Real life- Real issues

Say NO to SILICONE

I was 19 years old…. young, impressionable and naive about life. I wanted more than anything for my outside to match the woman i was inside. Back when I began to transition, there weren’t a lot of doctors willing to work on transgender girls. So as result, many of us ended up getting illegal silicone injections to get the body modifications that we so desperately desired. Against the advice of all my friends back home in Mississippi, I went and visited a woman in Atlanta named Verna for numerous treatments and injections in my breasts. I was only 19 years old and within a year or two, they were hard and looked more like pecs to me than breasts. I was very naive and thought to myself that if i didn’t like them, that I could just have them taken out. I couldn’t have been more wrong. A few years later, I found myself in Guadalajara, Mexico seeking help from a doctor there to remove the injected silicone and replace it with implants. It was a very painful surgery but the result was quite good for a little while because the implants were on top of my muscle so i couldn’t really see the damage the silicone had done to my body. A few years later, I developed scar tissue and capsular contracture and they started to look and feel hard and misshapen. It was at this time that I sought out a surgeon here in Texas who has become my life saver over the years. I had just moved to Dallas, Texas and went to have a consult with Dr. Peter Raphael at The American Institute for Plastic Surgery to have my breasts done yet again. This is where many more complications began. I had surgery to remove and replace my implants, and the implants were placed under the muscle. After surgery I had indentions in my breasts, and they looked deformed. Over the course of the next year, Dr. Raphael did two revision surgeries on my breasts where he performed liposuction on my abdomen and transferred the fat to my breasts to fill in the dents. It took about a year to get my breasts to look normal which was hard being that i work in show business. I was so happy with the end result though and honestly thought the nightmare was over. Again, I was wrong. As the years passed, I began to get these hard nodules and tumors in both of my breasts. One was so large and bruised that you could see it through my skin. It was very scary and alarming because I didn’t know what was going on in my body. This brings me to June of 2017…. about 15 years since my last breast surgery. I went again and sought out Dr. Raphael for a consultation about my breasts. I go in for the consult and express my desire to replace my implants with smaller ones and this time I told him about my history with silicone injections because I was worried that was what was fueling the tumors. I was right. Dr. Raphael told me it is almost impossible to get all the silicone out of your body once freely injected in and that I had old pieces of silicone that had scar tissue forming around them. He agreed to do the surgery and removed the pieces of silicone left behind and replaced my implants. He never once acted judgmental to me for doing something so stupid, but he did tell me my case was an absolute nightmare once he got into it and that the surgery was very difficult. It was definitely painful on my end, and I was uncomfortable, but I still had no idea what i was in store for. At my one week post op appointment, he examined me and told me i was retaining a lot of fluid. Because of all the fluid, he had to take a huge needle and syringe and drain all the excess fluid from my breasts right there in the office. After he was done draining the fluid, my breasts looked completely deformed. I walked to my car and just starting crying and cried all the way home. Not being a stranger to this problem, he told me it would be 6 – 9 months before he could operate again and do a fat transfer to try to fix the problem and reshape them. For the next 3 months, I had to go to his office every week and have them drain the fluid from my breasts until they finally stopped holding fluid. This was a very hard time in my life because I have always made my living being an entertainer and physical appearance comes into play in show business. My breasts were so deformed that there were production costumes I couldn’t even wear anymore along with the rest of my coworkers because it would show the deformities. My self esteem was at an all time low. I know this all may sound very vapid and vain to a lot of people dealing with life threatening situations…. but it was my situation and very hard and real to me. After several months, I was able to have my first revision surgery. Again, liposuction from the abdomen and transferring the fat to the problem areas in my breasts. The results were good but only improved the situation by about 50%. So here I am back waiting again for several months before I can have another revision surgery. After several months, I just had my 7th breast surgery (3rd one in the past year and a half) on Jan 15, 2019 to try and correct my breast deformities. The results were overall very successful but there were some complications with scar tissue, and he told me I would need one more surgery but would have to wait at least a year because of the scar tissue. This has been emotionally draining, physically painful, and EXPENSIVE. There is, however, a point to me sharing my story and it is not to hear myself complain. I realize better than anyone that this is my own fault and these are the consequences of bad decisions I made when I was younger. I tell my story for the simple reason of keeping others from making the same mistake. It was the biggest mistake I ever made. Even though I made it 20 years ago, I am still paying for it. I know there are others in the same boat because my Dr. told me others have sought him out with the same problem in different parts of their body. What is scary is that this is still happening today even when there are so many other options. I’m one of the lucky ones. There are girls who have lost their lives to illegal silicone injections. It makes me both upset and angry that this is still something that is happening. Please please please listen to my story and don’t make the same mistakes I did. People who are administering illegal silicone injections should be reported to the proper authorities and shut down. I hope my story changes at least one persons mind from making a possibly fatal mistake.

Real life- Real issues

Dating and Doggies … A Trans Moms Story

Just because you can’t have a child doesn’t mean you can’t be a mom.

From an early age, I knew I was a woman. I didn’t always know it would be possible to be her… but, I knew that’s who i was. I knew two other things too: I knew I wanted to be an entertainer of some sort, and I knew I wanted to be a mom. So many folks wouldn’t believe there’s a nurturing and motherly side to me, but there really is. I promise. The mother I ended up being wasn’t the one I dreamed of when I was younger, but it’s been the one I needed to be- and possibly the most rewarding. Sure, I’m sure some of you realize that I’m about to write about being a mom to my wonderful fur-children and guess what? You’re right! So today, I’m going to tell the whole story of how I became the Mom I knew I could be, or rather, the Mom I should be.

What some people don’t know is that I was almost a stepmom in my early 20’s. I transitioned at 18 and by 23 I was already entering my third serious relationship. This one was very different though. He had two young children, 4 and 5 years old. I’ve always loved children (and like I said, i wanted to be a Mom) so this was an exciting first adventure to me. These two kids were a huge part of my life. They lived with us every Friday through Sunday, so I spent a great deal of quality time with them. I became very attached. And later, my ex decided we needed to have a dog. A pug. One of his coworkers had a pug, and he felt like he just had to have one too. I was completely against it! I knew that taking care of a puppy was going to fall on me, and I was not up for the challenge. As usual in this relationship though, I didn’t get my way. But, not getting my way this time ended up being the start of one of the biggest blessings in my life. In June 2001, my eight week old pug, Bobo, joined my forever family and became my first child.

Bobo was a handful from the jump off, but she quickly became my soulmate. The children I was helping co-parent were semi-dependent on me… but not to the same degree this little helpless pug was. I know some people think that comparing a dog to human children is ludicrous… but this is MY story! She was mine. She was with me all week and needed me for every single thing. My ex and I were in the second year of our relationship when we finally broke up. I was heartbroken. Not only was I a young trans woman in a new city and estranged from my family back in Mississippi, but I was having my new family completely ripped away from me. I was devastated. I was in such a bad place I even had to enter therapy for a while. The good news about the breakup, however, was Bobo went with me. If you’d have asked me at the time, I’d have told you that my life was over. But if I’m telling you straight right now, I’m blessed it ended up how it did. I wouldn’t have had it any other way or we would have ended up in doggy divorce court.

Bobo was a super playful and hyper puppy. She rarely calmed down. Everyone kept telling me that I should get her a little brother or sister and that would help her by having someone to always be and play with. Well what happened next was just meant to be. I wasn’t looking for another dog, but I guess you can say it was love at first sight when I saw a tiny little chihuahua with huge ears in the back of a pick up truck in Deep Ellum. I knew immediately he was meant to go home with me. That is how Gus came to be the second love of my life.

The years and years of memories I’ve created with these two is something that I’ll have forever. I’m blessed. I’ve been a mom for the past 18 years, and it’s the best and most rewarding feeling in the world. These weren’t puppys or dogs. They were children.. My children and my babies. And even thought I didn’t know it at the time, these children needed me… and I needed them just as bad. They rescued me from a world of loneliness and were always there for me and loved me no matter what. They loved me at times when I felt like no one else did.

On January 7, 2017, Bobo passed and went over the rainbow bridge to doggy heaven. She had an amazing life. Losing her was definitely one of the hardest things I’ve had to deal with. She left a huge gap in my life. Gus also felt the pain of her loss. He stopped eating and was visibly depressed, so much so that I took him to the vet because I didn’t want this to be one of those situations where you lose one and then the other follows soon after. Eventually we got his depression under control, and I started taking him everywhere with me. I have a big handbag (doggie bag that looks chic) that he completely loves lounging in, so toting him around town is quite easy. He actually just went on his first plane ride last week to Seattle and joined us for a family vacation. He did amazing and went everywhere with us…. except the drag show. I’m sure people see me constantly posting about him on Instagram and Facebook, and that’s because he’s such a central part of my life! He came to live with me at 8 weeks old and will be celebrating his 17th birthday on July 21. I think I’m even going to throw him a birthday party! He deserves it.

So why am I writing this…. Life for a transgender person can be an extremely lonely one. I’ve experienced it all. I’ve been involved with the ones who were ashamed of me, the ones who only saw me as a fantasy, and the ones who treated me like I was lucky they would even have anything to do with me. After everything I’ve been through, the one constant was the relationship I’ve had with my dogs Bobo and Gus. I never thought I would be a mom, but I ended up being a mom not only once, but twice! I love my babies more than anything in this world. So to bring this to a close, don’t ever let another human treat you like shit or less than you deserve. My advice is to get a fur baby and love that angel with everything you have. I think trans parents have the potential to be some of the best parents. It is one of the greatest gifts you can give and the gift you will get in return, that unbreakable love, is something that will change your life. And once you have learned to love and love yourself, you never know when the right person might show up and love you and your child. Trust me.

Real life- Real issues

Transitioning 101

No transgender person has the same “coming out” or transitioning story. There is also no right way or wrong way to transition. My inbox is constantly flooded with questions about how and where to start, and I get these questions from both mtf and ftm trans people. So what I’m going to do today is share some of my experience, give some advice based on those experiences, and even tell where I would have done things different in certain instances.

I never had any doubt in my mind that I was female. It was something I knew at a very early age. My biggest obstacle early on was my family, but I decided to move forward with my transition no matter the cost. I know everyone doesn’t always have that clear of a path in mind, so my first piece of advice is to the find a licensed therapist to talk it through with. If you don’t have insurance or can’t afford to see one, reach out to a local trans of LGBTQ organization and ask for help and guidance. These resources are there to help people and are often under used because people are afraid to ask. I was several years into my transition before I ever sought out any type of counseling, and I wish I would have done that from the very beginning. I know that some things could and would have been better if I have talked things through with a professional and not tried to navigate through it on my own. This is, without a doubt, where i would suggest any person starting their transition begin.

The next step, which is where I pretty much started, is finding a doctor that can prescribe HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy) and monitor your health and progress. I didn’t exactly do this the proper way either. I got my first few prescriptions, but after a while, started buying my hormones on the black market. My go to was estrogen injections that I would get from Mexico. From what I understood, they were the strongest. I was very young and believed pretty much anything anyone told me back then so that was my method of getting estrogen for a few years. Let’s just say my moods and emotions were all over the place. It wasn’t until I moved to Texas in 1999 that I finally got under a doctors care and started doing HRT the right way rather than self medicating. I realize now how important it was for me to be under a doctors care and taking the recommended dosage. Along with taking the recommended dosage, I have a blood test done every year to check my estrogen and testosterone levels to see if my dosage needs to be adjusted in any way. My doctor also does blood work to check and see how my organs are working and holding up….. THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT! You never know what is going on with your body and sometimes the Dr. can see things in a blood test and catch it early. I recently found out after my last visit, that my thyroid is not working properly. This is something new that just happened within the past year. It explains why I have had trouble keeping the pounds off and the fact that I am always tired. My doctor told me that this didn’t happen necessarily because of my HRT and that it was fairly common. I am, however, glad she found it and that I am now on medication for it. I can’t stress the importance of being regular with your HRT and staying under a doctors care. I know so many trans girls that go off and on of HRT and while I am not a doctor, I just don’t think thats good for you.

After talking to a counselor and doctor, the next step I would recommend for a person transitioning from male to female is hair removal. This can be a very long term and embarrassing problem for a lot of us girls, so it is better to just get started on it right from the beginning. This is one of those instances where this is just my advice and is not the only way to do things. I just see so many young trans girls coming out today and rushing their transition. They are already walking around with gigantic breast implants and were never even on HRT for more than a few months. I just think the logical next step after starting HRT is to handle your unwanted facial hair. This is a problem that isn’t going to go away or correct itself. Being on hormones will help in reducing it, but it won’t make it go away. And whatever you do, DO NOT pluck or wax your facial hair. You are just making it worse by doing so. The only methods to get rid of unwanted hair are electrolysis and laser hair removal. My most recent blog post was a comparison piece on electrolysis and laser hair removal and where both can be utilized to reach your hair removal goals. If you have any questions about what is right for you, please refer back to that post.

Now that we have talked to a counselor, gotten under a doctors care, and began hair removal… I would say the transition train has definitely left the building. This is when you might start wanting to consider having your name and gender markers changed. This is one of those things that is not absolutely necessary, but most trans folks enjoy having the peace of mind that when their documents are checked, that they match what they are presenting. I personally never had my name changed. I still go back and forth about it. I honestly love my birth name, and it can go either way so i kept it…..even though I never use it. I am glad, however, that I had my gender marker changed because that can cause problems. Back in 1998 I was detained in Amsterdam for over an hour and a half because my passport said male and the officials there did not believe me even when I told them I was a trans woman. It became a very humiliating spectacle with them trying to prove that it was in fact me that was on the passport. I vowed then to never go through that again, and I’ve been blessed to have never had my gender questioned in any official capacity since that time. It just gives you peace of mind. The process is not hard. You can look the process up online and do it yourself, get a lawyer to do it for about 300, or if you’re in the Dallas area, I have a couple of suggestions for help with gender marker and name changes.

This next part brings us to the surgical part. This is the part where I feel so many young trans people think they need to start and that simply isn’t true. In MY opinion, surgery is something that you start considering once you have built your foundation. You have talked to a counselor. You have begun HRT and began living and presenting as your true gender. Once you have done these things at the very least, then it’s feasible to start thinking about surgery. Surgery is very different for every trans person. For some, wanting SRS before anything else if the most important thing. For a lot of trans men, a mastectomy is their first step. For a lot of trans women, breast implants are a very common first step. There is no right or wrong here except for one thing. Trans women, STAY AWAY FROM ILLEGAL SILICONE INJECTIONS!!!!!!!!! I have been very transparent and vocal about the fact that I had silicone injections at a very early age, and I am still to this day trying to repair the damage that it has done to my body. When I began my transition back in 1995, there were not the medical options that there are today. Today, a trans woman can get breast implants, FFS (Facial Feminization Surgery), body contouring and fat transfer….. there is an endless amount of medical procedures out there to help you become the person you want to be. I wrote an entire blog about Saying No to Silicone, so I am not going to go back into all of that here. But if you have ever even considered getting silicone injections, I beg you to go back and read my blog before doing so. Surgery is something that is very personal to each and every transgender person. Certain things bother us about ourselves, and we naturally want to fix them. I don’t want this post to become vapid so I am going to leave it here at the surgical part. These are all personal choices and vary from person to person. My whole intent with this post was to just kind of give an overview and a little advice on how to start transitioning. I know it can’t be a very scary time in your life. The beginning is most definitely the scariest and hardest…… but it does get better. I always hope I can be of help and never hesitate to reach out to me if you have any questions that I might be able to help with. I love all my trans brothers and sisters.

Real life- Real issues

Electrolysis vs. Laser Hair Removal

One thing both trans and cis gender women struggle with is unwanted hair. Early in my transition, unwanted hair, especially on my face, was one of the biggest obstacles I had to overcome. I was always so self conscious and felt it was a major reason I had trouble “passing” in public. The only thing I could do was wear thick, pancake makeup to cover my face and nobody wants to have that much foundation on first thing in the morning and have it looking like crunch and munch by happy hour. I was lucky to find a very open minded electrolysis back in South Mississippi to begin working on my face when I was 18. I’ll be completely honest, electrolysis now isn’t the most pleasant experience ….but… electrolysis 20 years ago was pure torture. The technology has definitely come a long way… as well as the numbing cream.

I have a unique perspective being that I have two friends in the Dallas area, both at the top of their game in their respective fields of electrology and laser hair removal. I have also personally had both done and on every single part of my body. Yes! I’ve even had it there. During electrolysis, an electrolysis places a tiny probe into each hair follicle, and the energy travels through the probe into the follicle which results in the removal of hair roots by the application of heat using an electric current. Laser hair removal, on the other hand, uses the hair instead of the probe. The light from the laser is attracted to the dark pigment in the hair, so the energy pulls into the hair and travels down it to reach the follicle. It works best on dark coarse hair whereas electrolysis will work on all hair types. Another key difference between in the two is electrolysis is approved by the FDA for permanent hair removal while laser hair removal is approved by the FDA for permanent hair reduction.

I’m going to give an example where both could be very useful. A trans woman transitioning from male to female with thick coarse hair on the face could benefit from utilizing both methods of hair removal. One could start off by doing several sessions of laser hair removal on the face to reduce the amount of hair because laser is going to cover a larger area faster. Even after several laser treatments, there will be hair left behind and some of it could be lighter or finer. This is when it would be great to start regularly seeing an electrolysis to remove the lighter, finer hairs and of course the dark coarse ones left behind. A lot of my facial hair was light and fine for the most part, so electrolysis was the best option for me on my face, and I still go in for touch-ups. I have, however, had great results using laser hair removal on my legs, underarms and bikini area because the hair was darker and coarse. I noticed a significant reduction on my legs after just one treatment of laser hair removal but still will require more treatments before i have the silky smooth legs I’ve always wanted without having to shave them.

Hair removal can be a very sensitive and embarrassing subject to talk about both among trans and cis women. My advice is to do your research and go in for a consultation for each and discuss your needs and expectations and get a treatment plan in place. For those that are in the Dallas Ft Worth area, I have two people I highly recommend for both. For electrolysis, Valerie Jackson at Hair Today Gone Tomorrow is my go to person. You can book a consult and or treatment with her at 682-593-1442. For laser hair removal, the go to guy is William Moore at Advanced Skin Fitness. You can book a consult and or treatment with him at 214-521-5277.