Looks like I will be getting an upgraded face. If we believe the surgeon, I’ll still (generally) look like myself. But better maybe?
I’ve known about the existence of Facial Feminization Surgery (FFS) for about a decade. Once it entered my consciousness I have secretly dreamed of it for myself. But the tens of thousands of dollars out-of-pocket cost put it outside my realm of possibility. The idea of trying to save for something like that was impossibly Herculean and depressing. I tried to put it out of my mind and make the best of what I have to work with.
The financial obstacle was removed this year by our HMO, Kaiser Permanente.
For years, my husband and I avoided joining the HMO. We heard nothing but horror stories about the care at Kaiser. Even though I wasn’t getting trans-proficient care through my PPO during 2013-2015, I liked my doctor and we were working through it together. I had no idea what I might be up against trying to find a new doctor in a new healthcare system. So, we paid extra for access to our own doctors. That choice was no longer tenable at the end of 2015. On January 1, we joined Kaiser and hoped for the best. I assumed I would have to travel the 40 miles to San Francisco to find a doctor familiar with trans care. I thought there was no way I could expect anything better at Kaiser in our immediate area than the care I was already receiving.
What I didn’t know, and have spent all of 2016 exploring, is that Kaiser Permanente is wayyyyyyyy ahead of the curve in transgender care. In fact, I now have a primary care doctor I consider the best I’ve ever had. Kaiser is still finding their way, so not everything has been perfect. But they are committed to trans people in a way I never expected.
Mid-year, I was informed Kaiser was moving forward with Facial Feminization Surgery as a covered benefit (under our plan anyway). I consulted with their surgeon and waited for a date. I’m on the calendar for February 3, 2017. Unless something catastrophic happens, that’s the day. My mom is coming to help with my care, especially during the first week when I expect to be the neediest.
The goal of Facial Feminization Surgery is to tweak and alter the bone and muscle in the head/face of a person assigned male at birth to feminize that person’s appearance, altering typically male facial features to bring them closer in shape and size to typical female facial features. More information from Wikipedia
( I should probably say something here about feminism and self-imposed standards of beauty. Eye of the beholder. Skin deep. I’ll let you fill in those blanks. )
A tiny part of me feels like I owe the world an explanation/apology for my decision to have this surgery. I realize I don’t, but that feeling persists. I want to feel as settled in myself as possible. I want to be as safe as possible. I hesitate to expound upon the hardships of moving through the world while transgender. It would be vulgar for me to pity myself too much from my position of relative comfort and safety. Despite having lost male privilege, I still have lots of other societal privilege that insulates and protects me. My most malevolent demon has always been my own anxiety. The purpose of the facial surgery is to perhaps give me a chance to feel more in line with my preferred presentation and therefore reduce or eliminate that anxiety. Studies show this to be effective treatment.
When I mention facial surgery, some friends say stuff like “You look great. You shouldn’t feel badly about yourself.”
I do not feel badly about myself. I provide lots of self-care. Facial surgery isn’t about that.
I want this … Kaiser is offering it … so I’m going to do it.
Hopefully there will be before and after photos in the future I will be eager to share.