My name is Gigi, I work for Kaiser Permanente and have been in health care for 8 years now. I am going to school for IT and my main goal is to get my computer science degree. When I am not working or studying, I love to dance. Dance has been an outlet for me ever since I was in high school. I started out rough but never gave up. I wanted all eyes on me when I hit the stage. Growing up in an Asian household, my parents taught me the true meaning of work ethic. When you have nothing, never give up, always strive for more even with the little resources you have. When you have nothing to believe in, always remember to believe in yourself. You are the only solution to solving any problem.
How did you find your surgeon? What were the specific reasons you chose him or her over other providers?
When I started my transition, I was given a social worker, Felix. Felix understood and totally empathized with my struggle with gender dysphoria and my desire to have facial feminization surgery (FFS.) He let me know that Kaiser was contracted with a new surgeon that specialized in FFS. This was the first time I had heard Dr. Liu’s name. I was so excited to meet with him and was even more thrilled when his team called to schedule me for my consultation 3 weeks after the call. I remember going to my consultation and being so excited to meet everyone. I left feeling confident that I was going to be in good hands. I feel in life that things happen for a reason and I was so thankful that I was one of the few that got in to see Dr. Liu first.
What type of procedure did you have and why did you decide to have this procedure?
I had facial feminization surgery (FFS) Before going into my consultation, many of my family and friends told me I did not need this surgery. They told me I was already “pretty and passable” and that this was an unnecessary procedure. Even Dr. Liu agreed that with my face mask on and my voice, I was very passable. But all of my life, I have struggled with dysmorphia and I was always self-conscious. I tried numerous makeup tricks to temporarily conceal any masculine traits. But at the end of the day, when you wash everything off you’re left with all your insecurities. Dr. Liu understood my dysphoria and agreed to help me.
Describe your surgical experience and recovery.
Prior to surgery, I was scared. I was scared of change. I knew that I was going to look different and that I was saying goodbye to the face I had known for 29 years. I knew this was the next step into my transition and that I was about to enter a new chapter of my life. After surgery, I was so happy. I remember being wheeled out to my friends and all I could do was dance in my wheelchair. For I didn’t feel much pain beyond mild discomfort. I knew the end result would be worth it!
What were your fears about having this procedure and how did your surgeon help you overcome them?
To elaborate more on my fears of change, I would say I was nervous to change the face I’ve had all of my life. I’ve watched my face grow, cry, laugh, get angry, fall in love for 29 years. Saying goodbye to it was emotional for me. It was like I was saying goodbye to someone I grew up with knowing I would never see them again. I remember laying down on the operating table feeling so terrified. So many thoughts were running through my mind and I could not believe that I was actually going through with the surgery. I felt a hand on my shoulder and I looked up and Dr.Liu asked me how I was doing. I of course lied to him and told him I was ready to do this. He told me that everything was going to be okay and said, “you’ve got this.” For some reason, that little moment really helped me find peace and positivity.
Describe why you are happy you chose this procedure. How has it positively impacted your life? Your self-esteem?
Imagine living in a body where you never felt comfortable. Imagine constantly comparing yourself to the opposite gender and hating yourself for parts that you were not born with. Imagine going to bed every night knowing you will wake up in that same body and that nothing will change. Although we cannot reverse time or circumstance to reassign our chromosomes before birth, we have other ways to solve our problems. I am so grateful that in our modern world we have the medicine and surgical procedures available that can transform your exterior appearance to match your interior. FFS has not only helped my gender dysphoria but it has also protected me from the closed-mindedness in our society. Unfortunately, we do not live in a society where people can see past our flaws. I feel we live in a world where male masculinity is often threatened by femininity.
One of my biggest insecurities prior to surgery was my nose. I felt like it took up my whole face and really emphasized my masculine features. I was always afraid to take my face mask off because I thought it was the first thing people looked at and that they would know right away that I was born a man. The wonderful feeling I had when the cast was removed and I saw my new nose was overwhelming. My brain couldn’t fully understand the new face I was seeing. It was almost like I was viewing an optical illusion because my eyes knew it was me but my brain knew something was off. For the first 72 hours, I could not stop looking at myself when I passed by a mirror or a reflection in the grocery store.
Tell us specifically about why you are happy you chose the surgeon you did? Describe his/her most outstanding qualities.
Words cannot describe how happy I am that Dr. Liu was my surgeon. He is a great listener and is also kind-hearted, caring, and selfless. Every other surgeon I have met with seemed dismissive and uninterested. Dr. Liu is so different. He shows his interest and prioritizes setting goals for the surgical outcome that we both agree on. If I were to describe my experience as a fairytale, I would be Cinderella and Dr. Liu would be my fairy God-Surgeon. He is the best and I owe him so much. Thank you, Dr. Liu!
How did our staff support you in your surgical experience?
Everyone I encountered on the Polyclinic Plastic Surgery team was very thorough and communicated effectively. They understood that this was a life-changing experience for me and treated it as if it was a huge milestone for me. I was helped, my questions were answered, and I was given lots of support by the staff. Thank you to everyone that helped me with this surgery.
Do you have any advice for others who may be considering this procedure?
Don’t be afraid. Do not let fear be the reason why you stay in the dark. Be strong, confident, and show everyone your light. Understand that with or without surgery, you are beautiful but don’t be afraid to show your hidden beauty. Change is bound to happen and whether it’s good or bad, understand change is how we grow as humans and better ourselves. Everything you want is on the other side of fear.