Carlisha Gizelle Brown is a 37-year-old MAC Cosmetics employee who lives in Los Angeles. Last year, she underwent a 10-hour facial feminization surgery that included rhinoplasty and sanding down her chin and forehead. She invited Refinery29 to follow her through the process. The following story was told to Rachel Lubitz and edited for length and clarity.
When I first realized I was transgender, and was able to put the feeling to a definition, it was really exciting. It was like, You found the golden ticket. You found your definition of self. Once you realize that you’re a trans woman, now you’re on this journey trying to make everything make sense so you can move on and live. It’s insane to wake up every day and the first thing you feel is uncomfortable with who you are.
About three years ago, I started thinking that facial feminization surgery was the next step for me. I wanted to get on with my life and feel comfortable in my body. I think my concerns and worries beforehand were like anyone else’s going into surgery. It's not, Am I making the right choice? It's this anxiety from reading the fine print and thinking about that 1% that doesn’t wake up from anesthesia. I think that nervousness and anxiety really stemmed from the worst-case scenarios while underneath the knife.
After the surgery, the healing process was horrible, and a part of that had to do with how my body reacts to trauma. My body was in such shock that I was at a standstill; the bruising wasn’t going away. The pain management was a task on its own. A part of the video (above) that’s not shared is that I was getting my vasectomy at the same time too, which added a whole other layer to this. It was so hard to see the bruises for so long.
But I'd never regret it. The surgery helped turn me into the goddess I am and always was. When you look in the mirror, you see yourself for the first time without all the hard edges. It’s almost like you’re in disbelief that you could achieve this, and that you’re seeing the person that’s been there the whole time. Now, I look at my face all the time.
What Dr. Michael Obeng did for me is so much more than plastic surgery. He gave me this new chapter of life. I finally felt normal after six months, when I didn't have to contour and cake on the concealer; eight months is when things started settling. Now, a year since the surgery, I'm really seeing how flat my forehead is and how he feminized around my eyes and how perfect my nose is in balance with my new features. The man is an artist.
My advice to anyone who's thinking about this is: Before you start working on your outside, get your inside together. That’s how you know that taking this next step isn’t coming from a place of influence or vanity, but it's a tool to motivate you to push you into the next chapter of your life. What I also wasn’t expecting was the amount of support I needed to go through this. Make sure you build your tribe, and there are people who can be there for you.
Dr. Obeng is family now. He and I are discussing my corrective surgery. I’m just so lucky and fortunate that this man is so vested in my transition and my happiness. He already helped me in getting rid of my testosterone poison, and now we’re working on aligning that beautiful vagina that’s supposed to be between my legs.
You can watch Brown's full surgery, and learn more about her journey, in the video above.