Poor, black and uninsured transgender people seek illegal back-room procedures

For those who struggle with their gender identity living in what they believe is the “wrong body” can cause years of anguish and mental confusion. So much so that many transgender people are compelled to spend tens of thousands of dollars on hormone treatment and surgery to alter their bodies. Not all transgender people, though, can afford surgery or other body modifications, especially if they are poor, black and uninsured. That’s where illegal back-room procedures by unlicensed surgeons come into play.

The cost of gender reassignment therapy doesn’t come cheap. A licensed plastic surgeon can cost anything between $8,000 and $100,000 depending on what procedures get done.
In 2010, the national average for buttocks surgery was between $4,500 and $5000, according to the American Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery.

The recent spate of illegal backstreet “surgeons” and bogus butt enhancement operations highlights the growing problem. In many of the cases “fake plastic surgeons” are transsexual or transgender individuals and clients hear of services “word of mouth” in the transgender community.

Indeed, as buttock enhancements increasingly become the new boob job the desire for surgery has skyrocketed. In the case of British student, Claudia Aderotimi, 20, who died after a botched butt operation in a hotel room in Philly, at least one of her so-called doctors was a transgendered woman.

In recent weeks, Oneal Ron Morris, 30, a transgender woman, was arrested in Miami for injecting “super glue” and flat-tire repair materials into the buttocks of women in an illegal cosmetic surgery procedure. Another one of her victims, Rajee Narinesingh, 48, who, like Morris, was born a man, but lives as a woman, says her face was disfigured by Morris following a botched face life.

“It becomes so dire that you want to match your outside with your inside that you’re willing to roll the dice and take your chances,” said Narinesingh in an interview with CBS Miami. “As a transgender person, you’re thinking ‘Oh, my God, I can start to look like I want to look like and I don’t have to spend a lot of money.’”

“All three of Morris’s victims are now receiving medical treatment and reconstructive surgery,” says Miami Gardens Police Sergeant Bill Bamford. “They tried to save a few dollars on the front end and it’s now costing them thousands on the back end, not to mention the pain and discomfort.”

South Florida tends to attract physicians from places like South America, who, for whatever reason are not licensed to practice in United States. However, Sgt. Bill Bamford says, to his knowledge “Morris doesn’t have any medical training.” Her services were spread by word-of-mouth in the transgender community and many of her victims trusted Morris because of her trans status, he says.

“We have received several calls from even more people who claim to be victims of Morris, of these, several are transgender,” says Sgt. Bill Bamford. “Over the next few weeks we are scheduling dates to meet all these alleged victims.”

“The main driving force is the torture that transgendered individuals feel being born into one biological body but who experience themselves as being of the opposite sex,” says Dr. Audrey Lehmann, a licensed psychotherapist, with over 20 years clinic experience working with people with gender identity issues and with individuals who are transitioning.

For black male to female transgendered people the pressure to be curvaceous, with a large backside and voluptuous body, can be immense. In the case of “fake doctor” Oneal Morris, her surgically enhanced rear is almost a caricature of a black woman’s body.

Like everyone, these transgender women, are bombarded with images of “role models” who are famous for their behinds. “Bootylicious” women like Beyoncé, Jennifer Lopez, Amber Rose, Kim Kardashian and Nicki Minaj, who media reports allege has had butt augmentation. The problem is this desire for a bigger backside may have a more devastating effect on the self-image of black transgendered women.

Dr. Audrey Lehmann says she can completely understand why African-American trans females yearn for that perfect voluptuous body.

“The minute bio males decide to transition they become more vulnerable to the cultural standards of what they are expected to look like,” Lehmann says. “For example, it’s not uncommon for a transgender woman to start dieting and watching their weight once she has transitioned.”

Philadelphia Police Detective Lt. John Walker, one of the officers involved in the Claudia Aderotimi case, said in an interview with theGrio that many transgender people understand the risks involved, though, are still willing to gamble with their lives.

“Some of the underground people we’ve spoken to, especially in the transgender community, tell us people will continue to seek out these illegal operations because they can’t afford to get these procedures done legally,” says Lt. Walker.