India Willoughby (pictured) tells her story of surgical reconstruction
Just under two years ago, I wrote a piece for this newspaper about all the questions I’m often asked – or that people feel they can’t ask – about what it’s like to be transgender.
To cut a long story short, at the age of 40, I had realised I could no longer keep living a lie and today, 12 years on, I have no doubt that transitioning was the best decision I’d ever made.
My gender dysphoria – the sense of being in the wrong body – had completely vanished. And, having completed all of my surgeries, I was finally at peace with my body.
But that all changed in January after I agreed to appear in Celebrity Big Brother.
That led to another life-changing decision: to go under the knife yet again – this time for 11 brutal hours of surgery on my face, with a team of surgeons peeling back my scalp and cutting into my skull, stripping and grinding bones and using the sort of power tools normally used on a house extension.
Yes, it sounds like a horror film. But relentless online abuse and comments about my ‘manly’ appearance made me despise my face and left me feeling utterly depressed.
In the end, I decided to have the most extreme type of makeover – facial feminisation surgery.
Here, several areas of the face are tweaked to make features more womanly. The changes are subtle, often just a few millimetres of bone shaved off, or a slight lift here and there, but the results, as my pictures show, are quite remarkable.
I certainly didn’t have it to try to look like Angelina Jolie. The objective is to help transgender women ‘pass’, and not stand out in public, enabling them to live a normal life, free from mockery, taunts and trolling.
Other trans people have also had it, the most famous being Kardashian matriarch Caitlyn Jenner and boxing promoter Kellie Maloney.
In fact any woman can have it – maybe because hormonal problems lead to them developing male facial characteristics – but it’s quite an ordeal, as I now know.
And it certainly isn’t cheap. Mine cost £25,000. But transgender women from all over the world, from all types of economic backgrounds, scrimp and save for it.
And if any of them have been through a fraction of what I have over the past year, then I can totally understand why.
1- Surgeons make an incision from ear to ear at the back of the head and remove a strip of skin 1 to 2cm wide. Hair follicles from the strip are implanted into the front of the hairline at the end of the operation, as the female hairline is typically lower in this area than the male hairline.
2 - The scalp is peeled away, exposing the bones on the front of the face. The forehead and brow bone – the projection of the skull between the eyebrows – typically projects forward in male faces, and this is shaved to make it smoother, rounder and more feminine.
3 - The superior orbital rims are shaved. In male faces, these protrude along with the brow bone, and reducing them makes the face appear more feminine.
4 - An upper-lid blepharoplasty – also known as an eye lift – is performed to open and widen the eyes.
5 - A lip lift is performed. A small piece of skin just below the nose is removed, and by closing this gap surgeons are able to raise the arch of the top lip. By doing this they expose the bottom of the two front teeth, which is a characteristic female appearance trait.
6 - A mini-facelift – also known as facial repositioning – tightens up the jawline to make it look more youthful.
First off, on CBB, my housemates, writer Rachel Johnson and ex-MP Ann Widdicombe, kept