Shanti K: "My Many Things, But Rarely Boring Transgender Life...So Far!"

Updated: Jul 27, 2020

Hi! I’m Shanti K of Exquisite Gender. We’re proud to be Atlanta’s all-trans rock band, playing the soundtrack to Hedwig and the Angry Inch, some great cover songs, and a few originals thrown in for good measure! All trans people have unique stories of their transitions. Some like to keep their stories to themselves, which is fine, but I’ve always been brutally honest to a fault! For me, my transition included surgical procedures. Recently, I found the journal that I kept in Montreal as I was preparing to have rhinoplasty, breast augmentation, and gender confirmation surgery done. I was very fortunate to have three of my very best friends accompany me on this life-changing trip; Celi, Kristen (K), and Kathleen. You’ll read their names frequently in these posts.

Above: Me and Kelly Ogden of The Dollyrots!! They're awesome!!

For those of you interested, I’ve decided to share this with you here on our web page. If you have any questions, you can e-mail me at I hope you find this to be enlightening, educational, and (at times) entertaining.

Montreal Journal:  March 19-31, 1998 March 19, 1998 -- Well...when does it sink in?  I’m in Montreal, staying at the residency (GRS Montreal), talking to my new roommate (Mary Ellen) about our upcoming surgeries, and it’s as if I’ve done this a hundred times before!  Why?  Am I afraid that something might go wrong if I let my true emotions show?  I don’t think so.  The fact is that I’ve got sensory overload!  I’m practically numb. I’m here for the most important thing in my life and I’m depressed because I couldn’t go out with Celi and K!!  How stupid is that?!  I hope they're gonna have as much fun as I think they’re gonna have.  They seem to really have hit it off.   They kept showering me with praises at dinner tonight.  I’m glad that we were in candlelight...I was blushing.  I don’t know what it is that people are seeing in me.  I think it’s that they’re getting to see the REAL me at last.  I have said many times before that I wish I wasn’t TS (transsexual), but since I am, I’m gonna try to do the most for the trans community that I can.’s how the day started.  It went off without a hitch….well….almost!  I got up at 5:15am, took my shower, then started drying my hair.  Don’t ask me how, but I managed to get my hair completely tangled in the brush!!!  There I was, standing naked and looking in the mirror at this brush and thinking, “We’re gonna have to cut this out of my hair and I’m gonna show up in Montreal with a bald spot on the side of my head!”  I woke my mom (naked though I was...she’s seen me before like this!) and asked for help.  It took 15 minutes of pulling, unwrapping, and continually hearing, “How did you DO this?!” before the damn thing came loose!  I didn’t lose any hair.  Yea!! I ate a quick breakfast and said, “I love you.” to Mom and Dad.  How am I supposed to express my gratitude to them?  For cryin’ out loud, they let me put their home up as collateral for this!!  To say that I love them just doesn’t seem to cut it. I was running 30 minutes late to pick up Celi.  She was ready and waiting.  She had everything packed into one small bag.  We hate her for that!!!  :-)  I had two HUGE bags crammed with stuff PLUS a carry-on that weighed a ton, PLUS my purse!  What is my problem when it comes to packing?  Oh yeah...I was raised by drag queens!  LOL!!  You can NEVER have too much stuff!

Above: Celi (l) and K as we prepare to take off from Atlanta to Montreal.

Friday, March 20, 1998 Oh wow!  I just met the first other girl staying here!!  She is so cool!  Mary Ellen, from San Antonio, is a single mother of three and a grandmother of one.  She’s 36 (my age), very fish, just retired after 18 years in the Air Force.  She fought authority and kicked its ass!!  Got ALL of her military records changed over to female and retired with full benefits!!  She knows many of the people in the TG community that I do:  Phyllis Frye, Dee McKellan, Terry Murphy, Sabrina Marcus, Tony Bereto-Neto, etc. We were out in the garage smoking and talking until almost 3am!  I’m so jazzed!!  We hit it off BIG TIME immediately.  She’s only 15 days older than me.  We have the same beliefs about transsexuals being predisposed to the effects of hormones.  She’s having surgery on Tuesday with Dr. Menard.  She’s an activist, writer, and has a publishing company.  She also has a wicked sense of humor! I’m so glad she’s here.  It’s all part of the “destiny thing”.  I only got 4 hours of sleep, but I slept straight through and I feel really great this morning.

I’ll call the girls (Celi and K) in a few hours.  They need their sleep.  After I left them last night, they were heading to “Biddes”, a jazz/blues club across from a university.  They had split a $39.00 bottle of Cabernet at the restaurant and K was already in “my he’s so cute” mode!  Celi was more than willing to join in with the flirting.  I pity the poor university males!  LOL! Kathleen is supposed to come over from Rochester tonight.  (I can’t believe that I’m hearing Ray Stevens’ “The Streak” on FM radio [Mix 106] in Montreal. Truly adds to the surreal feeling -- 7:20am).  I can’t wait to see her!  Maybe THEN all of this will sink in.  Maybe after meeting with Dr. Menard...I don’t know.   I met another girl this morning...Rene from Santa Fe, NM.  She seems very sweet, too.  The staff is great!  Annie, Marie Andre, Raphael, and Lydia are so nice!  I thought they’d shit a brick when I told them that I was vegetarian!  Here it’s not strange to be TS, but it’s unusual (to them) to be veg!

I’m REALLY bonding with Mary Ellen.  She’s so great!  She was a DJ once, too.  If you ever meet her, you’ve GOT to have her do her radio voice for you!  It’s absolutely amazing!  Be forewarned, it will blow you away!   Mrs. Menard (Sylvia) is also here.  She’s wonderful, too!  I just found out today that this is Dr. Menard’s house!  It’s quite beautiful.  Right now there’s lovely snow covering everything, but in the summer, there’s a great pool to use in the backyard.  The house is huge!  Very roomy and lots of daylight comes in.  Mary Ellen  Annie, and I are the smokers here, so we go out to the garage (with heat) to smoke.  Might as well do it now as there’s no smoking at the hospital.  We are going to watch the surgery tape after lunch, which is about to be served… We had lunch with Dr. Menard.  It was soooo cool!  It was just like a family dinner.  Dr. Menard, Sylvia, Annie, Raphael, Rene, Mary Ellen, and me sitting and talking about everyday stuff.  He is extremely friendly and very personable.  He is an avid skier as his son, who recently was asked to go to Aspen with a woman to show her how to ski.  On his first run, he fell and dislocated his shoulder!!

After lunch (while still waiting for Celi and K), three girls came from the hospital after having surgery earlier this week.  One of the girls, Eva, was AMAZING!!! Beyond fish!!!  Then we found out why.  She had had an orchiectomy at the age of 14, so she never went through puberty!  Her skin is flawless and there is no hair on her face.  Her voice never changed and she has major boobs...truly remarkable!!!  She’s been through hell, though.  It’s the all-too-familiar tale of the family disowning her.  Her father went so far as to tell relatives that she was dead!  She’s been homeless and had no money, but she never gave up.  She met an older trans woman who got legal custody of her and took care of her.  Now she’s congruent.  However, she still has major problems trying to forgive the rest of her family even though her father is now dead.  She has so much pain in her.  :-( We watched the video of the surgery….Oh!!  Before I get there, I had my consultation with Dr. Menard!  We discussed what he would do to my nose, my tits, and pussy.  He was great!  We discussed recto-vaginal fistulas and he alleviated many of my fears.  He said it happens once in 250 cases.  Great odds if you're playing the lottery, but a little sobering when you're about to have surgery.  However, if it were to happen, it’s not the end of the world.  You must stop dilatiing, let it close, and one year, you can do the surgery again.  No colostomy necessary.  That was a huge relief and I started getting REALLY jazzed!!!  Only three more days!  Ok.  As I started to say...Celi and K arrived and we watched the video of the surgery.  It was the first time I had actually seen it done.  I’ve seen stills and slide, but never the actual procedure.  The first part, where ephedrine is injected into the scrotum and penis was difficult to watch...even for me!  Celi admitted that she had a problem with it because it (the surgery) I was the on having it done.  However, she watched it intensely and a lot of her questions and concerns were answered.  

K wouldn’t watch most of it.  She and Eva were talking a lot.  Eva asked Mrs. Menard if it would be out of line for her to show us her new vagina.  Mrs. Menard said that it was between us and her.  Eva asked us...saying that some of her TS “friends” refused to let her see and answer questions and she had felt betrayed and was very hurt by it.  I could tell that it was very important to her that we go and look.  K and I went.  It was swollen for sure, but it looked so beautiful!!!  It was after “the viewing” that she told us her story (which I previously mentioned). We spent some time with Mary Ellen.  Man!!  I really like her!  I hope we keep in touch after this adventure is over.  We took a cab over to Celi and K’s hotel.  I’ll be here for the next two nights.  Kathleen is supposed to get here around 10pm.  I hope so!!  I can’t wait to see her!! Celi and I walked to the nearest market while K got some much needed sleep.  We walked about 4.5 blocks through the snow & slush to get to a market which certainly wasn’t “super”.  Prices were high and selection low, but we got some stuff and then stopped and got K a bottle of wine at a beer and wine shop...very small and, again, not much of a selection. I almost left this out!  My mom called and told me about a tornado that tore through the North Hall area (where I live).  Seven people dead...70 injured...several old elementary school was heavily damaged and my high school, North Hall High, suffered some damage, too!  Mom said that she had never seen or heard anything like it.  At 6am this morning, when it should have been dark, she said that it was as if someone had turned on a giant spotlight!  It’s truly a tragedy of great magnitude.  Thank goodness Mom and Dad are alright.  I never would have forgiven myself if something had happened to them.   Then she told me that the bank had tried to contact me to let me know that I had two checks bounce!  Bullshit!!!  I’ll deal with that when I get home.  Things are going too good to let that bother me.  I’m so grateful for Celi and K that I can’t express it properly.  I would be OK without them, but it sure is MUCH nicer WITH them here!!  I owe ‘em...big time!!!

Saturday, March 21, 1998

8am: Kathleen got in right around 10pm last night. God! It’s so good to see her!! Her friend, Jann, was very nice. Good looking guy, too!

I pulled out my pictures and let her see the “old me”. I think she was a bit surprised as to how different I looked. It’s so weird. I used to look at those pictures and see me. Now it’s almost as if it’s another person entirely. Celi even said that my voice has changed mucho! I’ve noticed that, too. We (trans people) certainly keep some of our old selves but, on the other hand, we are new people. That’s where the grieving comes in. I know that Celi has felt the need to grieve for Steve even though (technically) I’m still Steve. More on that later.

I think Kathleen is really happy to see me, too. While looking at the pics, she had her head on my shoulder. It was so cute!! K on one shoulder and Kathleen on the other. We turned in fairly early...around 12:30am. Much giggling was had by us. Kathleen wears a t-shirt tied around her eyes to sleep! It’s an amusing sight, but it works for her! Maybe I should try it. :-) We’re gonna hit the town hard today and then meet Jann tonight to go to some club called “Storm”.

(from left: Kathleen, me, K)

7pm: We went to the tourist information bureau. It’s cold walking around! 28 years in Georgia has really made a wimp of me. We got the info needed and then decided to go to “The Underground City”. It was shopping time!!! We took the metro and went in. It’s like a huge mall that just keeps going and going. There are two sides of the city connected by the metro. The rest is all underground passageways. There are two colleges, seven hotels, the main train station, over 1600 shops, and an indoor ice skating rink! I had to skate! Celi, Kathleen, and I ventured onto the ice. Celi had never been ice skating, so I was hoping for some laughs….and I got them!! Actually, I fell first, but got right back up and surprised myself at not falling more. Kathleen did well albeit a bit shaky. Celi actually did quite well for a first-timer!. However, one time, she came around a corner, couldn’t stop, went right into another woman, and took them both into the wall!They both went down. I was hysterical! Have I mentioned that I have a warped sense of humor!? :-) I called her for high checking and sent her to the penalty box. Other than almost wiping out a little kid as she came off the ice, she did quite well...only a few bruises.

We all crashed when we got back to the hotel (after munching on some bread and cheese..Yum!!!). We made a reservation for dinner at Le Taj, an Indian place. It was superb!!! Celi, Kathleen, and K bought my dinner for me. How nice! We all really enjoyed it. Great service, too!

Above: Kathleen, Celi, and K as head head back from the Underground City.

Above: Just a typical March day in Montreal!

Above: Me, Kathleen, and Celi on the ice in the Underground City.

Above: Not bad for a first-timer!! :-)

Above: Don't worry. Kathleen did NOT kill that little girl! :-)

Above: I couldn't have possibly had three better friends with me (from left: K, Kathleen, Celi)

We got in touch with Jann and he gave us the names of some clubs to try out. We went to “Sky”, but it was much too crowded. K and Celi had noticed a place we passed. It was called “The Drugstore”. We went and it was very nice and comfortable. We then realized it was a gay men’s bar. No wonder no one was coming over to us! Finally, someone did. Frederick, a 20 year old who was celebrating his birthday, came over and introduced himself. He had been celebrating his birthday all week! We asked him where a good place was for us to go and he said that if we wanted a good time to go with him to “La Tropo”. It was the drag bar that Jann had mentioned. We went and it was nice. They had a good show, although I don’t think the performers were any better than the girls at Boneshakers. They did have very nice costumes. It was fun! We met Frederick’s partner, Sebastian, who was also very nice. I told him why we were in Montreal (he had asked) and he told me that he had once considered transitioning and surgery. He didn’t think that he could do it now. I told him that it was good that he hadn’t done it. It’s not for everyone, you know.

One of the performers was the Canadian Ms. Pebbles! I swear!! Her moves were so similar! After the last show was dancing. Celi and I danced. It was, in a way, our last dance together. I choked up a bit. Later, I found out the K cried while watching us. When we finished, Kathleen and I decided to go back to the hotel. K and Celi stayed. Kathleen admitted that she was a little pissed that we hadn’t gone to “La Salsa” bar. We had decided to, but at the last minute, K and Celi backed out because they didn’t want to run into a guy they had met the night before.

Above: Frederick, K, Celi

Above: Me and Celi at the drag show.

Above: This was bittersweet. It was, in a way, our "last dance".

We got back to the hotel and Kathleen offered to show me her “work”. I was honored. We have become even closer this weekend. I love her so much!! Earlier, we had done our makeup together to get ready to go out and now she was sharing the ultimate with me! She said, “Of course I’ll show you. We’re sisters.” It made me feel so good. Her vagina is beautiful! I can only hope that mine turns out as well as hers did. After that, she complimented me on my taste in women (a reference to Celi and K) and asked me how Celi and I met. Just as I began to tell her, K and Celi returned.

Kathleen got more than she bargained for as they were in a very talkative mood and we discussed their being here and its importance to me. Also, Celi and I discussed whether we would have gotten back together again were I not trans (now she says no!) and all about our break-up. Bottom line: There are no “what ifs”. This is our reality and I wouldn’t change anything about our friendship.

When I thought about how much I love the three people here with me, I finally started shedding tears. They were tears of love, happiness, and also sadness for the trans men and women who don’t have such great friends and family to support them and be with them through their journey. I finally got to sleep (after playing “footsie” with Kathleen) around 5 or 5:30am.

It’s now 8:30am March 22, 1998…….the day I check in to the clinic. Tomorrow, my life changes forever. I can’t sleep.

Here's the fourth entry from my Montreal journal. It's now the day I check into the clinic. Surgeries are tomorrow!

Sunday, March 22, 1998 -- Kathleen and I got back to the residence around noon. What a ride!! It’s been snowing for 3 days...about 30 centimeters. The car was sliding everywhere and Kathleen was wigging! We made it safely and saw the other girls. Had lunch and then we were talking in the living room. Eva, Victoria, Andrea, Kathleen, and me. Victoria and Eva wanted to see Kathleen’s “twat”. Eva said, “Come on. We’ll compare!” Victoria joined in and Kathleen agreed and started to head upstairs. Eva stopped her and said, “No. Right here. No one cares.” The three of them “dropped trou” right in the living room!!! Victoria and Eva are stooped over Kathleen, staring at her pussy and Eva tells her to “Spread it.” It was hysterical!!!! :-) Then, Eva and Victoria sat on the couch side by side and “spread ‘em” for all of us to see. I guess you could say that it was a trans-bonding moment. Victoria showed me her boob job. If I come out as nice and big as she did, I will be so happy!

Above: Yes. I still have the snow globe Kathleen gave me.

Kathleen had to leave around 4pm to get back to the hotel. She forbade me to cry...No tears! I know that we have become so much closer over this weekend. She is truly my sister AND now trans-mother! She brought her inflatable “donut” with her and had signed it with the date of her surgery. She gave it to me to long as I promised to do the same for another girl. She also got me a beautiful snow globe. It’s a mother koala and her baby climbing a tree. The song it plays is “You And Me Against The World”. The detailing is so gorgeous! I brought it with me to the clinic. Hang on! I’m getting there! :-) Anyway, I hated seeing her leave, but she had to get back to Rochester for classes. I think the world of her and love her soooo much!

Above: Me and K at the clinic. Tomorrow is THE day!

Celi and K came over (Celi first!) and, after dinner (which was an amazing tofu dish that Raphael made especially for me!), I got ready to go to the clinic with Rene. Side note: Enemas are still no fun! I’ve had two now and I hope everything is out that needs to be!

We took a cab to the clinic (less than one mile) and checked in. Remember when I asked when this was going to sink in? Well, when I was checking in I had to sign the standard release forms, but there was one special form I had to sign. It said, “I, _______________, do hereby give Dr. Yvon Menard the right to dispose of my testicles.” Shit just got VERY real!!!

The room is small, but sufficient. We have a TV and small safes to lock up our belongings. Celi and K stayed until about 8pm. I gave them the letters that I had written to them. I had let Kathleen read Celi’s earlier and she said that, although it was a beautiful letter, Celi would wig. I hope she’ll be OK. I had to write that....for me as much as her. K’s is a written “Thank you” for being my friend. She is just incredible! It was very hard putting my feelings into words. I hope it comes through to them just how much they mean to me.

After Celi and K left, Rene and I had a chance to talk a bit. She seems very sweet. She’s very quiet and reserved, but very pleasant with a beautiful voice and smile. I took a sleeping pill around 9:30pm and felt it almost immediately. I slept straight through the night until……..

Above: Rene the night before surgery.

5:48am March 23rd, 1998 -- The day is here!! I woke up feeling really good and not nervous at all….well...99% not nervous. I had a shower, shaved, and put on the hospital gown. Rene goes first. I’ll go about 11 or 11:30am. I wish I could have been first, but at least it gives me a chance to catch up on this journal. Rene was taken from the room about 7:30am. We hugged and I gave her an early “Congratulations!” Now it’s just a waiting game. This will be the last entry before surgery. For whatever reason, although it’s so more REAL to me than it has been (after signing my balls away), I won’t be COMPLETELY real until I see “the little monster” gone! I spoke to Mom yesterday and she said how much she and Dad love me. I love them, too!

Well, it's finally surgeries day! March 23, 1998!!!

Prologue: I picked up the journal when I felt well enough to write again...four days after surgery. Please let me remind you that some of this is fairly graphic, but I wanted to be as honest as I could be.

Friday, March 27th, 1998: I slept fairly well. Woke up early and, of course, there’s no breakfast or water...just waiting. Before we know it, they tell Rene that it’s time. The nurses tell me that if I want to share a room with Mary Ellen, I need to move my things to the next room. She checks in this afternoon and her surgeries (boobs and gcs are tomorrow). I did, put on my hospital gown, and waited. Celi and K came by about 9:30am. Around 10:45am, they told me that it was time. The three of us did a group hug and I got on the gurney. They covered me in a blanket that felt as if it had just come out of the oven. I was heaven! The guy wheeled me into the elevator and up to the operating room. I remember getting on the operating table and meeting the anesthesiologist. He explained what was going to happen. I don’t really remember the first shot, if it was in the arm or the hip. Then he started the IV. No worries. I’ve had so many needles in me over the past two years that one more won’t bother me. Dr. Menard came into the room, looked at me, smiled, and asked me if I was ready. I said, “Yes.”. He smiled again and then squeezed my foot about five or six times. It was the most reassuring thing that he could have done...very fatherly. That’s the last thing I remember before going out.

Now then...I awoke around 5:30pm after being on the operation table for 6 hours. For this part of the tale I have to take the word of Celi and K. My first post-operative word was (and I’m so proud of this as it’s SO me!) a long, moaned, drawn out “Sssshhhhiiiitttt!!!!” Very in character for me! The next thing that I vaguely remember is Celi telling me that Sabrina Marcus was on the phone and wanted to know if I wanted her to post an email to the SCC (Southern Comfort Conference) planning committee. I am proud to say that my response (according to Celi) was, “Tell them that I love them and I’ll see them at the SCC planning committee meeting on April 18th.” How I got THAT out I’ll never know, but how so “chairwoman-like” it was! :-) That’s it for Monday...mission accomplished!

Above: I was zonked out on drugs. This was Celi and K's doing.

Above: Don't I look great!? :-) You, too, can look like this if you have gender confirmation surgery, rhinoplasty, and breast augmentation all done in one 6 hour stay on the operating table!

The next couple of days are really blurry, but pretty uneventful. Celi was a true Florence Nightingale. She gave up her chance to spend time in Montreal to spend time with Mary Ellen, Rene, and me. I remember that, when Mary Ellen woke up from her surgeries on Tuesday, she called to out to me in a really pitiful voice, “Stef? What did we do?!” I responded, “I don’t know, Mary Ellen, but it will be worth it.” She asked, “Are you sure?” I had to reply, “No!”. We were in SO MUCH PAIN!!! In addition to having a stent and catheter sewn into my new vagina, I had about a mile of gauze shoved up my new nose and I was in an industrial strength bra to keep my new boobs in place! Monday and Tuesday they gave us pain shots and we all had catheters hooked up, so it was just lying around trying to sleep. The 3rd day (Wednesday) was the worst! No more shots, just tablets for pain and our catheters were plugged, so we had to get out of bed and walk to the bathroom to pee. Here’s some irony for you: Male to female TS’s want to be rid of their male genitalia, right? I know that, in my case, that I’ve been sitting on toilets for over three years. I must say that I will miss the PPCF (penis peeing convenience factor), but I digress. Now then, I FINALLY get to have surgery, get a pussy, spend thousands of dollars...and now I have to STAND to pee!!!!! If I didn’t hurt so much I’d laugh!

Above: I felt WORSE than I look!

Above: Oh yeah! There's about a mile of gauze shoved up my new nose!

On Thursday, Celi came by early because she had to be at the airport by 1pm. I couldn’t even begin to express what it meant to me to have here with me. There was a death (of sorts) and we will both need to grieve. Before she left she lied in bed with me and held my hand. I love her so much! It’s still going to take a long time for me to admit that now there’s NO WAY we will ever be lovers again. I cried for quite some time when she was gone. She will always be the love of my life.

Above: Celi and me back in the late 80's.

Thursday night I hit the next hurdle in the recovery process….I had to shit. Now, after all the scary stuff I heard and read about recto-vaginal fistulas, I knew that this was a crucial moment. DO NOT PUSH!!! Let it happen naturally. This was my mantra. It came out easily enough (we had been taking stool softeners since entering the clinic), but there was a LOT of blood! This was really scary! K arrived just as I was in the bathroom and I yelled at her to get a nurse! The nurse assured me that it was perfectly normal and to not worry. Easier said than done! The nurses cleaned me when I got back to my bed and they said that everything looked normal. Whew! Another hurdle down!

4/7/2020 -- Some background

I hope you all have been enjoying going down memory lane with me and sharing my Montreal journal from when I had the surgeries that made my body finally match my mind. It's been fun (and sometimes emotional) going back to that time. There’s still plenty more to come, but I thought that I'd give you a little background as to how I got to Montreal.

Above: (from L): My brother, Bill, my brother, Charles, me, my dad, and my sister, Chris in 1964 outside our house in Kings Park, NY.

Above: That's me with my amazing first dog, Princess, keeping an eye on she always did!

Above: (from L) me, my cousin, Steve Szabo. and my maternal grandma, Adele Szabo.

All my life I knew that I was different. Don’t get me wrong, I knew that I had a boy’s body and I was told that I was a boy, so why did I always look at the girls in the neighborhood with such curiosity? I remember walking to kindergarten when I was 5 in Kings Park, NY and staring at all of the girls and their outfits. I already hated wearing what I was “supposed” to wear.