Man in Wales Performs Self-Serve Sex-Change Surgery

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Monday August 24, 2009

A transwoman in Newport, South Wales, was so determined to shed her male identity that she took up cutting implements and did the job herself in the family bathroom.

Gender reassignment surgery is typically a complicated procedure that is undertaken in concert with more delicate alterations such as electrolysis and hormone therapy, perhaps with some facial plastic surgery.

But Roland Mery, 61, did a crude, if effective, job at physically transitioning from male to female by performing rudimentary surgery on himself in the bathroom of his home.

As is commonplace for transgendered individuals, Mery had felt different from other boys from a very early age; later in his life, he realized that despite his male anatomy, he identified as a woman, related an Aug. 16 story at Wales Online.

Mery recalled that his inner conflict caused him feelings of alienation from his own body.

"I hated waking up in the morning and going to the toilet or having a shower because it was so stressful to see that I was a man," the article quoted her as saying.

"I knew [my male genitalia] shouldn't be there," Mery continued.

"It was all wrong. I felt that I was not a man."

After a stint in the military, success as an athlete, marriage, and fatherhood, those deep-seated feelings didn't change.

"I tried everything to overcome it and try to be what was expected of me from society and the people around me," Mery said.

"In my early 20s I became anorexic," Mery continued.

"I was cycling a lot at the time and went totally over the top.

"I became a top international cyclist, winning a tour of Ireland and becoming the National Road Race Champion in 1989."

Mery spoke of the toll his anguish took on him physically. "I used to punish myself because of the feelings I had, it took my mind off everything for a while," he said.

"At one stage I would cycle 170 miles a day.

"When I was 23, I went down to just seven stone [98 lbs.]," recalled Mery.

"I felt embarrassed, ashamed and very angry. I thought I was crazy, so I did everything to be the opposite of what I really was."

Added Mery, "For most of my life I tried to blank out all the feelings I had. I was trying to work out what on earth was wrong with me.

"People are more aware and have more information now but there was none in those days. I couldn't go to anybody."

Finally, at age 56, Mery looked into sex reassignment surgery.

"I thought this was the answer to my problems. I could talk to somebody and get some help.

"After two psychological assessments, I started hormone treatment. But it was very expensive--about £275 [$450] a month, which I couldn't afford.

"But I felt so at home, it was wonderful," continued Mery. adding, "The treatment got rid of all my anger and I felt so at peace with myself.

"But I couldn't afford it and had to get a few months' treatment, then leave it while I saved up more money by selling things."

Money was only part of the difficulty she faced.

"[H]ow could I explain this to my family?" Mery asked.

In the event, Julie was understanding, and Mery went back to looking into gender reassignment surgery--but she was informed that she might have to wait as long as two years for the procedure.

Deciding that she was ready right now, Mery removed her male external genitalia with the help of painkillers and a jury-rigged set of surgical implements.

The article quoted Mery as saying, "I had worked out exactly how I would do it and rehearsed it many times.

"It proved to me afterwards that your brain and emotions can overpower you so much," Mery added. "I had rehearsed the whole thing over and over. So when it came to actually doing it, the pain wasn't an issue anymore."

Continued Mery, "My priority was to just get rid of it all, but I obviously had to be very careful."

Noted Mery, "When I was taken to the Royal Gwent Hospital afterwards, the doctor told me I had actually done quite a good job!"

Mery had shared his decision to look into sex-reassignment surgery with his wife, Julie, 51, but she did not expect him to perform an operation on himself.

Said Julie, "When he came down the stairs he was absolutely white. I thought he was dying."

Added Mery's wife, "He yelled: 'Ring 999 Julie, I've done it!'"

Before police understood the nature of what had taken place, they regarded Julie as a suspect, the article said.

"I wanted to go to the hospital with Roland, but I couldn't because my home was being treated as a crime scene," reaclled Mery's wife.

"There were forensics and police in the bathroom and they thought I might have done it.

"But when they went upstairs, what they saw told them Roland had planned this himself.

Added Julie, "I had just got over cancer and don't know how I would have coped if it wasn't for my family. They were very supportive."

Julie vowed her continued support for the person she married, saying, "You can't get any closer than we are now.

"We've been through so much together. I've had cancer and post-natal depression and Roland supported me through that.

"And now, after seeing what he has been through for so long, I'm 110% supportive of him," Julie added.

"He may not be a whole man anymore, but he still makes me feel complete."

Said Mery, who does not have the money to get more delicate reconstruction done, "I'm a woman now.

"But most of all I want to concentrate on being a good person and a good wife."

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

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