Trans woman seeks uterine transplant

Posted on 07 Jan 2010 at 2:13pm
By Renee Baker | Contributing Writer

Sarah Luiz of The Colony, who’s no stranger to the media spotlight, aims to be world’s 1st trans mom


BIG STAR | Miramax Films once listed Sarah Luiz among its 100 most influential people in the world, and she holds the record for most appearances on Sally Jessy Raphael’s talk show. (Renee Baker/Dallas Voice)

THE COLONY — Each of us has a story or a script that we fashion and live our lives by. When it takes us down the wrong path, we rewrite the script from a wiser place, and navigate closer and closer to our truth. Sarah Luiz says she knows in her heart of hearts that she’s living a life true to her being — which is why she feels confident she’ll be the first transgender woman to give birth.

Luiz knows it won’t be an easy path. She knows there will be resistance all the way. But she’s a strong woman shaped by life trials very few have endured, and she believes it’s her rightful place and time, at age 44, to become a mom.

To many this may seem as if it’s going too far, and it will require a uterine organ transplant — a controversial and dangerous operation. Doctors are only beginning to perfect this surgery, and no human has become pregnant with a transplanted uterus.

But Luiz has begun the medical candidacy interview process, and she says New York doctors at Downtown Hospital are looking her way.

"They need to have the right person," she says. " If you did this with a woman, amazing. If you do this with a transgender woman, it will receive a lot of attention."

Luiz says the doctors need the publicity to fund their research — and Luiz no doubt can deliver.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Luiz was considered one of the most controversial figures in the world. It was a time when the media exploited transgender people, and Luiz was one of the few who was out.

Miramax Films once considered Luiz among the 100 most influential people in the world. She holds the record for most appearances on Sally Jessy Raphael’s talk show, 13. She sat across the desk from Larry King and toyed with Howard Stern.

The list of TV appearances is seemingly endless, and when Luiz was younger, she was quite the diva. Now a mature woman still full of life, she’s emerging from the shadows after a dozen years of enjoying her privacy. Much of her story has never been told.

Luiz first made news when she sued insurance giant Blue Cross Blue Shield for her gender reassignment surgery.

She said she’d had insurance through Blue Cross her whole life. "They paid for my hormones and therapy, but not the surgery. I assumed that they would."

Luiz said nobody would take her seriously and finding a lawyer who’d listen was all but impossible. So she took her story to The Boston Globe, which eventually ran two full-length features. The story quickly went national, and Luiz found a lawyer to take the case.

"Fighting the insurance company was like my first opportunity to stand up for myself [against] the bully," Luiz says.

An out-of-court settlement fell short of what she asked for, but she walked away with $15,000 and her dignity in tact. With all the court and family-related expenses, it still wasn’t enough for her surgery.

Luiz began to speak freely about transgenderism, insurance and harassment.

"It was never about the money," Luiz says, "but the awareness and fighting for freedom."

Her plight didn’t go unnoticed. Luiz says when she came home after appearing on "Larry King Live," there were messages from all over the world on her phone. Among the callers was a wealthy Brazilian diplomat, who was taken with Luiz, courted her, and paid for her reassignment surgery. "He was crazy about me," she says, "and he asked me to marry him."

Though they didn’t marry, Luiz traveled to Trinidad, Colo., and had her surgery with the late Dr. Stanley Biber, when she was 25. It was just a half dozen years after her parents had taken her to "healing ceremonies to get the devil out."

Luiz and her mother, though at odds for a time, grew close after her mother was diagnosed with lung cancer. Her father was another story. She says she would "scream at the top of my lungs when I had to go visit him." The couple divorced when Luiz was a toddler.

Luiz eventually married and divorced. She is now single and resides in The Colony, a suburb north of Dallas, after spending much of her life on the coasts.

"I’m finding myself in Texas," she says, "in the middle of these two lives."

About a year and half ago, Luiz started writing a book and putting her life together emotionally and spiritually, to find some closure with her past. She stopped looking outside and started looking in.

The book is also a way to earn money to pay for the uterine transplant operation she desires.

The price tag for the surgery not cheap at $250,000 — but that doesn’t daunt Luiz, who now works as a server at a local restaurant chain.

Luiz says she’s comfortable with who she is now and that she’s "opening the closet door even wider." She has "stood the test of time through it all."

"I am standing tall, really standing tall," she says, "and I don’t have to say I came from a perfect childhood. I am happy to express my journey — from my life as a gay man, a transgender woman, as a woman and the harassment."

Luiz has always wanted a family and has been considering adoption for more than 20 years, but the time has never been right. Now, with the cutting edge medical technology in New York, she wants to have the child herself.

"Am I too greedy to put a live human being through this?" she torments herself with during sleepless nights. "This child may become the most famous child in the world."

She says she answers the question in her heart of hearts, "No."

"I will be a protective parent," she says," and though being special has its crosses to bear, it also has its special joys."

Luiz hopes to give birth to a girl, though she says she’d be happy with a boy, too.

In the end, she exclaims, "My name is Sarah Luiz, and glad I can I’m believe in my dreams!"

Renee Baker is a transgender diversity consultant and can be found online at GenderPower.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 8, 2010.

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