There?s a New Doc in Town, and She?s One of Us!

Originally appeared in Transgender Tapestry #104, Winter 2004.

by Monica F. Helms

?Sheriff! Sheriff! The new doc just got off the train!?

?Calm down, Cleatis. Iffin? ya seens one doctor, ya seens ?em all.?

?Not like this, Sheriff. This doctor?s a ?she?!?

?Well, I?ll be hornswaggled. We got ourselves another Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman!?

In Trinidad, just 126 miles south of Colorado Springs, where the fictitious Dr. Quinn hung out her shingle, a new pioneer woman has come onto the scene?only this one is doing sex reassignment surgery. Dr. Marci Bowers, 45,
a successful and award-winning OB/GYN doctor from Seattle, has decided to use the knowledge and skills she has learned to give back to our community. After all, she is one of us.
The idea of someone from our community becoming an SRS doctor is intriguing. I gladly volunteered to do this interview, and I have to say I am very glad I did.

Dr. Bowers, please give us a brief history of your medical background.

I first graduated with a B.S. from the University of Wisconsin in 1980, and then went onto the University of Minnesota from 1982 to 1986 for my medical education. I was elected class president and, later, student body president. After that, in 1990, I did my residency as an OB/GYN at the University of Washington in Seattle, where I was awarded the Chief Resident Award for Teaching Excellence. This was the beginning of my practice in a large, multi-
specialty clinic in Seattle.

Tell us a little about how your patients reacted when you told them of your transition.

I started my transition in 1996, and it went fairly smoothly. Some patients still wanted to see a male doctor, so they left. Others did the right-wing, judgmental, you-must be-sick, pseudo-Christian freak-out thing. Eighty percent or more of my patients stayed. When the patients and staff members found out about my transition, I received 250 or so letters of support and 18 floral arrangements. That was in June of 1998. In January, 2001, I left the multi-specialty clinic and went into ?the real world? of private practice.

As an OB/GYN doctor, have you done many reconstructive surgeries?

Absolutely. Half of my time as an OB/GYN doctor was spent in surgery. I operated on the pelvis about 95% of the time. Spending all that time in surgery, I became very familiar with tissue planes, the position and relationship of the urethra to the clitoris, and way the labia folds and covers the clitoris. I also delivered 3000 babies. I?m very familiar with the female body.

What made you decide to do SRS, or GRS, as you prefer?

I have done labiaplasties for the last five years, having operated on patients who had their first surgery with essentially all of the current SRS/GRS surgeons, so I knew the work that was out there. I felt
I needed a change, and I felt there needed to be some improvement in the current techniques?particularly with a gynecologist?s perspective?and I wanted to step up for the gender community. I felt this was the best way I could give back.

Why did you pick Dr. Biber to study under?

Well, let?s see... when you want to learn, you go to the person with more experience than anyone in the world, right? Drs. Meltzer and Schrang both spent
significant time here in Trinidad, watching Dr. Biber, taking notes and drawing pictures. They incorporated nearly all of Biber?s techniques into their respective procedures. Plus, Doc Biber is just such a wonderful human being. He has never declined to teach others simply to protect his ?pot of gold.? He has done more than 6000 of these surgeries. And, he is someone truly interested in furthering transgender interests, ahead of his own. Based on what I?ve seen and heard, I honestly cannot say that about many of the other GRS surgeons.

I believe, like Dr. Biber, that this should be a routine surgical offering, available in every region of this country. I don?t feel people should have to make exotic travel plans and go to unseen lengths (no pun intended) simply to gain a functional vagina that aligns with one?s own concept of self-identity!

How does being a transgendered woman help you in this career change?

It allows me to bring a whole new perspective to the field. After all, I went through it, too.

Would you ever consider getting involved in any other activism?

I would like to, one of these days, when things are right. Being in this position gives me a pulpit for other issues. For one, I am very interested in the future.

I believe the future lies in celebrating diversity on every plane?sex, religion, race and gender?that respect for one another begins with respect for all living things, including animals; that the key to understanding disease is to look less at drugs, surgery, and family history and, more simply, at diet; and that the transgender phenomenon is the highest calling a human life can take. Not surprisingly, I?m a passionate vegetarian and preach the benefits of this change in mindset to all my patients.

Other than Dr. Biber, which GRS
doctors have you observed?

Only Dr. Biber so far. But I?m planning to visit some of the others.
The operation you do, is it one-stage or two? And why?

Like Dr. Biber, I do a two-stage operation, with the second stage three months after the first. There?s more blood flow in the area and the labia turn out better.

How many patients have you had in which Dr. Biber did not assist you?

I?ve been doing GRS with Dr. Biber?s assistance since January. I began doing unassisted surgeries in July.

Have you done any surgeries for female-to-males? If so, what do you do for them?

Yes, I?ve done several top surgeries and many, many hysterectomies for FTM?s. I haven?t done any phalloplasties as of yet, but have some interesting ideas there, utilizing the cervix and lower uterus to create a functional phallus. I plan on collaborating with a colleague on that one.

Are you doing any other surgeries besides GRS?

As I mentioned, I do top surgery for females-to-males, but I can also do breast augmentation for male-to-females, as well as tracheal shaving. If you go to my web site at, you?ll find a list of services and the current prices.

How has the staff at Trinidad treated you so far?

They are absolutely wonderful. I remember after the first time I performed my first GRS, they celebrated by holding a banana split social for the staff and myself. It was two weeks before I caught on about the significance of the banana split. Hee! Hee! Too funny!

They sound like a great bunch of

They are. And they paid me a great compliment recently. After my first unassisted surgery, they said they had never seen so little blood loss. They said that even Dr. Biber?s surgeries had more blood loss.

I understand you?re a parent. Tell us about your family.

I have three children. Thomas is 7, Julia, 11, and Andrea, 12. My spouse and I (Yes! Two legally married women!) get along very well, more like sisters though. Most important of all, though, she always maintained her respect for me and never turned my children against me. For now, Thomas is living with me here in Trinidad with my partner, Zach, while the other two are with their mother in Seattle. My background gives me a new perspective that GRS doctors have never had, and yet there is always room for improvement.

Thank you so very much, Dr. Bowers for giving the readers of Transgender Tapestry a chance to know you.
And thank you.

I have to say I was impressed with everything I heard. Dr. Bowers is a welcome addition to the choices we have as transsexuals. For the longest time, Trinidad was the Mecca for transsexuals all over the world, where they could
come to get their Excaliburs changed
into Holy Grails. In the 1990s, new doctors appeared on the scene and the flood of transsexuals to Trinidad slowed to a trickle. With Marci Bowers setting up shop there, I suspect Trinidad will once again flourish.
Doctor Biber was recently interviewed for a upcoming TLC documentary, and he said, ?Many have come to Trinidad to learn ?the surgery,? but some have lacked the hands, some have lacked the confidence, and some have lacked the heart. Marci is the first to have all three.?

Like the fictional character of Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, Dr. Bowers, SRS Woman, is blazing new trails for women everywhere. However, where Dr. Quinn was the past, Dr. Bowers is the future.

?Dr. Marci Bowers: The Next Generation. She goes where no transwoman has gone before.?

?So, Data, I understand you?re fully functional.?

?I am now.?