Tranny Regret

Do transsexuals get a second chance in the great gender-identity sweepstakes?

"I love surgery!" Berke says. "I love waking up to the painkiller fairy."

Of course, not everything needed work.

"I was naturally born with big lips," he says, pouting to make the point. Berke stands, shifts his weight to one side, and runs a hand across his thigh and up his full backside. "And as you can see, I have natural hips. My legs are to die for."

Courtesy of Michael Berke

The estrogen and testosterone inhibitors — which Michelle acquired right away from her primary-care doctor (another violation of the SOC) — thinned and lightened Michelle's facial hair. Still, she opted for electrolysis of the upper lip. That hurt. "Oh my God, it's like, let me go get stung by bees for a while," Berke says.

Michelle had long, reddish locks bonded to her scalp at the Hair Club for Women, and for her $300-per-month membership, she could have the hair styled and rebonded when necessary. She got a butterfly and a flower tattooed strategically over the roguish skull on her left forearm.

Dr. Arthur Handal — who did not return New Times' calls — performed the nose job and brow lift in January 2004, about three months after Berke had decided to become a woman. Several months later, Handal implanted Michelle's D-sized breasts.

Michelle was thrilled. She dressed her new body in fashionable, provocative clothing. She bought all new accessories. She taught herself to speak from the diaphragm and walked in heels as if she were born to do it.

"I even developed an eating disorder," Berke says with pride. In a matter of months, Michelle's bulimia shrank her from a size 12 to a 7. She weighed 150.

Eager to make herself beautiful, she enrolled in cosmetology school and became a nail technician. Soon, she could perform French manicures and apply acrylics. To store her polishes, files, and other nail gear, she emptied a toolbox from the garage.

The bedroom would also have to change. Michelle switched her old, off-white bedspread for a flower print. She painted the walls purple and pink. For the bathroom, Berke bought pink towels with butterflies on them, pink curtains, and fuzzy pink floor mats. Her primping station included a double-sided, light-up vanity mirror on a white table, flanked by a unicorn and a star-shaped lamp.

Michelle bought all the Max Factor, Mac, Lancôme, and Ben Nye makeup she could charge. To pull off the feminine look, the most crucial element was the foundation. She applied thick coats of Ben Nye stage makeup over her mustache and beard areas, then covered it in a translucent powder. For eye shadow, she favored reds, pinks, and purples — sometimes all at once. "Girls used to be astounded by my makeup," Berke says.

After spending a couple of hours getting ready, Michelle — unlike her shy twin brother, Michael — loved to go out on the town. She hung out at Dada, Respectable Street, and the VooDoo Lounge in Fort Lauderdale, and she was an eye magnet.

"One time, I was a little pissed," says Ben, an acquaintance from Koffeeokee. " 'Cause I saw Michelle from a block away, and I was like, 'Who's the hot chick?' Then I was like, 'Oh, it's Michael.' It made me feel like I was gay for a second."

Another time, a couple of guys were sitting on a corner of Atlantic Avenue, rating the female passersby. Michelle was nervous because "the guys were, like, total rednecks." She was sure they'd notice her Adam's apple. "But before I even got there, one was like, '10!' " Berke says. "The other said, 'Definitely 10.' "

A man approached Michelle at Starbucks and asked her to dinner. She informed him that she wasn't interested in men sexually, but he didn't mind. He took her to Kyoto Sushi & Sake Lounge, an upscale sushi restaurant, and bought her toro, an expensive cut of tuna.

"I got to feel what it would be like to be treated like a lady," Berke said. "I mean, he pulled out the chair for me. He ordered for me. It was just so beautiful."

As Michelle, Berke began to feel closer to her female friends. She and Rachael Balentine, her roommate, would go to movies together and shop together. They traded clothing. Balentine, Berke says, became like a sister. Balentine agrees they did become like family.

Berke convinced family members that the transition had been a life-changing event. She told her mother she was happy and stable and ready to become a part of the family again. For the first time since Berke's young adulthood, she was allowed to attend the family's Thanksgiving celebration in Ohio. Michelle cooked the gravy. She painted her young niece's nails. All seemed right in the world.

But soon, what Berke called "the pink cloud" — her honeymoon phase of being female — began to dissipate.

Evangelical Christianity has been trying to cure the "sexually broken" — including gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgenders — through reparative therapy since 1973.

Orlando-based Exodus International, the world's largest nonprofit dedicated to this cause, has cured thousands, according to its promotional materials, and local churches followed suit, some even becoming satellites of EI. Coral Ridge Ministries, the congregation of the recently deceased Rev. D. James Kennedy, hosted the "Love Won Out" conference last May, which focused on preventing homosexuality, and Metanoia Ministries in Boca Raton offers online seminars with titles like "Developing Gender Identity in a Unisex World."

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3 comments
Nick3039959030
Nick3039959030

THey ever say what happened to the Balentine chick 

Nick3039959030
Nick3039959030

THey ever say what became of the Balentine chick? 

 
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