Guest Blogger

The New Adventures of Aunt Christine

Filed By Guest Blogger | March 18, 2009 12:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: gender transition, Jeff Buppert, MTF, Thailand, transgender

Editors' Note: Guest blogger Jeff Buppert's work has appeared in Frontiers, Drummer and The Family Business Report, as well as BuzzFlash and on stage at the Powerhouse Theater in Santa Monica; his story on gay adoption will appear in the upcoming anthology series Cup of Comfort, due out this spring.

My aunt celebrated her 66th birthday in January, and this month she is embarking on a once-in-a-lifetime trip: four weeks, all by herself, in beautiful and exotic Thailand.

Aunt Christine lives in a small town in Central Florida and she's been planning this trip for years. Everything is paid for: the airfare, the hotel, the meals, everything. Even the doctor.

Aunt Christine is going to Thailand to become a woman -- physically, a woman -- and you should pardon the pun, but I think my aunt has balls!

At a time when the economy is in the toilet and people are losing their jobs left and right, at an age when most people would tell her to just slap on a dress and some heels and keep living a double life, my aunt is not willing to settle for less than she knows she can be. Nor should she.

Christine's surgery will consist of a penile inversion: the testicles will be removed, the penis will be turned inside out to make a vagina, and the urethra will be redirected so she "can pee like a lady." Partly because of her age and partly because of the cost, she's decided not to get her breasts done, or her Adam's apple shaved. (After three years of hormones she's already a B-cup, and her Adam's apple has never really shown.)

This is not some Beverly Hills matron going away for a quick nip/tuck and coming home a youthful, more beautiful woman. For Aunt Christine beauty is not based on some magazine-inspired confection -- tiny button nose, full Angelina lips, large melon breasts -- but, rather, on the simple fact that she will no longer be a woman trapped in a man's body. That alone will be beautiful.

Christine has two children, four grandchildren, and has been married five times. When I was a kid I saw my uncle (Christine) as a tough guy: a hard drinking, fast living, womanizing, Southern redneck. And while that may have been the man everyone saw on the outside, on the inside, Christine said she always wanted to be a woman.

One of her earliest memories is from the second grade; she checked out a library book and was infatuated by the beautiful long hair...on the men. The book was a history book, and the men were George Washington and Thomas Jefferson and the rest of our forefathers. As a ten-year old boy, Christine wondered why s/he couldn't wear two-piece bathing suits like the girls.

I had no idea of the struggles or the demons my uncle was living with. None of us did.

Christine had no one to share her feelings with and it was only after retiring from a lifelong career as a paint salesman, at the ripe old age of 60, that she finally joined a club for cross-dressers -- because that's what she thought she was, a cross-dresser.

The men would put on wigs and makeup and women's clothes, they'd bring their wives and a covered dish, and they'd all get together for a potluck. The group included a retired cop and a former airline pilot, but the guys would sit around talking about hot chicks and the fear of getting an erection under their skirt. That wasn't what Christine was feeling. It was a hobby for those other guys, a fetish, but it was the way Christine wanted to live her life. She identified herself as a woman, not as a cross-dresser.

To her credit Christine sought professional advice, and one day her therapist said something that changed everything.

Christine's mother had had numerous miscarriages and when she was pregnant with Christine had been prescribed DES, a popular drug of the time that helped women carry to term. The therapist said one of the side effects of DES was that testosterone was blocked from reaching the brain. As a result, the brain would think female but the child would be born male.

Whether or not DES was to blame didn't matter, it was a possible explanation. It lifted sixty years of baggage off Christine's shoulders and was the permission she needed to embrace the person -- the woman -- she had always believed herself to be.

When my aunt's once-in-a-lifetime trip is over she will leave a part of herself behind in Thailand, both literally and figuratively, but she will return whole. She will be complete. Perfect. And after 66 years of waiting, the new adventures of Aunt Christine will finally begin.


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Having completed my own "once-in-a-lifetime trip" in November last year (to Philadelphia, though, not Thailand), I can really appreciate what your Aunt Christine is about to do. Best wishes to her for a safe journey and return!

Jenny -Thank you for your comment, and I will pass along your good wishes to my aunt. Christine had her surgery on Monday and I've already received two emails from her. She said the surgery went well and that the nurses are spoiling her rotten!

Jeff

Robin Lynn | March 19, 2009 1:27 AM

What a wonderfully told story. And thanks so much for the update -- you make me want to meet your aunt!
RobiLynn

Glad to hear Christine is being spoiled rotten by the nurses. That's how it should be! :)

What a wonderful and inspiring story (and so eloquently told). Aunt Christine is an inspiration to all of us who believe we must always be who we always were and that "women (or men) of a certain age" should behave according to society's expectations. Bravo, Jeff and Brava Aunt Christine.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | March 18, 2009 10:25 PM

Jeff, I live in Thailand and one of the three greatest sex reassignment surgeons in the country operates out of a hospital just 16 miles to the north of where I live. I presume your aunt is going to Bangkok and perhaps that the hospital in question arranged for all tickets, hotel room etc. If she has flexibility I hope she can shop for her procedure rather than just depending upon the best developed website.

While costing much less than in the United States the costs in the seaside town of Sri Racha (one hour south of the Bangkok international airport) would be much less for absolutely perfect care. I began taking my partner there for routine care as the costs are about half of Bangkok Hospital's Pattaya branch. Perfect English is spoken by the doctors. I have taken two western friends to this hospital for procedures by this doctor (other than sexual reassignement) and they have raved. One of them is a nurse anesthetist from Texas and his procedure cost less than a third of what a surgeon he assists would charge him as a favor.

If your aunt is interested in a "second opinion" and a chat with a hospital employee, Gavin Waddell is available at: gavin@phyathai.com and the main hospital page is: www.phyathai-siracha.com

Whatever your aunt decides I wish for her all the happiness in the world. Should she come to Sri Racha I will visit her with flowers.

robert@bilerico.com

I tried using the URL for the hospital that you provided, Robert, to no avail.

I'm curious who you think the best surgeon is in Thailand. Personally, I've known more people who go to Phuket than Bangkok.

How's the political stability?

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | March 19, 2009 7:37 AM

How's yours :)? Seems to me there must be lynch mobs in Wall Street.

Thailand and her people are fine. There is a lot of unemployment, but this country is a food exporter. You will hear the occasional blip on Western news of whatever is most "media interesting" which is controversy. If you are curious on perspective pick up a copy of "The King never Smiles."

Now, I see where I screwed up...

It should be www.phyathai-sriacha.com

I inverted the "ri" and gave siracha. Gavin can give details on the doctor. I have not met him, but he performed two lumpectomies on friends and they raved. This doctor also cares for trans sexual cabaret stars thus you know his skills are awesome. Visit www.tiffany-show.co.th

Checked twice, I spelled it right this time :)

This time you dropped the second 'r' but I Googled and found it.

Anyone wishing to see the hospital page it is located here:

http://www.phyathai-sriracha.com

Congratulations and best wishes to Aunt Christine.

Great story! Truth is always more interesting than fiction. I have to admit that I cringed a bit while reading the details of the operation, but the whole story was very engaging. I'll be looking for the followup story, soon I hope. Thank you,
Fuentes.

Congratulations to Christine! I'm sitting in my hotel in Bangkok right now, after having had my own surgery a few weeks ago. I'm leaving to travel back to Washington, DC, tomorrow. I'm guessing that Christine didn't go with my doctor, else I would have already met her! Anyway, I wish the bet on her surgery and her recovery.

Great story! Congrats to Aunt Christine!

Christine Grace | March 22, 2009 4:04 AM

Hi Alison,
I had my surgery performed by Dr Kamol of the MTF Clinic. I am so sorry I missed you.
Take care
Aunt Christine

Hi Christine -

Congratulations on your surgery! If you're so inclined, it would be great if you would write about your experience there - in terms of how you felt you were treated, both medically, and as a person. It might be too soon to ask if you're happy with the results, and if you recommend your surgeon.

Hopefully, you're healing up well, and are getting your strength back. Take care and congrats, again.