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Unsure of public reaction, Biber kept his early sex-change medical charts in the hospital administrator's safe. But as more patients arrived, he gathered Trinidad's religious leaders for a series of lectures. "That was one of the smartest things I've ever done," he recalls. "Much to my amazement, there was no opposition. They were very understanding and accepting. All of a sudden, townspeople became very sophisticated and knew everything about transsexuals."
But there was a backlash. Biber was refused insurance. The Colorado Medical Society admonished him for keeping poor records. A Mt. San Rafael Hospital doctor resigned, in part because of the sex-change surgeries.
Biber persevered, squeezing the "Biber Girls" between the general-practice patients who accounted for 80 percent of his work, becoming chief surgeon and helping the hospital stay afloat with the almost-million-dollar annual take from his sex-change clientele. "In my mind, I wanted to improve my technique," he says. "It was a challenge."
Biber performed sex-change operations on twins, three brothers from Georgia and an 84-year-old railroad engineer. "I had everything except a president of the United States," Biber says. "I didn't just decide to do this. They came to me."
She drove straight to Trinidad from Tulsa, alone, and that was scary, because only a few people knew where she was. But that wasn't the worst part. The worst part was writing letters to her two stepchildren and adopted son and telling them the truth in case something bad happened during surgery. Saying goodbye. She never wants to do that again.
Call her Mickey. Everyone else does. She's fifty years old and originally from Little Rock. Say she's a part-time accountant and manager of a fast-food restaurant.
Some people say it's psychological or environmental or physiological, but Mickey thinks it's all three. She's always known she was different. She didn't know why or what to call it, but it was always there. That confusion.
There were three boys in the family--Mickey was the middle one--but Mama always said Mickey was supposed to be a girl. In fact, if Mickey thinks real hard, she remembers Mama dressing her in dresses. Not that Mickey ever did boy things, anyway. When Daddy took his other sons hunting and fishing, Mickey never went along. And that was fine. Mickey went shopping with Mama.
In the beginning, Mickey thought his confusion meant he was homosexual, and at 21 he tried that scene. But it didn't work out. It was uncomfortable. Very uncomfortable.
In 1980 Mickey met a transsexual--a female to a male--who explained everything about gender dysphoria. That was all Mickey needed to hear to change his driver's license, quit his job, leave the state and start living as a woman. Mickey took female hormones, entered therapy. If you passed Mickey on the street, you'd never know. Auburn hair. Green eyes. Big-boned maybe, but completely natural. Mama and Daddy didn't understand, but they accepted it before they died. As for Mickey's brothers, they never even tried.
You know how men say they don't understand women? That's how Mickey felt, except Mickey didn't understand men. And you know how girls get up to go to the restroom together? Mickey did that, too, as long as there were stalls inside.
When Mickey's fourteen-year-old stepdaughter left a condom in her bedroom, they talked about sex, pregnancy and abortion, and Mickey explained things from a woman's perspective. It came from the heart.
Mickey's husband--ex-husband now--had no idea when they met, no clue until their first night together. Mickey pictures it as if it were yesterday. They were lying on the couch in front of the fireplace, and Mickey explained as delicately as possible. Maybe he was gay or bisexual, but Mickey's ex never minded. Even when they had problems and divorced after five years, it wasn't because of the gender thing--Mickey's ex liked to drink and smoke pot.
People say the operation is just about sex, but the act of sex had nothing to do with Mickey's decision to have the final surgery. After years of seeing men and women together, Mickey just watned to be one gender.
As far as the pain, it wasn't bad. Mickey told her ex that she could picture him sitting across from her, crossing his legs and tightening up, but it wasn't that bad. None of it was really difficult.
Except telling the kids. They treat Mickey like a regular stepmom. What they see is what they believe. There was only one time Mickey had to lie. She locked the door so the kids couldn't barge in while she was taking a shower; she told them she was shy. In a way, though, that's true. Most people, when they take a shower and look in the mirror, like what they see. Mickey never did. Mickey never wanted anyone to see her undressed. When Biber conducted an exam before surgery, Mickey cried.
The night before the operation, Mickey looked in the mirror and memorized the image, something to compare her new body with. Five days later, she stood in front of the mirror again. For the first time in her life, she wasn't ashamed.
Phillip Valdez, county commissioner, barber, musician: "I remember Biber around in the early Sixties. I hear he came in with just a little old junker. But you know doctors. With what they charge, it doesn't take long for them to get well-off."