From Newsweek comes the story of gynecological and pelvic surgeon Dr. Marci Bowers, who performs female circumcision reversals – also known as “clitoralplasties” – on African women. A trans woman herself, she is one of the leading gender-reassignment specialists in the U.S., and has performed over 700 sex-change operations at Mt. San Rafael Hospital in Trinidad, Colorado.
Bowers learned the clitoralplasty procedure from Dr. Pierre Foldes, a French doctor who pioneered the technique. He performs the surgery and trains fellow doctors despite receiving death threats. The procedure reshapes the anatomy and restores pleasurable sensation in 80 percent of patients.
The story is just as much about Dr. Bowers’ patients as it is about her. Sila Folow, who is from Mali, was 8 years old when a group of elderly women held her down and, using a sharp blade, cut out her clitoris and most of her labia. Unsatisfied with the results, they cut her again three weeks later. “They really got her good,” Dr. Bowers lamented as she operated on Sila. Sila moved to the U.S. as a teenager and married an African man when she was 20. Now Sila’s mother, who was also mutilated as a child, hopes to have the operation too.
Bowers performed a clitoral operation and plastic surgery for a woman named Ngozi, whose labia were entirely cut away when she was a baby.
“Now when I look at myself I feel like a woman,” says Ngozi, who says she has even experienced orgasms for the first time in her life. “It’s beautiful, I just love it, it feels like you’re melting. Before it irritated me when my husband tried to touch me, now I reach out to him.”
Mariam, a woman who was circumcised as an infant in Mauritania, was a patient of Dr. Bowers. “When I cross my legs or sit in a certain way, I feel something,” she says. “It’s kind of exciting. You keep wanting to do it.” I can’t help but smile at those gleeful comments.
The primary source of referrals to Dr. Bowers is an organization called Clitoraid. It also helped to fund Dr. Bowers’s training under Dr. Foldes. According to its mission statement, Clitoraid focuses on connecting women with trained surgeons in order to “create real, long-lasting changes for women who have been forced to experience clitoral excision or genital mutilation against their will.” It also provides financial aid.
Dr. Bowers performs these surgeries free of charge. “As Dr. Foldes has said, you cannot charge money to reverse a crime against humanity,” she says. What a profound and beautiful sentiment. Dr. Bowers and is a hero to these women and, as this older piece highlights, to her trans patients as well.