Sex-Change Pioneer, Dr. Stanley Biber

The king of sex-change procedures has died. Dr. Stanley Biber performed more than 5,000 such operations over more than 30 years. In the process, he turned the tiny town of Trinidad, Colo., into the sex-change capital of the world.

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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

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And I'm Michele Norris with an obituary for a man who changed a lot of lives. Stanley Biber was a doctor and a surgeon and he performed more sex-change surgeries than anyone else. Biber died earlier this week at age 82 in the town of Trinidad, Colorado. A place he single-handedly turned into the sex-change capital of the world. NPR'S Jeff Brady reports.

JEFF BRADY: Stanley Biber came to Trinidad after working in a MASH unit during the Korean War. In a 1997 videotape talk, Biber said that was his main qualification for being a sex-change surgeon.

STANLEY BIBER: I'm just an old country doctor. Just an old General Surgeon who learned all his cosmetic work in the Army. And, you know, and I've applied it ever since.

BRADY: Marcie Bowers made her transformation from man to woman in 1998 while a surgeon in Seattle. She took over Biber's practice in 2003. She says Biber's new career began in 1969, when a local social worker came to his office and asked if he could perform a sex-change surgery.

MARCIE BOWERS: You know, he didn't bat an eye, he just simply wrote to Johns Hopkins and got their original surgery drawings of the first description of the surgery done. And put her on the schedule and, as they say, the rest is history.

BRADY: Word spread, and within a few years, Biber was regularly performing the surgery. According to Bowers, he performed more than 5,000 of them by the time he retired. Biber wasn't from the west, but he became a classic western character. He owned a cattle ranch, and even though he stood only about 5'2" tall, Bowers said the Doctor could be seen around town in his cowboy hat and boots walking with a confident swagger.

Afternoon rush hour in Trinidad is neither rushed nor an hour long. Every other vehicle is a pick-up. In front of the Main Street post office, people like Cathy Quintana(ph) don't talk much about Biber's international reputation.

KATHY QUINTANA: Well, I know he's been a very good doctor. And he's also a transsexual doctor. He, all I know is that he's a very good person. He used, he was my mother's doctor and he was a very good doctor. That's all I have to say is that he was really good.

BRADY: A few years back, a local minister launched a campaign to get Trinidad out of the sex-change business. But as Paula Manini who head the local history museum says, there's an attitude here that allowed Dr. Biber to be both the local surgeon and a famous sex-change doctor.

PAULA MANINI: You know, that western attitude, you do, you take care of your business, I'll take care of my business, what you do is your business, what I do is mine, and that's it.

BRADY: Marcie Bowers says Biber was active up until a few months ago when he took cattle from his ranch to market.

BOWERS: And he insisted on leading the cattle drive in late November to Nebraska and unfortunately, on the way back he, I believe that's where he contracted the pneumonia.

BRADY: Dr. Biber died Monday evening at a hospital in Pueblo, Colorado. He's survived by his wife and ten children.

Jeff Brady, NPR News, Trinidad, Colorado.

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