In some ways, this entry will be relatively easy, as I’m going to relate how my due diligence on FFS surgeons culminated in my visit to Boston last week. On the other hand, it’s a hard entry because I have developed some opinions of some of my transgendered sisters that are not flattering in the course of this due diligence. I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings or pass any judgment on anyone, as this surgical decision is entirely my own. However, I will make general comments about the way certain transwomen look that will reveal my priorities for myself and my opinion of the role of beauty/glamour in society, and these comments may run counter to your own ideas of beauty. So let me apologize, dear reader, if you are the target of my criticism — I don’t know of any other way to explain my visits with FFS surgeons without bringing up these issues.
I won’t go into all my reasons for seeking some plastic surgery on my face — these reasons are pretty similar to other MTF transsexuals who would like to live a carefree life after transition. I did a virtual FFS (which involves retouching photos in Photoshop) about 10 months ago, and the recommendations of my surgeons overlap Alexandra’s recommendations with only a few gaps. I’m also working on an academic paper about the narrative role of FFS, in case you’re interested.
I had narrowed my surgeons to the top three, Dr. West, Dr. North, and Dr. East. All three have excellent reputations and have many, many fans and followers who swear up and down that their doc is the best in the business. I ruled Dr. West out early because of technique — he’s a big fan of cutting jawbones, removing the offending length or width, then screwing the remaining pieces back together again; the other two surgeons believe in grinding down bones whenever possible, and that appeals to me. Dr. West also the most expensive in the business, not that it matters that much, but I developed an early impression of his maximizing profits rather than maximizing help. There was also just something a little cultish about his followers that turned me off. So when I went to Boston, I was very eager to compare Dr. North and Dr. East by meeting with them individually, listening to their formal talks to the convention, and meeting some of their patients. In fact, the main reason I went to Boston was to make much faster progress on this research project, in addition to the fellowship at the conference.
Friday of the conference was reserved for my private consultations with both doctors. I slept late, got up, cleaned up, repeated what Jason had showed me on my face, and went up to Dr. North’s suite at 11:00 for my consultation. He ushered me into his suite and had me sit on the couch while he directed his minions. Dr. North is a 5′ 8″-ish Chicagoan who is a little chunky but who works out. He’s got a trimmed mustache and wears a nice suit and tie. He does 10 things at once: talking to me, answering his cell phone, flipping through folders, yelling at the door to come in, handing his people a couple of hundreds to get whatever they need to get the operation set up right, ushering me over to the mirror to illustrate a hairline or a muscle, pulling out pictures of his “girls” to show how good he is. He talks of himself and his technique frequently.
Although he listened to my questions, I never felt he understood what I wanted from FFS. I started off feeling a little put off by the steam-engine way he plows ahead and he just made it easier and easier for me to be skeptical. Not only did he want to do what he had written me about, but he volunteered that I ought to have my ears pinned back, one ear shortened, and quite a few other little things done to fix me. He reminded me that he also did boobs and butts. His philosophy is that we can to a lot better for a MTF transsexual than to make them “passable” — we can aim to make them beautiful. He answered all my questions about procedures and techniques and said I ought to come to his presentation that day to get the whole show. “Wouldn’t miss it,” I told him.
And I did just that. Wrote in my room a bit, then went down to one of the ballroom breakout rooms to watch the Dr. N show, where all his “girls” were going to show up as kind of a live before-and-after show. And they did. They reminded me of the Robert Palmer girls in their sameness: augmented cheeks, big eyes, thin necks, perky little noses turned up slightly–which are, by the way, the same recommendations he had for “correcting” my face. Although Dr. N was informative and intelligent, I found myself repulsed, frankly. I don’t want to be a clone, but a regular person. I watched his show until time for my appointment with Dr. East, then slid out the back for a bit.
With the Dr. North medicine show fresh on my mind, I went to the lobby, where I was supposed to meet Dr. East and Kelly, his assistant. They were just emerging from the elevator and I said hi, and they said let’s talk over here, and found a table in the hotel restaurant/bar. A little open, I thought, but we’re all friends here, n’est-ce pas? And while not everyone at the conference was interested in having FFS, there wasn’t a soul who wasn’t interesting in seeing the results of surgery that can make a square-jawed man look like a cisgendered female.
Kelly pulled a skull out of her bag and as she held it before placing it on the restaurant table, she briefly looked a little like Hamlet talking about poor Yorick. Dr. East, a mid-40’s, baby-faced academic from Boston University, had on a Jerry Garcia tie and an off-white dress shirt whose right collar was bent straight up in the air. I wanted to reach out and fix it, but thought better of it in case it was some sort of personality test. Dr. East is the antithesis of Dr. North. After looking at my face and my paperwork, he looked me right in the eye and asked, “What do you want me to do for you?” A question I had not heard from Dr. North, by the way. I told him I wanted to be real, authentic, legitimate, serious, academic, graceful, dignified and believable (with fame and glory and gravitas without gravity, if possible). He said that he could do all those things for me except fame, glory, and gravitas which I’d have to achieve on my own. Most importantly, he didn’t try to sell me anything, seeming to prefer a minimalist approach to Dr. North’s “full-package” approach.
Dr. North had recommended augmenting my cheeks with 3 mm pads screwed into the cheekbone, and I asked Dr. East his opinion. He said he thought that procedure was unnecessary, and said he knew exactly what I was talking about when I mentioned that I had noticed a sameness to North’s patients. As a professor, I said, I want to be taken seriously–he responded by pointing out a couple of his patients in the hotel bar, and they looked nothing like the North girls. After talking for a bit he said I should come see his presentation, which I did a couple of hours later.
Dr. North’s presentation is academic, focusing on the constructed nature of beauty and femininity. He is low-tech, but earnest. He took plenty of swipes at Dr. North and Dr. West, which were all along the nature of “I’m a university researcher and surgeon as opposed to a businessman.” He also made it a point in his presentation to talk about the beauty of the girl next door versus the beauty of a Miss America contestant. Having studied ratios of noses to eyes to foreheads for decades, he said his institution had developed a really good sense of femininity and youth, which are closely related as regards to these mathematical ratios.
Dr. East seems to employ the opposite of salesmanship, falling instead on research and experience. Of course, for someone like me, this approach did a better job at selling me on the idea that he is the right surgeon for the job. Therefore, I stand convinced that the masculine features of my face ought to be dealt with by Dr. East and not Dr. North, a conclusion that was one of the main purposes for going to Boston.