Transgender surgeon, advocate visits UB

Apr 18, 2016

Most people, when you say transgender, may think of retired Olympian Caitlyn Jenner or actress Laverne Cox. But another person is perhaps foremost for those who consider gender-reassignment surgery. Dr. Marci Bowers visits the University at Buffalo Monday.

Credit marcibowers.com

Bowers was once Dr. Mark Bowers, a successful OB/GYN and married father of three. Today, she is a transgender woman and a renowned surgeon, who advocates on behalf of gender rights.

Recently honored as one of the 100 most influential LGBTQ people in the world, Bowers is spending the day touring the University at Buffalo, speaking with students and meeting local clinicians before talking about "Culture Wars on Two Fronts: Transgender Medicine and Surgical Correction of Female Genital Mutilation". Her presentation takes place at 7:30 p.m. in the Student Union Theatre on the North Campus.

"We wanted to capitalize on the excitement and media attention the transgender community has gotten recently and to expose UB to a truly iconic figure in transgender medicine," said Dan Kuhr, one of several students who invited Bowers to speak.

Bowers was invited by medical school students who had seen the documentary "Trinidad" about Bowers and Trinidad, Colorado - where she first practiced and has been called the "sex change capital" of the United States. The California surgeon also is an international authority on reconstructive surgery for female genital mutilation, has been the subject of documentaries on the subject and has traveled to Africa to establish clinics and training on FGM.

In her keynote speech last fall at the march on Washington, D.C. she led to end female genital mutilation, Bowers described herself as "an outsider, a woman of privilege, a western-educated Caucasian woman." But she also spoke humbly about her "womanhood."

Quoting civil rights activist Rosa Parks, she said "never be fearful about what you are doing, when what you are doing is right”. She believes what she is doing is right and she is not afraid of backlash, scorn or skepticism.  

"Organizing this event has brought us closer to the network of clinicians and community outreach groups that serve the LGBTQ community of Western New York," said Kuhr. "It is our hope that this event will continue the discussion of how we can improve physician education on these topics."

As an analogy, imagine going to a doctor to discuss a medical problem. The doctor speaks English. You speak Polish. It would be difficult to communicate, to understand each person's needs, to get the best medical treatment possible, and - in turn - the best outcomes.

Bowers said although New York is more progressive than other states, it does not mandate LGBTQ education in medical schools. She would like that to change. Bowers contends diversity is one of our nation's strongest assets and LGBTQ issues are the next step in the civil rights movement.