So I like many late blooming trans folks find themselves, (ahem) face-to-face with the harsh reality of time on their bodies. From unwanted hair, (everywhere!) to all the male traits such as facial structure and body size. It’s a emotionally taxing process to navigate on the best of days.
Recent years have found a boom of trans identifying folks like me seeking surgeries, along with healthcare insurers covering once precluded procedures. The result is akin to a cottage industry being born overnight. Physicians and practices are taking on more patients and offering a wider array of facial augmentation to include trans folks.
In this rapid expanding, (once niche market) we’re seeing more and more doctors preforming these complex surgeries. Fellowship programs abound where established doctors partner with teaching hospitals to “train-up” new crops of future plastic surgeons who specialize in facial augmentation, or Facial Feminizing Surgery, FFS.
My transition wish list grew exponentially as I attempted to prioritize and choose what I could undertake. From the most basic things like finding an endocrinologist and thoughtful therapists, to more substantial things such as finding qualified surgeons. I was flying by the seams of my “Googled” sundress.
I searched everything from FFS to breast augmentation, confirmation surgery and so on, only to be overwhelmed with lists of results. Practices from across the country and the world saying, “they’re the best!” I mean how can everybody be the best?
I began to ask myself, how do we really know how reputable a doctor really is; more than having an established practice, but rather a truly reputable practice and personal reputation of thoughtfulness, cutting edge technology and results. Which is to say very high satisfaction rates. We’re after all talking about bodies and faces, we want the best.
Deciding on FFS as my first procedure I read review after review provided by the various practices and their former patients. I felt they were skewed in favor of happy patients and away from ones with complications. There were so few negative reviews of substance on any practitioners websites. Then finding just the opposite on various review boards. Many of which seemed angry disgruntled. All told I struggled to find a site that felt fair. I felt marketed to rather than learning about actual credentials.
Alas I would choose The Spiegel Center, (TSC) in Massachusetts. Partly due to distance, and mostly due to my inability to find negative reviews on Dr. Jeffrey Spiegel. Which I felt a bit unnerved by, but hey I had insurance so it was all good. Or so I thought. That decision and subsequent surgical results would destroy me.
I had FFS with the self proclaimed, “best in the world” and I came away with a face completely botched. My insurance company payed TSC $56K for a face that brings me to tears every day. Net Zero Feminizing Effect. I look nearly exactly as I did upon entering. I’m still mis-gendered everyday AND now have the luxury of actual medical fallout. Most debilitating of which is a nose which no longer works. I cannot breathe correctly and must wear breath-rite strips to sleep. For my troubles TSC has completely dismissed me. Attempting to charge 7K US for revisions that fall way outside of any claim of ascetics.
The emotional fallout from my experience with TSC led to me to do more research and have many conversations on social media outlets discussing what happened to me. In this I began to understand the horrific fallout suffered by many at the hands of seemingly reputable surgeons, Dr Spiegel included. What if I had been able to read genuine patient reviews of Dr. Spiegel’s satisfaction rates instead of selective or fabricated accounts by selected happy patients only?
My surgery brought about a harsh wake-up call. Not that I didn’t choose the best doctor, rather because I didn’t have all the information I needed to make a sound decision on the doctor I was considering. My surgical experience has found me determined to make sure other transgender women don’t suffer at the hands of a doctor or practice that has a reputation for delivering substandard care. And this is why I’m volunteering with the website Transition Reviews. https://transitionreviews.com
Founded by The Gender Foundation, a charity organization created by 2pass Clinic in Belgium, the the goal of the site is to create a virtual library of specialists in hormone treatment, surgery, voice therapy, mental health care. Assisting prospective patients learn about any given practitioner so that they may choose the one that will best meet individual needs for any treatment in any chosen region, within the transgender community.
Transition Reviews distinguishes itself from other review platforms by assuring that all patients who leave a review are vetted to insure they are, A. Real. And B. Actually had the procedures they are reviewing by using a two step verification process.
All folks have to do is provide a copy of photo identification and billing statement, both of which will be destroyed upon confirmation that you are in fact you, and had that particular doctor or practice. The goal is to protect both the reviewer and reviewed.
The site is a safe space to share your individual experiences and remain anonymous. No comments are allowed or discussion forums for others to challenge or denounce how your unique experience was with any given practitioner. Including the practitioner themselves. Other review sites simply do not offer this level of verification or privacy.
I invite you to read my full FFS review HERE and consider getting involved and leaving your own review about your experiences as a transgender patient. Remember this is open to all transgender folks who have had any contact with the medical system. So if you’re a trans female, male or gender non-conforming person, please join us in compiling, “the worlds greatest and fairest” review database!