Transgender community gets real about transition process

HOUSTON (KTRK) -- Olympian Bruce Jenner's transition to become a woman has captivated Americans, but it is something some people are willing to do at any price.

Houstonian Veronika Simms says the Jenner interview hit especially close to home for her.

"I think that this was very difficult for her, because she has built an entire identity that isn't really true to her real identity, and it's very hard to see the look on people's faces when their image of you is shattered," Simms said.

Simms' own journey from man to woman started decades ago.

"I hid it. I hid it for very long time," Simms said. "Actually I loved G.I. Joe, transformers, and guns and play war."

It was in her teens that she felt different.

That's when puberty was starting to kick in. So, I realize that it wasn't just that I was different than the other boys at that point. It was my mental image about myself was no longer matching my physical image," Simms said.

Still, Simms kept her feelings secret. She became the star high school football player, went onto college and the semi-pros, and then got married.

"I thought, as long as I married, I'm never going to transition. It's just a part of me that I will be able to control and just keep hidden," Simms said.

Simms hid it for 11 years before getting divorced and declaring to the world that he wanted to become she. Then, the transition began.

"I always explain it like it's a little bridges," Simms said.

The first bridge is hormone therapy, learning how to talk like a lady, and acting like a lady.

The most expensive and painful part is to look like a lady. There are two surgeries for those wanting to make the transition from a man to a woman. There is top surgery usually to the face and chest, which is more commonly done.

"For me it was important to have a balanced look with my body," Simms said.

She underwent liposuction and transferred fat to her hips, then double D breast implants followed.

Just months ago, she underwent a total face transformation. She shaved down her forehead, trachea, jaw, and chin. She also had fat transferred to her lips and cheeks. In total, the makeover cost $60,000.

In addition to making over the top half of the body, there is also bottom surgery, which very few surgeons around the U.S. do.

"I have not decided if I will have that surgery or not," Simms said. "It's a spectrum of things that make us feel comfortable in our own body, and they are equally as important to the people that need them."

There is only one surgeon in Houston willing to perform genital reconstruction surgery on patients who he says suffer from gender dyphoria.

"I ask my patients why. The main answer is that they just want to feel complete. It's not so much the sexual function," said Dr. Tue Dinh from Methodist Hospital.

The procedure includes a team of specialized surgeons and can cost upwards of $100,000.

"This can take 10-12 hours," Dinh said. "You use some tissue from the penis, like the skin and the gland to create the vagina."

Dinh says some insurance companies are now paying for the genital reconstruction surgery.
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