When you meet someone new, you scan their features. If the eyes are narrow, brow prominent, and jaw square, you recognize the person as male. If the eyes are rounder, nose slimmer, and chin pointier, you register the person as a female. According to Dr. Vartan Madirossian, gender detection happens in a split second.
Madirossian is one of the country’s leading plastic surgeons specializing in facial feminization surgery. He reshapes male features to make them more feminine. Madirossian’s goal is to trick the brain’s subconscious gender-detection scan so transgender women can appear as the sex they identify with — not the one they born with. Over the past seven years, he has treated more than 600 women in his Palm Beach office. After Caitlyn Jenner popularized the facial feminization surgery last March, Madirossian is noticing an uptick in requests for the procedure.
“Life is so hard for transgender people. They have a much higher rate of suicide than the general public,” Madirossian explains. “What better than a surgery to enhance their confidence?”
Madirossian was born in Armenia but has moved a lot. With each move, he says, others were quick to designate another heritage to him. “Inside, I felt Armenian, but no one believed me,” Madirossian remembers. “The way people label one another bothered me.”
In 2009, he started his practice in Palm Beach. Madirossian has a soft spot for people who try to overcome labels forced on them. “Society is always trying to label us somehow,” he says.
The doctor says his surgery is not just for transgender women. “This surgery, though, is not about making people look younger but more attractive,” he explains.
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Facial feminization surgeries were pioneered in the 1980s and 1990s, but these days, only a handful of surgeons are specialists. As a result, Madirossian sees patients from all over the country.
The surgery can cost tens of thousands of dollars and is not covered by most insurance.
Facial feminization can take years, Madirossian says. He regularly performs consultations over Skype. He stays in touch with all his clients for follow-ups.
“You can change their lives with this surgery,” he says.