CityNews reporter Cynthia Mulligan travelled to Thailand to cover the story of Danica Rain, a Ontario transgender woman who underwent gender reassignment surgery at a clinic in Bangkok. While there, Mulligan met Kai Bogert, a 21-year-old transgender who had just undergone a double mastectomy while transitioning from female to male This is his story.
I’ve been focusing on male to female confirmation surgeries but the Kamol Clinic in Bangkok does almost as many female to male, just under 200 a year.
That’s where I met Kai Bogert.
Kai was born female, but always felt trapped in the wrong body.
The day before I met him, the 21-year-old had just had a double mastectomy. He says his body “grew the wrong bits” and he saw his breasts as “benign tumours” and “lumps that shouldn’t be there.”
There are times he admits that he wanted to cut them off himself.
“I didn’t like them at all,” he stresses. “They felt wrong to me … There had been a few times where my dysphoria had gotten really bad and I had wanted to cut them off myself, it had gotten so bad.”
He started hormone therapy over a year ago.
“My manniversary was September 28th I think,” he jokes.
Kai is used to being interviewed. He was a viral sensation two years ago when his mother put a cheeky retraction notice in the birth section of their local paper in Australia.
“In 1995 we announced the arrival of our (child) as our daughter…He informs us that we were mistaken. Oops! Our bad,” it reads.
The reaction was overwhelming. Reporters camped out on his front lawn for interviews. Kai calls it the best and worst day of his life. Having everyone suddenly know he was out wasn’t easy.
“I didn’t come out until a year after Grade 12 because there was no way I would have survived school if I came out,” he says.
Kai says coming out was both relieving and stressful.
He’s faced backlash. He says he’s been beaten up and called the anti-Christ on Twitter.
The abuse has taken a toll. He doesn’t feel safe going out alone.
“I never really go anywhere by myself out in public if there will be chances that people know me,” he explains. “I’m also very anxious … I prefer not to go outside at all.”
For now, Kai says he is done with surgery. Eventually he would like to get male genitalia, but he wants to wait, because of the cost and because he doesn’t feel the technique is as advanced as he would like.
“So far the science just isn’t good enough for the money,” he remarks.
At the Kamol Clinic the process is to first remove the breasts, uterus and ovaries and then the patient has two choices: metoidioplasty which enlarges the clitoris to a penis that is one to two inches long or phalloplasty, where a penis is built from tissue from the arm, leg and back.
It’s not functional but an implant can be put inside so the patient can have sexual intercourse.
Phalloplasty costs US$28,000.
Kai plans on becoming an advocate for other transgender youth in Australia where, unlike Canada, gender confirmation surgery costs are not covered.
He wants to change that, believing it will save lives.
“It needs to be a mandatory thing,” he says. “It needs to be covered. It will save kids.”
He should know. He’s one of them.
“When they took the bandages off and I got to look down and [his breasts] weren’t there, I couldn’t have been happier,” he says.