Transgender women make urgent plea for acceptance

Transgender women make urgent plea for acceptance

Three transgender women joined their plastic surgeon at Northwell Health’s corporate offices to plea for an end to the bullying and violent attacks against members of the Asian trans community.

Dr. James Bradley, vice chair of Plastic Surgery at Northwell, had already performed facial feminization surgery on Mila Chaniago, who originally hails from Indonesia. Giselle Moore, also from Indonesia, and Morisane “Sunny” Shiroma (from Japan) are slated for their respective surgeries later this year.

The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic only served to intensify anti-Asian sentiment, further alienating the Asian trans community. During his presentation, Dr. Bradley noted that 44 transgender people in the United States were murdered in 2020.

“Asian trans women, already victims of Asian hate, suffer disproportionately from bullying and ridicule,” he said. “Attacks against members of this community became so prevalent that the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act was recently passed to address this violence. These brave women will describe how FFS brings them not only a sense of self-confidence and self-actualization, but a chance to protect themselves from this terrible violence.”

Chaniago, 46, began her transition 10 years ago. During years of hormone therapy, she experienced episodes of bullying, ridicule and racial slurs.

“I was frequently misgendered in public, and was often the victim of violence,” said Chaniago. “I decided to undergo FFS in March so that people would accept me. Now, I have more confidence. I feel differently about myself. My hope is that trans people can stop being afraid. Be who you are…it’s time.”

During her 7 ½ hour surgery, Bradley reshaped Chaniago’s forehead, jawline and nose, and performed a laryngotracheoplasty, which is a tracheal shave, or removal of the “Adam’s apple.”

Moore, a freelance makeup artist, arrived in the U.S. in 2001. Her transition began in 2010, when she began hormone therapy and had breast implants. For her, the key issue is discrimination against members of the trans community in the workplace.

“Most people can’t imagine the type of prejudice we experience,” said Moore. “I’m speaking out now because I want people to be judged for who they are and for the skills they bring to the workplace. When I was a gay boy, it was fashionable and I could easily get hired. It’s much harder to get work during the transition period. I want businesses to view us as people with real skills.”

Shiroma, 64, of Japanese descent, enjoyed a lucrative Paris fashion career during the 1980s. When she arrived in the U.S., her clothing line was displayed in many of the most prestigious stores on New York’s 5th Avenue.

“I decided to transition in 2001 after working with trans women I met through my involvement with the Asian-Pacific Islander Coalition, HIV/AIDS,” said Shiroma. “I want to have this surgery so I can be accepted, finally, for who I really am. I don’t want to identify as a man. I want people to know that we are Asian, we are proud, we are strong, and we are beautiful.”

All three women hoped that their messages of peace and acceptance would be heard during Pride Month. As Ms. Shiroma concluded, “For the next generation, the future is bright.”

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