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Dr. Marci Bowers

#womenshistoryProfilesMarch 12, 2022

Dr. Marci Bowers is a gynecologist and surgeon who has spent more than 30 years helping people recover from trauma and become their true selves. She has delivered thousands of babies, performed thousands of gender affirmation surgeries, and helped thousands of women reclaim their bodies after enduring female genital mutilation (FGM). She is a pioneer in her field and the first woman with a personal transgender history to perform the procedure.

Bowers experienced gender dysphoria from an early age, hitchhiking from the Midwest to California at age 19 to pursue a new life. Transitioning would remain financially out of reach until after medical school and residency, when Bowers was 37 and practicing at Seattle’s Polyclinic and Swedish Medical Center. “I just couldn’t go on without making [the transition] happen,” she said. “I was trying to live this false life, being a family man. I was living for others and being who I wasn’t.” 

After she transitioned, Bowers wanted to do more to help people who were struggling with gender dysphoria. She traveled to Trinidad, Colorado, to apprentice under Dr. Stanly Biber, who was considered the father of gender reassignment surgery. She took over Biber’s practice when he retired in 2003, performing about a dozen successful transitions each week. She has continued to advance the technique, performing thousands of vaginoplasty and phalloplasty procedures. “The joy you bring to new parents feels really similar to the joy you bring to people whose genitals don’t match their bodies. Bringing them that gift is really momentous,” said Bowers.

Dr. Bowers relocated to the Bay Area a dozen years ago and now has a surgical practice in Burlingame, where she is well-respected by peers and has a waiting list of eager patients up to four years long. Not content just to build on her own expertise in the operating room, Bowers is also helping grow the workforce of qualified surgeons. In addition to teaching other physicians, she started transgender surgical education programs in Denver, New York City, Toronto, and Tel Aviv.

In more recent years, Dr. Bowers has turned her attention to helping women recover from FGM. She has traveled to Africa several times, performing clitoral restoration procedures to more than 500 women. She is one of only a handful of doctors worldwide qualified to perform this life-changing operation. “Sexuality should be considered one of the basic human senses,” said Bowers. “Imagine if we took our children and poked their eyes out in childhood? or their sense of hearing? or even smell? it would be an outrage and we all should feel no less outraged about this process of FGM and how important it is to do what we can to return that sense.”

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