Follow Carmen as she pursues facial feminization surgery and talks about her reasons for making these changes. Carmen is well spoken and as a Transgender female expresses her goals with Dr. Mendelsohn.
Carmen found Dr. Mendelsohn through RealSelf and began a dialogue with him. Carmen took a lot of time to develop her questions that she wanted answered when choosing a surgeon to reach her goals.
Carmen expresses her excitement and anticipation for her upcoming surgery. Dr. Mendelsohn met with Carmen to develop a plan that best met her desires. Carmen wanted her facial features to match her feelings of being a woman. The procedures that Carmen will undergo include a brow bone reduction, to make her forehead appear less boxy, a lip lift, a rhinoplasty and a chin reshaping. In addition to the facial procedures that Dr. Mendelsohn will perform, Dr. Maier will be doing breast augmentation on the same day.
Carmen began her transformation at the age of 15, however, as a very young child she felt that her body did not match her feelings. Carmen;s family has been very supportive of her, which she feels gives her the confidence to proceed with transitioning.
When Carmen Collins walks into a room, you can’t help but notice.
She’s 6 feet tall without heels, has porcelain skin and long black hair. She’s used to turning heads.
Carmen said she’s used to the looks. Since a young child, she knew she was different.
Carmen was born a boy and was adopted at birth. At a very young age, she struggled with her sexuality.
“I remember being on the bus and this girl was like, ‘Are you a boy or a girl?’ And I looked at her and I said, ‘I’m 99.9 percent girl and point one percent boy.’ That was my way of dealing with it.”
While Kaitlyn Jenner started the dialog about being transgender, Carmen says she knew long ago that transitioning into a woman wasn’t a choice. It was something she had to do if she was ever going to be truly happy.
“I was 14 years old up in my bedroom. I was watching videos on YouTube and I saw some girl talking about coming out as being trans, and everything she said just clicked with me. I’m like, ‘Oh my goodness! Everything makes sense now. I’m not a weirdo,’” Carmen said.
By 15, when Carmen’s mother died, she decided to officially start living her life as a woman.
“That just really was like, OK — I have one shot. One time to be myself and just true and honest with myself. And I realized, I didn’t really have another option,” Carmen said.
But the hair, makeup and clothing was not enough.
Carmen wanted to look on the outside the way she feels on the inside. A few months ago, at the age of 22, Carmen started the process of officially becoming a woman and came to Cincinnati plastic surgeon, Dr. Jon Mendelsohn.
He’s been helping transgender patients for years, but says recently, he’s getting more and more calls.
His goal with Carmen was to make her features a little softer.
“We performed a reduction rhinoplasty, making the nose smaller, more feminine. And also we did a sub-nasal lip lift. What that means, is we brought the central part of the lip up so it was more feminine,” Mendelsohn said.
When Mendelsohn started specializing in face and neck work in Cincinnati more than 20 years ago, he wanted to make people feel better about themselves. Helping Carmen and people like her makes it even more fulfilling.
He says, “I feel really good about it. I think we really improved Carmen’s psyche and her life. And that feels good.”
Twelve weeks post-surgery and Carmen finally loves what she sees in the mirror.
“I just feel like this is how I was supposed to look when I was born,” Carmen said. “I think now I just feel so like myself. I just feel so whole. I think it’s something I missed out on my whole life.”
Carmen knows, this is just the beginning and she’ll still deal with the daily struggles from strangers.
“(They say) ‘You’ll always be a man or you look like a boy.’ I actually just had someone go at me on Twitter! They were like, ‘She looks like a man. Look at that chin,’” Carmen said.
She said the words and the hate is hurtful — not just for her, but for everyone like her.
“I think people are afraid of what they don’t understand, honestly,” Carmen said. “I think that people don’t realize how hurtful it is just to like treat someone like they’re not a human or treat someone like they don’t have feelings.”
Which is why this strong independent woman decided to share something so personal and be so vulnerable.
She has one hope now, that in time the judgement will be replaced with acceptance.
“People are so scared of things they don’t know anything about. But I’m not scary. I’m just like everyone else.”