays there. This sort of privacy is needed and well appreciated. Let me just say one thing… the people there were real, “authentic”, and in some cases the most hilariously funny individuals I ever came across! What a shame on Western society to “keep the good (wo)man down”. – Not to get too philosophical here, but “authenticity”, being who you are, is still not very respected in many ways. “Shut up and agree with the majority” is consciously despised but sub-consciously lived and expected. Not a good thing. Maturity awaits.
Anyway, after having made up my mind concerning transitioning, after having told my closest friends, after having begun my laser hair removal treatment, the next step left my individual existence and went public, by meeting with and identifying with others like me. No greater peace there is! Alone? No way! You won’t believe how many people feel the same! Minority, yes. Singularity, no.
Just a short reflection.
A new Dutch study has shown an increased risk in heart and vascular complications for FtMs on testosterone and an opposite decrease for MtFs on estrogen and testosterone blockers.
The study can be found here.
I have no clue how it would have been to transition when very young or in my teens… let me not muse on that as there are most likely great testimonies out there… but at my age, despite the “hunger for hormones”, there’s really one thing most important: hair removal. And I mean chest and face in particular. You can deal with all those other hair the normal way, be that shaving or waxing or epilating or trying NoNo or whatever else is out there, but those two zones really cut it. I had to look for something permanent.
What comes to mind first? Laser, of course. I think it’s probably the most common permanent hair removal out there. Well, after checking, electrolysis, I was told, is actually the absolute, most perfect hair removal there is, as it kills every single hair dead forever; and it’s less costly per session, BUT it takes forever and you actually do treat every single hair there is! Looking at my hair, this was not an option. So I did choose laser, and I think it was a good choice.
I had my first session just yesterday, and I must say it was rather well done.
Speaking from my own experience only, this is what I gathered from the consultation and first treatment:
1) Laser works best on people with pale skin and dark hair. If you have light skin and blond hair or dark skin and dark hair laser might not work. In that case a consultation is very important. Laser does not work on gray hair at all.
2) Prices differ widely (and I’m speaking as someone who resides in the United States, so I have no idea about European or other countries here). Are the cheap offers bad? I was told not necessarily. You have to ask what kind of laser is used and who performs the procedure. Older lasers might work and offer a cheaper treatment, but not everybody might benefit. The newer, more expensive lasers, and hence treatments, are better. – For me they’re using an “Alex” laser, whatever that means, but it’s pretty high-tech. The laser is programmed according to skin type, hair type, and adjusted to your pain threshold. Yes, pain threshold! You’re being burned. I would compare it to rapid tatooing or putting your skin into an ant-hill. It ain’t bad, the pain doesn’t remain, but it’s not simply ticklish, more like a sun-burn applied at will. The newer lasers also have that “cooling splash” that makes you think someone is spitting on your skin the same moment the laser hits it. – Afterwards you will be receive a lotion, some aloe, and if needed some cortizone for itching. I didn’t itch at all though. Don’t go in the sun afterwards! And if, you have to wear sun-screen with SPF 30 or larger. Why? The sun rays will be attracted to the treated area and brown you quicker. Not good. Stay out of the sun and pale skinned. Don’t go tanning.
3) Full-body treatment, as I scheduled, was set at six treatments, that is six treatments per area. The whole body cannot be done at once. At most 40% of the body can be done at one time because of the light exposure. So, schedule it accordingly. – I chose arms, legs, face, chest, abdomen, and back separately. Takes less time and is less stress on the body. Intervals of the separate areas differ. For legs and arms it’s around ten weeks between treatments, for other areas it might only be six weeks. So all in all, a complete hair removal, if done consecutively, takes about a bit over a year, with follow-ups on those places that might not have responded that well.
4) If the rest of the treatment goes as well as my first treatment it was the very best decision there is. No more shaving!!!
The very first step then of my transition was acknowledging not only to myself, but those I trust the most, that I am transgendered. Secondly, there was the need to see a specialist, a therapist, a counselor. Thirdly, I went for the hair removal. Once you know who you are, once you accept and begin to live it, openly, once those damn hair are gone the way for further considerations is wide open. My opinion, the way I think of it. Hormone hungry? For sure! But changing your chemistry won’t make the biggest difference. Even if I would never get a taste of that missing element I’m way different today than I was just so few months ago. Any transition is scary, but so far I couldn’t have wished for any better time in my entire life!
Hello everybody! Very happy to have been accepted as a writer.
I’ve been wondering if or what I could write for the Transition Guide. Well, the only thing I really can offer is my transition. Why and how a 37-year-old guy decides to become a girl. Maybe it resonates with someone out there and is a help to someone like me. I’m not very far along though, so there won’t be too much advice from me.
After Chelsea Manning, the U.S. soldier and whistleblower, came out as transgendered I read a piece on Huffington Post I believe it was. The title was “Why Now?”, and I thought it made a really nice point. When you’re young, people tell you to wait, as you might change your mind. When you’re my age, people will say, why did you wait that long? And when you’re old, people will say, why bother?
Well, it’s not a bother at all I would say, as it’s not a beauty pageant. Yes, of course I want to look good, and if I would know upfront that I’ll be totally ugly and spotted as a guy a hundred miles away… well, then yes, I might reconsider, but it’s really not about that. I’ve always wanted to live as a girl. I don’t get excited when I dress up, I just dress in the clothes I like, and typically they’re girls’ clothes, because I feel like a girl, and finally want to live as one.
As mentioned, I’m 37, pretty far advanced in years to consider such a drastic change. After all, I have a life, and that life is pretty much a guy’s life, although I’ve been somewhat strange throughout so don’t think I look like an insurance salesman (Nothing wrong with insurance salesmen… so long as they don’t cheat me ;-))
Meeting Hanna has been a surprise, and really been one the best encounters ever. This website she opened, the “Ask A Transsexual” videos… I am utterly grateful and happy!
My name’s Michael, and hopefully soon it will be Michelle. I’ve thought about transitioning ever since I was a teenager, although back then I didn’t really know this was an option. I’m from a small town, rarely saw the city, and there was no internet. I just entertained “strange thoughts” and thought I was really, really weird. The first time it “clicked” was when the internet arrived. I encountered “shemales” and knew within a second that that was me! Yes, that’s what did it!
But I didn’t transition right then and there. It took nearly 20 more years to make that decision! Can you believe that?! – I’m somewhat upset with myself actually. I knew it was what I wanted. Why didn’t I just do it right then, now that I knew? Long story, and I’ll try to piece it together for future posts. I’m also gonna keep you updated on how things are going.
Well, I hope this is helpful to someone out there. Great website! And thanks, Hanna!
Michael / Michelle
Facial Feminization Surgery (FFS) refers to a list of surgical procedures that are performed in order to feminize the male face. These procedures are normally performed on male-to-female transsexuals who wish to feminize their facial features. These procedures are not just limited to the face but often include both alterations to the hairline via hair transplants and also to the neck area such as in a tracheal shave.
First let us consider some of the main differences between the faces of men and women. In general, men tend to have chins that are wider and vertically higher than women. Female chins are usually more pointed, shorter and narrower than males.
Males tend to have a more pronounced jawline than females do in general. This is due to both the angle of the jawline itself and a heavier massetter muscle. This combination of both the angle of the jaw and the heavier massetter muscle gives rise to the classic square jaw look found in many males. Often in men, the area of the forehead just over the eyebrows tends to protrude forwards. This is known as brow bossing. Other differences include females having less nasal prominence than males and their noses sometimes point slightly up. Female noses in general tend to be smaller. Women tend to have lower hairlines than males with less distance between the hairline and the eyebrows. Of course there are males who have low hairlines and women who have big noses. There will always be an overlap between the sexes to a certain extent. Some males will have some feminine facial features while some females will have some masculine facial features. Nevertheless as a general guide, the differences mentioned above are a good indication of the physical differences between the male and female face.
Facial Feminization Surgery really only started in the 1990′s. Prior to this male-to-female transsexuals only had access to regular cosmetic surgery such as a rhinoplasty (nasal surgery) or a face lift. However, these procedures were not going to feminize a masculine face. Things all changed when Dr Douglas Osterhout a maxillofacial surgeon began performing the first facial feminization surgeries in San Francisco in the mid to late 1990′s. He began to offer surgeries directly aimed at the male-to-female transsexual who wished to have surgery to feminize their face. The era of facial feminization surgery was born.
The cost of this surgery was not cheap with costs sometimes extending into tens of thousands of US dollars depending on the amount of work performed. Gradually though other surgeons began to emerge carrying out similar surgeries thus offering the male-to-female transsexual greater choice as regards FFS. Prices came down substantially after 2000 when several Thai surgeons began offering FFS to western patients. The lower costs in Thailand offered FFS at a more affordable rate. Thailand has a higher percentage of visible male-to-female transsexuals than any other nation in the world. Therefore, surgeons specializing in sex reassignment surgery (SRS) and FFS became more prominent in Thailand.
Nowadays there are FFS surgeons all over the world although it is still quite a specialized field of surgery. The number of FFS surgeons is growing but it is still very limited if non-existent in many countries. Therefore, many male-to-female transsexuals have to travel to foreign countries to have their surgery. FFS can be rather extensive surgery depending on the procedures undertaken. Therefore, it is essential that patients remain under the observation of their surgeon for some time after their surgery. This is to ensure there are no complications and that post operative healing is going to plan. All this has to be considered in relation to planning the cost of the surgery and working out how much time will be spent in a clinic under the care of the surgeon.
The first steps that many male-to-female transsexuals usually take before engaging in any facial surgery are hormones and facial hair removal. Female hormones have no effect on male beard growth. Once a beard has developed, it can only be removed by electrolysis. Laser treatments have proven to be ineffective in many cases and so electrolysis remains the standard treatment for beard removal. Female hormones will not change a male’s bony facial structure but they will cause fat to be redistributed towards the upper part of the face. Fat will move away from the lower face and appear more in the area of the cheeks. This will feminize the face to a certain extent. Yet if a male-to-female transsexual has a particularly masculine facial structure then surgery may be necessary in order to obtain a passable female face. This is where FFS can help to feminize the face.
The main procedures usually performed in FFS are chin, jaw and forehead reconstruction. Alterations to the nose, lip and trachea (Adam’s Apple) are also common. Hairline reconstruction by scalp reduction and the use of hair transplantation is also performed on those who have a high hairline and for those who suffer from male pattern baldness. Let us have a look at these procedures in some detail.
In forehead surgery, sometimes shaving the bone alone can reduce brow bossing in the male-to-female transsexual. This depends on certain factors such as the thickness of the bone and the amount of brow bossing. However sometimes part of the forehead has to be removed and reconstructed before being reattached to the rest of the forehead. Forehead surgery has the most scarring of all the FFS procedures. In order to access the forehead a sizeable incision has to be made either in front of the hairline or within it. If an incision is made in front of the hairline then hair can be transplanted to this area to cover the sizeable scar. Of all the FFS procedures forehead surgery is the most major in terms of the work that has to be done and the external scarring that is a consequence of accessing the forehead over the brows.
Jaw surgery is carried out by incisions in the mouth and so no skin incisions are made.
The masseter muscle is reduced and bone is contoured to give a more female type shape. Likewise, chin surgery is also carried out within the mouth without the need for any external excisions. The chin is modified by bony cuts or sometimes a piece of chin is removed in a procedure known as a sliding genioplasty. Unlike forehead surgery, which produces an external scar both jaw and chin surgery, produces no external scarring. Nose surgery can be carried out to reduce the size of the nose
in the male-to-female transsexual. As in jaw and chin surgery all incisions are made on the inside of the nose and so there is no external scarring.
The Adam’s Apple or laryngeal prominence is a protrusion of cartilage in the neck that is bigger in men than in women. In men it is apparent as an obvious lump in the neck. It is an obvious marker of male identity and so it is desirable to have it removed by the male-to-female transsexual. This can be done in a relatively simple procedure called a tracheal shave. A small incision is made in the neck and the cartilage is shaved down.
The lips are also another area that can be modified with FFS. A procedure called a lip lift is available whereby the upper lip can be raised slightly. In females there is a lesser distance between the top of the upper lip and the base of the nose. By making a small incision under the nose and removing a small piece of skin the upper lip is raised thereby bringing it within the normal female range. In conjunction with this procedure lip fillers can be used to enlarge the lips in the male-to-female transsexual. Females usually have fuller lips than men do. Sometimes cheek implants are used as part of FFS surgery. Women tend to have fuller more prominent cheeks than men do.
FFS is a very powerful set of surgical procedures that can help the male-to-female transsexual to transform a face with typical male features to a face with typical female features. Not everyone will need it. Some may only need one or two procedures. Various factors come into play. Some men are obviously more masculine in their facial appearance than others are. Hormones will feminize some male faces more effectively than others. It should be noted that like all surgery it is not without risks. Permanent numbness in the forehead is a potential risk of forehead surgery for example. Dissatisfaction with surgery or non-fatal complications is always a possibility. Like all surgery it should not be entered into lightly. All surgery carries a certain amount of risk. There is also the question of expense. FFS is not cheap and for many male-to-female transsexuals it is a considerable expense.
However, FFS has enabled thousands of male-to-female transsexuals to be able to effectively look like genetically born women at least facially. The human face is probably one of the most important aspects in gender recognition. A woman may have large hands but she will never have an Adam’s Apple. The face is a crucial area in how we are perceived as men or women. Overall FFS has been a huge benefit and a welcome development in recent times for those who have decided to transition from male to female.