You may not know Munroe Bergdorf by name, but you’ve likely seen her fronting any number of beauty campaigns. After years of relying on makeup and fillers, Bergdorf recently underwent facial feminization surgery.
“Your face is how you look at other people, and it’s how you see yourself. You can’t get away from it. When I’d look in the mirror and notice some primary male characteristics, it would make me feel like I wasn’t seeing who I really was,” Burgdorf said in interview with Refinery29. “One of the biggest things that used to freak me out was dressing rooms, because the lighting is so horrendous. There was just something about the way the light hit my brow ridge and showed the width of my chin and nose.”
What is facial feminization surgery?
Facial feminization surgery is an umbrella term that encompasses a broad range of plastic surgery procedures to change masculine facial features into feminine features with the aim of helping transgender women transition physically to their self-affirmed gender.
The surgery can include, among other procedures:
- Nose reshaping: Typically involves reducing the overall size of the nose and its angles.
- Eyelid modification: Excess tissue can be cut away to feminize the upper eyelids.
- Lip lift and augmentation: A lift can shorten the distance between the lip and the nose and create a shorter, more curled lip. While fillers or fat from another part of the body can plump the lips.
- Cheek augmentation: Women tend to have prominent cheeks because they have a greater concentration of fat in the area. Implants or fat from another part of the body can be used to alter the size and shape of the cheeks.
- Mandibular angle reduction: By sculpting or removing outer layers from the lower jaw, the jaw can be reduced and narrowed.
- Chin width reduction: A small wedge of bone is removed to shorten and narrow the chin.
- Tracheal shave: With a small, well-hidden incision, the thyroid cartilage, or Adam’s apple, can be reduced and reshaped.
‘I feel the best I ever have’
“Facial feminization surgery isn’t talked about as much as sex reassignment surgery. People don’t understand how valuable and important facial feminization is,” “Vanderpump Rules” star Billie Lee told Refinery29. “A lot of trans women decide to get facial feminization done way before their sex assignment surgery, or choose not to get sexual assignment surgery at all, and I think that’s really beautiful and brave.”
Both Burgdorf and Lee said they reached a point in their lives where facial feminization surgery stopped being an option and it became, instead, a lifeline.
About a year removed from her surgery, Burgdorf said, “I feel the best I ever have. I didn’t realize how dysmorphic I was about my body until I got that surgery. I didn’t know how much I was holding back in regards to intimacy, either. If you can’t feel a connection with your body, how can you form a connection with somebody else? Getting closer to how I saw myself allowed me to get closer to other people, too.”
Lee echoed the sentiment. “Shortly after the surgery, I was out having fun with friends and I walked past a bathroom mirror and saw myself and I was like, ‘Oh, my God. That’s me,’ ” she said. “Even now, I still have these really powerful moments where I catch my reflection in a store window and it fills me with so much gratitude.”