ORLANDO, Fla. – Transgender celebrities like Caitlyn Jenner and Elliot Page have made headlines for their very public and transparent coming-out experiences.
During Pride Month, News 6 anchor and health reporter Kirstin O’Connor spoke with Mikha’el “Mikey” Portillo, two months after he underwent two major surgeries in his transition from female to male. His main concern during the interview continued to center on safety. The transition, he said, made him feel a little bit safer but his concern for the safety of other people in the Trans community, with or without surgery, remains unchanged.
Below is part of an hour-long conversation:
O’Connor: You mentioned feeling “safer” what do you mean by that?
Portillo: “I can finally walk into a male’s restroom without being scared that somebody’s going to come for me, or yell at me for being in the ‘wrong bathroom’ it’s just very, very minute little things that get to change as I progress in my transition, and make me just a little bit safer.”
“You see, oftentimes people of color who are Trans get treated a lot worse, sometimes they’re even killed in public situations, you know just going out and having a good night at a club and you just talk to the wrong person.”
O’Connor: Before surgery, you had to have a letter from a therapist, is that correct?
Portillo: “So it actually took me a really long time to be able to get the letter, even though I’ve been on hormones for close to four years, and even before that I socially transitioned ... And then I finally got it but I had to get two signatures on that letter as opposed to one, and then have it get sent over to the insurance and all of that to get a hysterectomy.”
O’Connor: Why did you choose to have surgery?
Portillo: “I just didn’t want to feel scared anymore, I didn’t want to feel uncomfortable or ashamed of my own body,”
“There’s a lot of Trans folks who are transmasculine presenting who use KT tape, on their skin, and it will tear off layers of their skin,”
“If somebody is so sure to put themselves through that much torture why not alleviate some of it and make it permanent and comfortable for the rest of your life?”
O’Connor: What were your surgeries called?
Portillo: “Top surgery, I think nipple-sparing subcutaneous double mastectomy,” and “minimally invasive laparoscopic hysterectomy.”
O’Connor: Are there some transgender people who do not get surgery?
Portillo: “There’s no one way to define a trans person, and it’s definitely not by surgery, surgery isn’t for everyone, not everyone needs surgery, not everyone wants surgery.”
O’Connor: How do you feel now?
Mental health is another large part of Portillo’s story, he mentioned seeing several therapists over the years. According to The Trevor Project, a national suicide prevention organization for LGBTQ+ youth, 40% of transgender adults have reported a suicide attempt.
If you or someone you know needs help call The Trevor Lifeline at 1-866-488-7386 for immediate help. It’s free, confidential, and available 24 hours a day.