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At 42, when the medical industry told me I could be born again, male, I believed them.
I awoke confused. Where was I? What happened, and why was I lying on the bathroom floor soaked in urine mixed with blood?
As I wiped the urine from the inside of my legs, I reached for something to help me to my feet, still unaware of where I was. Too weak to stand alone, I leaned forward onto the countertop for stability and looked into the mirror. Who was this middle-aged man staring back at me? Where was Kellie? Where did I go? What had I become? I felt Kellie on the inside, but within a matter of months, who I was was gone.
Shaking my head to alleviate the pain and disorientation I was experiencing, it all flashed back. I turned to the toilet. I was there. I had passed out again from the pain of having six inches of bacteria infected hair on the inside of my urethra. This time, the infection was so severe that I had a silicon tube placed in my arm to deliver IV antibiotics. Every morning I awoke to the pain. It took everything I had to get dressed for work, hobble to my car, enter the hospital, and receive my IV antibiotics. Survival itself became a struggle.
Just 15 months prior, I had undergone a phalloplasty, a female-to-male bottom surgery in which doctors created a phallo using skin harvested from the arms and legs. This marked the sixth surgery I’d undergone within two years. It was the most traumatic of them all, and I’d begun to endure the crippling pain associated with the side effects of a surgery I was told would be routine.
Yet, despite the dangers of such serious medical procedures, surgeons who enter the field of transgender surgery need little to no specialized training. Doctors looking to expand their horizons can essentially make a trip to the local OfficeMax and have a sign made saying, “Transgender Surgeon,” hang it on the door, and – poof! – the transgender craze will supply them with a line of patients begging for surgery. Instantly, they have insurance companies approving $50,000 procedures with profit margins mirroring brain surgery – no questions asked. These surgeons have the LGBTQ Force Shield to protect them from any criticism as well as an army of activists to rationalize any negative publicity as “transphobia.” These unqualified surgeons hide behind LGBTQ ideology to dodge medical malpractice cases because transgender surgery is considered experimental; and without a set baseline to compare results, lawsuits are almost impossible.
Many top-rated surgeons in the world refuse to conduct transgender bottom surgeries, not because of bigotry, but because they know the risks associated with an elective surgery marred by an incredibly high complication rate. However, for surgeons accustomed to making $300,000 a year for appendectomies and other less complicated procedures, the allure of increasing their salary instantly by performing ‘gender affirmation’ surgeries can often be impossible to resist. And as I experienced, many of the doctors taking part in these surgeries are content to ignore the complications associated with them as long as the money keeps coming in.
The complications associated with my surgery have re-written the date on my tombstone. I have shortened my life with this decision, and I think about my future grandchildren every day, knowing I may never meet them. I ache for them, and in my head I’m constantly saying, “I’m sorry my babies and future grandbabies. I’m so, so sorry.”
I remember the indoctrination and the unease as I began the surgery roller coasters, and when looking back, embarrassment falls upon me. How could I have been so stupid at 42 years old? As I deal with and try to recover from PTSD, I can still vividly recall the start of it all.
My eyes felt heavy, but the bright white walls of the surgery clinic kept me alert as the IV drugs started to take the edge off.
“You’ll be fine,” my fiance Lynette said, but something inside me told me differently. Something inside me screamed at me to leap off the gurney as the nurse began to unlock my hospital bed to wheel me into the operating room. Lynette could see I was anxious and squeezed my hand harder. The gesture comforted me, but deep down, I felt troubled that she was so eager to see me wheeled into the surgery room. I wished I had more time to talk to her, but instead it was all a whirlwind. I wanted to tell her my fears, but instead, I smiled at her, hoping that at any moment she would say, “Baby, I know you are doing this for me, and you don’t have to, because I will love you anyway, just the way you are.”
Minutes seemed like hours as the terror grew inside me. Until all at once it hit me, and I tried to lift my body to protest and say, “Stop, this is wrong!” But it was too late. Neither Lynette nor I said anything. By the time I came to my senses, the drugs had taken over.
The last thing I felt was the piercing cold of the metal operating table as the anesthesiologist said, “Count down from 100, sir.” I attempted to muster enough strength to say, “Wait, I’m not a sir. This is wrong.” But all I emitted was the inaudible flicker of my eyelids fighting to stay awake, as my mind raced. I wanted them to stop, then it all faded to black.
At the time of the surgery, it had been only two-and-a-half months since I started taking testosterone shots, but a transformation had already begun taking place. Almost instantly, my usual self-assurance — one of the critical components that made me an ultra-successful business sales executive — was slipping from me. I wondered why. My confidence and cocky air made people look up when I spoke at a sales presentation; I commanded attention. It was my sincerity, though, that made me different.
My decline in confidence started almost immediately after my first injection of testosterone, and it took several months to realize that I had stepped back in conversations. In sales meetings, I stopped raising my hand, inquiring about strategies, and fighting for accounts; I wanted to get in and out without too much noise. That was not who I was, and it confused me.
The reality was that, even though I had dreamed of having been born a male, thinking of how much easier my life would have been, I was not a male. Throughout my life, I dug deep, trying to develop a fondness for who I was, and it took a long time to begin the process of accepting myself. I dreamt of being the “ultra” boy my father wanted, the “King” in our family who would have had it all. I would have been the alpha male placed upon a pedestal decorated with footballs, motorcycles, money, attention, dirt, and everything else I loved.
Instead, who I really was became accepted, not celebrated, and I was painfully aware of that. I worked hard over the years, though, but despite finally starting to embrace my uniqueness, I was unable to resist the fantasy of what I was told medical transition could accomplish. The complications and hurdles were skimmed over, and my embrace of what I thought was self acceptance was not established enough to fight the dream I had played in my mind constantly as a child. The idea of fitting into a puzzle that I felt was always denied to me was something I couldn’t shake.
At 42, when the medical industry told me I could be born again, male, I believed them.
Within two-and-a-half months of testosterone treatment, pronouns were changing, people at work started to stare, and I was painfully aware. I began doubting myself and felt held back. I wanted to talk to Lynette, but she wrapped herself up in what my transition did for us as a couple, which supposedly fixed everything on paper. There was also nothing available to help me – on the internet, in books, or in Youtube videos – that detailed the emotional side of transitioning. Only joyful transgender people who’d been magically transformed could be found.
I was surprised at how quickly I was able to push the transition process along, considering the fact that I had only been on testosterone for a short period of time. It didn’t seem to matter to the medical professionals; they were all too eager to continue with the procedures and swipe the credit card.
The happy, lighthearted salesmanship of “medical transition” and its blunt reality don’t match up. Doctors and medical transition proponents don’t prepare you for transition-related post-traumatic stress disorders; they don’t mention post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or any of the multiple hardships because it is considered transphobic.
I want to tell my story so that others can hear what the medical industry is too afraid to say out loud: That gender transition surgery is not the magical solution that doctors, the media, and culture describe.
I learned from this experience that human beings can be convinced of anything if rendered at the right time, the right way, and by the right people, and I am no exception. Now, I want to protect others from the same lies that I fell for. Because the truth is worth it.
Scott Newgent is an author, activist and founder of TReVoices, which advocates for the end of childhood gender transitioning.