I was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York to Chinese parents. I've had thoughts and feelings of being a woman since I was four. God blessed me with certain physical attributes and I've enhanced what I have with skincare, diet, exercise, medication, and surgery. By many accounts and in many ways, I'm complete, but I always strive to be better. That's why I completed my surgeries, everything from LASIK to GRS. That's why I took life skills classes, everything from cooking to yoga. That's why I continue to take college classes, everything from fine art to higher education. I don't want to just be the ultimate woman, for that is a trite and stupid goal. I want to be the ultimate human being.
I was not born into a privileged family, so I had to overcome a lot of the same obstacles that many transsexuals overcame to be who they were destined to be. Every step of the way, I became a stronger person as a result. My children know me as their parent and refer to me by female pronouns. At work, everyone respects me not just as a woman, but as a highly skilled woman. It was relatively easy for my 550 peers to accept me because my being a woman made a lot more sense to them than someone who looked and acted very masculine to begin with.
Some people think I was born with something they weren't born with. The only difference between me and anyone else is I accept my limitations and continually work on improving my weaknesses so they become strengths. Adhere to this philosophy and you will succeed in everything you do.
Here is my timeline:
1972 (age 4): self awareness of gender dysphoria
1982 (age 14): self acceptance of gender dysphoria, evaluate likelihood of transition, wore makeup in school
1991 to 2003 (ages 23 to 35): substantial documented evidence of gender dysphoria with online journal and pictures of my transition process (all my years of running this site and making positive contributions to the LGBT community convinced therapists I was genuine)
2003 (age 35): began HRT, laser hair removal, skin resurfacing
2004 (age 36): laser hair removal completed
2009 (age 41): began using current legal name with close friends and school
2010 (age 42): changed legal name on all documents, started living full-time as a woman, weekly psychotherapy
2011 (age 43): FFS rhinoplasty, bilateral breast augmentation
2012 (age 44): Gender Reassignment Surgery (vaginoplasty)
2013 (age 45): crico-thyroid approximation, tracheal shave
2016 (age 48): glottoplasty
Many transwomen refer to GRS as their "final surgery," but I see it more as an additional surgery that will make it easier for you to fit into society. GRS is not the magic key to being accepted as a woman in society. It is more important that you look and act the part of a woman in society so that others will be able to see you as a woman. While there exist numerous training services that can teach you to look and act more feminine, the best people to learn from are transwomen who've successfully integrated themselves into society. People like me. Click here to read more about my makeover and transformation services.
MY STATUS: TRANSSEXUAL OR INTERSEXUAL?
In 2013, I saw a chiropractor about my neck and back pain issues. His X-rays revealed that I was born with a "butterfly" shaped female pelvis. Note the round-shaped cavity in my sacrum and the angle formed by the two ischia bones below the pubis is greater than 90 degrees.
I will now present some interesting physical facts about me as potential evidence for intersexuality.
My aforementioned female pelvis. The proof is in the picture.
My overall physique is female from the front, back, and side. When I'm nude, I have a woman's body shape, not a man's body shape or a feminized man's body shape.
My head is 9 inches high. My height is 67.5 inches. That makes my body exactly 7.5 heads high, the perfect prototypical female body proportions [source].
My band size, the circumference of my chest underneath my breasts, is about 32 inches, smaller than most males and females.
My ring finger size is smaller than 5. The average female ring size is 7. My pinky finger size is smaller than 3.5. The rest of my fingers are similarly small. My longest finger (middle finger) is 3-1/8 inches. My shortest finger (pinky finger) is 2-5/16 inches.
My facial hair was mostly in the mustache area, but I never grew a real mustache. Except for my pubic hair, I am naturally hairless everywhere else. It took only two sessions of laser hair removal to permanently remove all my armpit hair. I also have a full head of hair with no evidence of male pattern baldness.
My concept of passability is just a milestone in my philosophy of life. The whole point of passability is you want to be able to work up to the ultimate goal of being comfortable in your own skin and for others to be comfortable with you, too. You don't get to be "be-able" without first understanding and adhering to the principles of passability. My philosophy goes like this... passability → believability → be-ability.
What I never wanted was a life of compromise. I never limited myself to trans-friendly or LGBT-friendly places because I never wanted to feel like an outcast. I never sought out trans-friendly doctors, surgeons, or health care facilities for my medical needs because I've always felt confident about who I am - a woman - in society. While I do wish that everyone who is trans or intersexed could do as I do, I know that the reality is most people can't, but this doesn't mean giving up. Some people need to take baby steps to move towards their ultimate goal.
The Kalina Isato Slideshow (2011)
I have a myriad of side interests. I've produced music under the name Gorgeous Girl for four MTV shows, including The Osbournes, MADE, Undressed, and Sausage Factory. I'm also an author, photographer, web site designer, foodie, yoga teacher, pageant owner, and hostess of some of the best transgender parties on the planet. I've devoted over 25 years of my life helping my transgender sisters and supporting worthy causes through donations and charity work.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Why didn't you transition when you were a child?
Imagine, if you will, that the year was 1973 and you were five years old going to school in a predominently working class Caucasian neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York. There were no resources available to children who were transgender. In fact, few people had even heard of the word transgender. What would you do? It was a very different time back then and the only thing you could do was hide what you really were. You couldn't be true to yourself and you could imagine the pain and frustration that this has caused. You've said to yourself, "When I leave this place and make my mark in the world, I will do it my own way and I will be a champion for those whose voices are not heard." That's what I've done.
What is the real purpose of your web site?
Some people think I'm all about self-promotion and self-aggrandizement and I must admit that on a surface level it does look like that, but those of you who've met me in real life and told me your stories in an open, honest way know that there is a lot more to me than meets the eye. You know that there was a lot of sadness in my heart prior to my transition, sadness that was shrouded by an air of levity. My smiling face was sometimes the only thing that kept me going because I knew that my smile helped others feel like they can be just like me.
What would you say to a young transwoman who is just starting out today?
There are so many good resources out there. Don't be afraid to make use of them. Listen to other people's stories, but choose your friends wisely. My mistake was trying to be everyone's friend and trying to be an ally to the very people who would rather see me be miserable just like them. Surround yourself with positive role models and always keep learning new things so you can be the very best that you can be. Never settle for less.
How do you deal with people who still misgender you after knowing you for more than a few years after your transition?
I will avoid them until they get it right. In some cases, I will refuse to be friends with them. I will miss some of them and what they meant to me before transition, but if they are truly my friend, they will take the time to correct the way they see me and interact with me. I can understand misgendering me within a couple of years after transition if I don't see them very often, but if they've known me for a while or they've never known me prior to transition, then misgendering me is offensive. I encourage you to deal with your offenders as I do. Like I said in my previous paragraph, never settle for less and that includes the people you call your friends.
IMPRESSIVE PEOPLE I'VE MET OVER THE YEARS
Actor John Astin, Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, Photographers Tony Ward, Alec Soth, and Mary Ellen Mark, Iron Chefs Masaharu Morimoto and José Garces, Chefs Eric Ripert and Jennifer Carroll, the original drag chanteuse Jim Bailey, the legendary Paris Dupree, the queen of elegance Rachel Harlow (who stopped in front of me in a crowded auditorium at the Philadelphia Gay & Lesbian Film Festival and told me I was absolutely beautiful), Stars Too owner Joey Venuti, MC Extraordinaire Henri David (one of the first public figures to acknowledge my smile), the fabulous RuPaul Charles, and the fierce diva herself Kevin Aviance (who said I looked fabulous).
GREAT ROLE MODELS
I love these transwomen because they are beautiful public figures who give transwomen hope. We should aspire to be like them. There are plenty more such role models, but these are the ones I'd like to give special mention to because they've influenced my life.
actress and model
SUPPORTING MY WORK
Not everything can be learned for free on the Internet. Purchasing my books and videos gives you access to a vast encyclopedia of knowledge collected from my years of experience in transformation. For years, I was an educator at two of the finest universities in the world. I love teaching and inspiring people. I applied the research skills I learned as a doctoral student at the University of Pennsylvania to male-to-female transformation and wrote eight full-length books as a result. In the beginning, it was an art to me. In the end, it was a way of life. From 1994 to the present, over 4,000 transgender women have purchased and learned from my books. Every book contains practical advice that you will use for years to come and every purchase helps this web site grow. Everyone who supported me through the purchase of my books and videos has made me what I am today, the leading transgender self-help author in the world. Thank you for your support!