Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Larry King Live

Sex Change Surgery

Aired August 10, 2007 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, CNN HOST: Tonight, having surgery to change their sex. Men becoming women, women becoming men, a dad turned mom here with her sons.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She took away our father, but in return she gave me another parent, a better parent. Our love is unconditional.


KING: An 18-year-old in transition from male to female aiming to be the first transgender Victoria's Secret model. A former city manager named Steve who was fired after announcing his plan to change genders. He's here now as Susan. They are all next on LARRY KING KIVE.

Good evening. Tonight's show takes on the topic of gender reassignment surgery and the people who have had it. They are born one gender but emotionally they feel more like the opposite sex, so at some point in their lives they embark on a long, tough journey to physically change themselves into the person they feel like most rather than the person they were born as.

We begin with the amazing story of Jessica Lam, born a man, went on to marry, father children, eventually underwent gender reassignment surgery. Let's take a look at part of her story.


JESSICA LAM, FORMER MAN: When I was little, I used to wish that I could like get up and put on a skirt. Like I was this little boy who wanted to be a girl and now that I can get up, go grab me a skirt and wear it to work, guess what I'm wearing? A pair of jeans.

It's not what the world around me would say was normal, you know. I hate having to say that, normal, and I don't have to go around like telling people that, you know. I shouldn't have to. Just accept me. I'll take care of it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Technically pizza is healthy because it's got meat and if you want can you have fruits and vegetables.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm upset that she took away our father but in return she gave me another parent, a better parent for me. JESSICA LAM: Some in my family did not agree with my decision, you know. They were uncomfortable with it and some of them are still uncomfortable with it, but they are willing to accept me.

Chris, you want to say grace then.

And our love is unconditional.


KING: Good evening. You'll meet a number of people tonight in this situation. Jessica Lam, the 37-year-old in that piece there will be with us throughout the show, born male and underwent gender reassignment surgery four years ago. She's the parent of two sons of whom she has full custody, by the way and they are with us as well. Jesus Lam is 17 years old and Christopher Lam is 16 years old. Jessica, what was your name as a male?


KING: You were Jesus.

JESSICA LAM: Yes, he's junior.

KING: When did you first know in your life something was wrong?

JESSICA LAM: At a very young age. I mean, I could remember being four, five years old. I used to have a fascination with Lynda Carter and Wonder Woman and how she would twirl around and back this beautiful woman. I used to pretend there was a box that I could crawl through the box and when I came out the other side I would be a girl and this is as early as four and five.

KING: Buy you went on what, profession?

JESSICA LAM: Well, I always aspired to be a musician and actor, so that's pursued later in life.

KING: Did you?

JESSICA LAM: Yeah. I did.

KING: And you got married.

JESSICA LAM: I got married.

KING: And fathered two wonderful sons.

JESSICA LAM: Yes, I did.

KING: How did you decide to change?

JESSICA LAM: Well, it's something always underlying. Whenever I was alone with my thoughts, my thoughts were that I was in the wrong gender, and I did everything that I could throughout the course of my life to be a guy, you know. My parents never said to me, you know, that I was -- they raised me to be a boy basically, and that's what they knew.

KING: But you made a decision one day.

JESSICA LAM: I did make that decision.

KING: To do gender reassignment.

JESSICA LAM: Absolutely.

KING: How did you tell first Jesus?

JESSICA LAM: Well, I told both my children.

KING: How did you tell your wife?

JESSICA LAM: Well, she knew early on. She may not have known my desire to have a full sexual reassignment surgery, but she knew I used to like to cross-dress so the first time I told her it was obviously very emotional for her. I mean, we were very -- she was very angry obviously.

KING: How did you get the children?

JESSICA LAM: That happened much later on after we got divorced.

KING: I guess you're not friendly.

JESSICA LAM: We are friendly actually. We're very good friends at this point.

KING: Does she get to see her children.

JESSICA LAM: We have shared parental responsibility, yes.

KING: Jesus, what it was like when she told you.


KING: How did she tell you?

JESUS LAM: I kind of grew up with it since I was three. She was like this.

KING: She was feminine?

JESUS LAM: Yes, she was feminine.

KING: You never thought she was gay.

JESUS LAM: No. I never thought that. I just thought she was a parent. It didn't really matter how she appeared to be.

KING: How did she tell you? Like I'm going to change?

JESUS LAM: I didn't really ask when I was younger, but when I was like 11 I did ask, and she told me that it's how she felt like she was inside, not how she appears to be or anything.

KING: How did you take it, Chris?

CHRISTOPHER LAM, FATHER IS NOW MOTHER: Me, I was fine with it, like ...

KING: Really?

C. LAM: Yeah, I mean, like, it's what makes her happy so, you know, we should be happy and we should be supportive because she's taught us to be more supportive, to be open-minded so when she told us it really wasn't a difference to us.

KING: How did your mother take it?

C. LAM: Like she said it was very emotional, you know, she wasn't very accepting but, you know, she was still supportive.

KING: Did she remarry?

C. LAM: Yeah, she did remarry.

KING: Do you get along with your stepfather?

C. LAM: Yeah, we do. We get along a lot. He lives in New York now but it's still good.

KING: What do you call Jessica? Mom, Jessica, pop, what?

C. LAM: I got used to calling her J.C. We used to call her daddy but in public we would say, you know, mom or, you know, something like that.

KING: Of course she's a beautiful girl.

C. LAM: Yes.

KING: When she came back looking like this, what did you think, Jesus?

JESUS LAM: Really I didn't think much. I grew up with it. I was kind of used to her looking feminine and everything.

KING: What did your friends say?

JESUS LAM: My friends ...

KING: Did they kid you?

JESUS LAM: Really we kept it a secret with most of our friends but the friends we saw that we could trust we ended up telling them and most of them were very accepting, you know.

KING: Did one day, Chris, they come over to the house and suddenly your father is your mother? C. LAM: Not really because our friends didn't really know about our families much. Like he said, we kind of kept it a secret, you know. We talked about ourselves more than our family.

KING: How did you deal with it Jessica, friends, business associates, their friends?

JESSICA LAM: The way I -- our personal life is our personal life.

KING: Yeah, but you're not the same person.

JESSICA LAM: No, actually I am the same person. I may look different.

KING: What's that mean?

JESSICA LAM: I'm the same parent they have always known. I've raised my kids to believe that there's always kinds of different people in this world, you've got tall, short, fat, skinny, black, white. There's all kinds of realities and other lives and as long as they are good people at heart that's what really matters. That's how I've raised them to be, just to be open-minded, to be accepting of others.

KING: This makes it sound like everything was hunky-dory.

JESSICA LAM: Everything was hunky-dory really, not without its problems, of course, you know. There was an issue in middle school where a kid came to find out that they had a transgendered parent and that became a gossip around school. I'll never forget the call from the guidance counselor telling them my oldest son was having a panic attack inside the guidance counselor's office and I asked, well, would you like me to come to the school and talk to the teachers or to the parents and quite honestly she said, well, don't get offended but, we just leave it alone, let's not throw any logs into the fire and by next week you're old news so it's like, OK, if that's what you think is going to happen and sure enough a week later - I mean, they were upset about it ...

KING: It's been four years now. Things pretty normal?

JESSICA LAM: Things are pretty normal, you know, typical teenage issues. They don't necessarily agree with all my parenting.

KING: Do you date men?

JESSICA LAM: I date women.

KING: You date women.


KING: So then you're like a lesbian.

JESSICA LAM: I identify as lesbian, yes, absolutely.

KING: So your sex relations would be with a woman. JESSICA LAM: Yes.

KING: Guys, thanks for coming. Jesus and Chris, I give you a lot of credit, man.

C. LAM: Thank you.

JESUS LAM: Thank you.

KING: A lot of credit. Jessica remains with us.

Up next, a transgender story that's the polar opposite of Jessica Lam's, a young woman in the process of becoming a man. Stay tuned.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My breasts feel like two tumors on the front of my chest. I look at them and I just have to turn away because it doesn't feel like it's part of me.




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Today's the day. I'm going to testosterone. Reality smacking me right in the face like a Mack truck.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're going to have five weeks or 50 days worth. Call if you have any questions.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you so much.

The first thing that went through my head. What the hell am I doing? I don't have to do it yet I'm still being pulled towards it because it's like a part of me and denying that, there's always going to be that little voice inside me screaming hey, hey.

Thank you.




KING: Welcome back. My next guest was born female but at the age of 25 began a long complicated journey to become a man. His name is Ryan Sallans and his story was featured on cable's Logo Channel in a documentary tiled "Gender Rebel." Take a look at this clip.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When I go into the locker room my anxiety shoots up because I'm afraid what people will say if they look at me. Tomorrow I go in and have male chest reconstruction surgery.

My mom called me. She was all torn up and just kept crying which made me just keep crying and she said if you go through with this I don't know if I can see you anymore and my dad said if I go through with this I'm dead to him as well.

I'm still really scared because what if I do it and it wasn't for me and I can't go back. I love not having a chest. I love how the muscle is developing. I like it all. My voice is definitely changed a lot. My period has stopped, thank God. It's like everything I've ever dreamed of from two years old on is starting to come into play now.


KING: Jessica Lam remains with us and we're joined now by Ryan Sallans, born a female and is now a man as he awaits gender reassignment surgery. How long are you into the process are you?


KING: Into the process?

SALLANS: Into the process, right.

KING: When will it be done?

SALLANS: Well, transitioning is never really done but it just really depends. I don't know. It could go on for five more years.

KING: Isn't it harder male to female, from female to male than male to female?

SALLANS: In a sense it's easier female to male because with testosterone you're adding to your body so it's building on top of the estrogen. My voice naturally lowers and naturally develop my muscles but with male to females, the lower surgery, once you had the surgery, you'll never be able to tell that person had a penis, that's one difference.

KING: Does that scare you.

SALLANS: What scare me?

KING: The completion of that surgery?

SALLANS: No, no, it doesn't.

KING: How did you know something was wrong, Ryan, but wrong I mean something out of whack?

SALLANS: Well, you know, just like most stories you hear from a transsexual person from a very young age I always thought I was a boy even though people tell me I'm a girl and my parents telling me I was a girl and I kind of got cued in there and it wasn't until I was 25 where kind of a light bulb switched that I realized I could do this, I can transition.

KING: Did you ever think you were gay.

SALLANS: I did identify as lesbian for about eight months and never felt lesbian but since I was attracted to women I just took on that label.

KING: So now you date women?

SALLANS: Yes, I have a partner. We've been together for over three years now.

KING: How far -- how much have you had done so far?

SALLANS: I've had the chest surgery which was shown in the Logo documentary. I've had the total hysterectomy and the hormones.

KING: And what do they do with regard to a penis?

SALLANS: There's two different main surgeries they use females to male because it's not simple. Because as doctors say, it's easier to dig a hole than build a pole so they can do one surgery where they can do a phalloplasty where they actually take a skin graft and construct a penis or they do a metortoplasty (ph) which a lot of guys get because they actually just release the clitoris and the pull that up and build a graft around that.

KING: What do you do for a living?

SALLANS: I'm a public speaker in real estate agent.

KING: How did your folks feel about this?

SALLANS: It's very, very hard for them. I love them dearly. It's just a huge switch for them. We come from a rural farming town so it's just different than what they have ever been exposed to.

KING: They don't accept it?

SALLANS: I think they tolerate it now.

KING: Do you have brothers and sisters.

SALLANS: Yes, I do.

KING: Do you ever wonder why you were different?

SALLANS: Well, yeah. Those thoughts have gone through my mind but I don't mind because I feel special for it.

KING: Jessica, how do you feel about Ryan?

JESSICA LAM: I think it's great. I think we should all be who we feel we are, so it's a wonderful story. I mean, obviously from female to male appearance-wise it's easier for female to male because like he was saying you can add where you can't take away but the surgery from female -- from male to female is actually a lot more attractive.

KING: Hard to break the news to family?

SALLANS: Very difficult. I came out to my brother first because he's always been my number one supporter growing up, and then my parents and my sister and I has to do it with my parents through a letter because I couldn't talk to them.

KING: Do they do a lot of psychological work with you before your surgery?

SALLANS: I was in therapy for six years because prior to realize I was transgendered I suffered from an eating disorder so I did a lot of work with therapy.

KING: Where was it done?

SALLANS: My chest surgery was done in Omaha, Nebraska.

KING: There's specialists that do just that.


KING: Where were yours done, Jessica?

JESSICA LAM: Miami, Florida.

KING: Right where you live.

JESSICA LAM: Right where I live.

KING: We'll take a break and come back. When we come back, a teenager who is ready to make the change from male to female, and what you'd hear what she would like to do for a living when that happens. Wait until you hear it. Don't go away.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I mean, technically, yeah, I was born with a penis, but does that make anybody a male or a man, so-called man? No it doesn't. What you have on the outside is not what you see on the inside.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You get used to being yourself and you don't look at yourself as a man. You just see a plain woman looking back and you grow up naturally just believing you are a woman.


KING: Jessica Lam and Ryan Sallans remain. Our next guest was born a boy and learned at a very young age that things were not as they seemed. Take a look at part of Toni Llerena's story.


TONI LLERENA, MALE TO FEMALE TRANSGENDER: I used to ask myself why can't I go outside and play with the boys and play football, you know, do everything like a regular boy, but growing up I learned to accept the fact that I am different and I am grateful that I'm different because I'm not just like everybody else.

Through the transition I'm so lucky to have an awesome family, a very supportive family.

My friends have been there with me through hard times, through emotional times, through thick and thin. I'm very anxious to know what the outcome is and what I'm going to end up looking like but, you know, I choose to wait and I feel that by waiting and by taking every step little by little everything will wind up coming out good.

I want to be or I would try to be the first transsexual Victoria's Secret's model if possible and I feel that as the world is changing the whole fashion world and the whole outcome will look will change how the transgender people will change too.

I'm going to be her one day, or one of them one day, you'll see.


KING: Toni Llerena joins our panel. You real want to be a Victoria Secret's model.


KING: You think you have a shot. You are certainly beautiful.

LLERENA: I think the world is changing, and the world is evolving. I mean, now, we have a woman running for president, an African-American running for president, why not?

KING: How much long in the process are you.

LLERENA: I'm almost about a year down with it. It takes approximately six, seven years to be fully done for what I know of and I'm like about almost a year done with.

KING: You feel like a woman?

LLERENA: Yeah, I do.

KING: When did this feeling start for you?

LLERENA: To be honest with you as far as I can remember.

KING: When you were a little kid.

LLERENA: Well, a little girl.

KING: When you were like 18 -- how old are you now.

LLERENA: Eighteen.

KING: When you were 16, 17, did you think were you a lesbian.

LLERENA: No. I identify myself as a heterosexual woman. I see myself as a straight woman.

KING: Did you see yourself as a gay guy?

LLERENA: Yeah, I did, in the past, in the past I really did, but I see myself now as a straight woman.

KING: Are you scared of this process?

LLERENA: No, I'm not. I'm actually anxious, like I wish there was like a crystal ball I could look into to see what the outcome is.

KING: Do you feel cursed?

LLERENA: No, I don't. Not at all.

KING: You don't?


KING: God dealt you a wrong deal?

LLERENA: No, not at all. I'm actually blessed because I'm not like everybody else. I feel unique and a shining star, that's what I truly feel like.

KING: Will the surgery be done in Miami.

LLERENA: To be honest with you, I really don't know.

KING: You live in Miami?

LLERENA: Yeah, I live in Miami, well, Homestead, but, you know, it's right there.

KING: Jessica, why does it take so long, why six years?

JESSICA LAM: It's a different process for everybody else. In my experience, I mean, would I say my transition started in 1995, so, what, it's been over 10 years for me at this point, but there's a Harry Benjamin standards that they have for transgendered folks where you have to live in the opposite gender that you were born for at least a year before you move on to have the surgery.

KING: How long along are you now Ryan?

SALLANS: Two years and four months.

KING: And you'll be complete when?

SALLANS: Well, it depends on if I do lower surgery or not, still kind of going back and forth on that.

KING: You may not do lower surgery.

SALLANS: You don't necessarily have to have lower surgery.

KING: There's no law that says you have to.

SALLANS: Oh yeah, there's no law. Everybody -- some people transition just using hormones and don't have any surgery.

KING: Have you had any surgery at all, Toni?

LLERENA: Never took any hormones, never had surgery.

KING: What are you now, are you just a man dressing up as woman?

LLERENA: Basically if you want to put it in those terms.

KING: You're not a transgender at all yet?

LLERENA: Technically, yeah, because I do feel as a woman, I feel woman inside trapped in a male's body, so yeah.

KING: You're not a cross-dresser?

LLERENA: If you want to put it like that, yeah.

KING: Jessica, what is she -- what is Toni to you?

JESSICA LAM: Right now she is in transition. I do consider her transgender. Transgender is kind of an umbrella term that covers a lot of different things.

KING: Covers a lot of things.

JESSICA LAM: Exactly. She's at the beginning of her journey, and she's just trying to figure out what direction she's going so I see her as a woman today because that's how she feels she is.

KING: As a boy -- you're in school now, right?


KING: When you were like 14, 15, were you very effeminate.

LLERENA: I was very effeminate. I grew up playing with barbie dolls, always been very feminine.

KING: So did people make fun of you a lot?

LLERENA: They did in school, in the beginning stages, like elementary and middle school but I guess my personality and the way I am has always outshone it so it's overcome that but yeah, I did get made fun of a lot.

KING: Jessica, did people made fun of you a lot? JESSICA LAM: For different reasons. I always had long hair, I was a musician -- I grew up in '80s. Wonderful time. We had Prince and Madonna who could just wear whatever they wanted to so people accepted them. So I embraced that style. We had these macho guys from Motley Crue with makeup and eyeliner and long hair and that's how I look like so I was pretty much a cool cat in high school.

KING: Did they make fun of you, Ryan?

SALLANS: Yeah. I was made fun of a lot.

KING: Especially in the Midwest, right?

SALLANS: It's an interesting climate but for me, you know, I was very into working out and weightlifting and I had my hair shorter as I got older.

KING: You were a tom boy.

SALLANS: Total tom boy.

KING: So friends made fun of you?

SALLANS: Not my immediate friends, but outside that circle.

KING: How does your family feel about this, Toni?

LLERENA: Well, in the beginning it was really rough.

KING: You are Latin?


KING: Your family feels rough.

LLERENA: Yeah, in the beginning stages, but I'm very lucky to have a very supportive family, and, you know, they always tell me no matter what I'm still to them their son and they support me no matter what.

KING: Father Cuban?


KING: Wouldn't they be particularly hard to accept this?

LLERENA: Well, I am -- I have two siblings. I have two sisters and I'm the middle child so it was hard for him in the beginning, but I guess as I was growing older he realized and, you know, accepted the fact that I was different so to this day he's an awesome father. He accepts me for who I am.

KING: Next up the 40-something South Florida city manager who made headlines with his decision to live as a woman. He paid for it with his job. In fact, he guessed on this show. You saw him as a man. Wait until you see him now. We'll be right back.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Of course, you know, my fixation on the hair is still -- still fluffy and it's not long enough and still learning how to do that.




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I now hereby order that the Petitioner's present name, Steven Bruce Stanton, is changed to Susan Ashley Stanton by which the Petitioner shall hereafter be known. And Miss Stanton, congratulations and I wish you the very best going forward.


LARRY KING, HOST: And joining me now in the studio is someone whose decision to have gender reassignment surgery made headlines in Florida and nationwide. She is the former Largo city manager who is now known as Susan Ashley Stanton. Take a look at part of a report that was done by CNN's Carol Costello not long after Steve Stanton, and you see him there, appeared on this show.


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Stanton was once considered a successful up-and-coming city manager, a civic leader then he was fired by the city after announcing that he was going to become a woman.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We terminate Mr. Stanton.

KING: You were you fired. You were you surprised?


KING: What was the vote?

STANTON: Five to two.

COSTELLO: Then his marriage fell apart. He couldn't continue his life as Steve.

KING: How long has this feeling gone on, Steve? When did you first say I'm the wrong gender?

STANTON: Yes, very early. It was ever since I was a child. I can remember I wanted to walk to the candy store in my sister's shoes. It was just a very profound knowledge that your body didn't match your spirit.


KING: Jessica Lam, Ryan Sallans and Toni Llerena remain with us and we're not joined -- a return visit with Susan Ashley Stanton. The last time she was here she was Steve. She eventually became -- she was the city manager of Largo, Florida, and was fired from that job.

All right. How's it like being a -- what's it like being a woman?

STANTON: It's like great. It's being authentic. It's being real. It's being who you are. It's been superb.

KING: Anything surprising?

STANTON: Not at all, not at all. In fact, I probably would suggest to my male friends that this is the best thing that can happen to an individual. It's been superb.

KING: Tell me how things are with the family.

STANTON: My family has been great. My son and I are actually spending more time now than we did before. My wife and I went out for dinner on our 17th anniversary not as husband and wife but as two really good friends that want to maintain a relationship for the rest of our life, sharing the joy and love of a child.

KING: What do the kids call you?

STANTON: My kid calls me Daddy because I'm his Daddy.

KING: You have the one child, right?

STANTON: I had one child. He'll always call me Daddy because I'm his Daddy.

KING: You're still Daddy?

STANTON: Absolutely. That's never going to change.

KING: Do you date?

STANTON: No, not yet, not yet. No, I do not.

KING: Will you date men?

STANTON: You know six months ago if you would have asked me that, I would have said no. But I do enjoy going out with guys and I don't know. I don't know but I haven't ruled that out necessarily.

KING: What are you going to do for a living?

STANTON: I'm -- I would like to possibly stay a city manager. I'm doing a lot of speaking around the nation, so maybe as a professional speaker. It could be something at the university level. I don't know yet. I've not had any time to worry about me.

KING: How do you feel when you meet with others, transgenders?

STANTON: I feel really good especially with others such as, you know, the speaker before who has been doing this for many years and really has charted the territory and the path for people like me to follow.

KING: Jessica, how did you feel when you heard that Steve now Susan's story that she got fired?

JESSICA LAM, BORN MALE AND UNDERWENT SURGERY TO BE A WOMAN: I was actually taken aback from that. I was like why would somebody -- my experience, I mean, I had a job where I came out of the closet, so to speak, and tell them, you know, OK, this is the guy they hired but now I want to be a woman, that I felt like I was a woman. I wasn't let go from that position thankfully. And I was just stunned that had something like that would happen to somebody.

KING: Does that surprise you, Toni?

TONI LLERENA, BORN MALE, PREPARING FOR SEX REASSIGNMENT SURGERY: It really did. It actually did because I feel like if this is still called a free country, why can't people be who they are and what they believe in and what they feel. So I -- it really did hit me hard.

KING: Ryan?

RYAN SALLANS, BORN FEMALE, NOW LIVES AS A MAN: The coverage from the city hall when they were debating this really hit me hard as well just by the mis-education in terms that people use that are completely inappropriate.

KING: You're in your late 40s, right, Susan?


KING: Why did you wait so long?

STANTON: Yes, because like a lot of people, I tried to outrun it. I tried to deny. I didn't want to face the potential reality that could ultimately happen if, in fact, the world found out that I was something other than what I was portraying to those who knew me the best.

KING: So you're glad you waited or do you say to yourself I should have done it sooner?

STANTON: That is probably the only regret I have. I wish I would have done it 20 years ago because you do create a lot of victims from people that thought they knew you one way and find out later on that they didn't.

KING: What was the surgery like?

STANTON: I've not had surgery yet. I scheduled it. I'm excited about it but I've not had it yet.

KING: Well, now I understand. You're a transgender but you haven't had surgery.


KING: So basically you're a cross-dresser?

STANTON: No. I think what's important is who you are, what's in your heart and what's in your head and not between your legs. And that -- the genitalia does not define you as an individual. So no, I am who I am. Unfortunately, in our society we do tend to define people in very binary terms. That's silly.

KING: Don't you feel funny with the wrong genitalia?

STANTON: Yes, it feels out of whack now. So maybe I'll have to have it corrected. But yes, and some people do and some people don't. I do.

KING: Not as a joke, you stand up in the women's bathroom?

STANTON: No, I don't. No, I sit down in the woman's bathroom.

KING: You do sit down?

STANTON: Sure. But I don't go in the men's bathroom because that would be inappropriate.

KING: Do you think it's going to be harder for Ryan?


KING: Girl to man.

STANTON: ...I think it's going to be easier for all of us because of people like yourself doing these shows and destigmatizing something that typically is extremely misunderstood, like some of the questions that you're asking, very illustrative of people's misunderstanding. But it's good though we're having this forum to have those discussions.

KING: Is it hard to come out, Jessica? I mean come out in public.

LAM: Not really. I mean you've just got to be yourself really. That's all we can do with our lives is be who you are.

KING: You all seem pretty happy. I'm glad to hear it.

So what really does go on inside the minds of people who are literally uncomfortable in their own skin? We'll hear some theories from an expert when we come back.


LAM: I've reached a point where, you know, there's a piece of...

SALLANS: Everything I've ever dreamed of from 2 years old on is starting to come into play now.

LLERENA: I see myself, yes, as a beautiful woman as you can see.

STANTON: I want to be who I am, and I want to be an authentic person and I want to be someone who can be productive.



LAM: I go up to her, "Mom, I wish sometimes I would have been born a girl." She says to me "OK." And this is what haunts me is she said to me I had a son and not a daughter.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You know it's hard to accept that you have, you know, you have a boy and now he's going to be a girl.

LAM: She mourned for me, excuse me -- she mourned the loss of her son. She had to.


KING: We're back. And before we get back to our guests, we got such an overwhelming response to our Paula Deen interview last Monday that we've made her this week's podcast. Head to or iTunes and download the Queen of Southern Cooking Paula Deen. It's fresh out of the oven at or on iTunes.

By the way, our quick vote yesterday: "Have you ever wished you could be a member of the opposite sex?" Twenty-five percent said, "Yes."

Our panel remains and we're joined now by Marilyn Volker. Marilyn is a transgender therapist and sexologist. She hosts her own radio show on the Lime Radio and Green Network on Sirius Satellite Channel 114. Now what do you make of transgender and this type we've been discussing, Marilyn?

MARILYN VOLKER, ED.D., THERAPIST/SEXOLOGIST: I think that it's a part of our society and we need to be learning lots and lots of lessons.

KING: Do we think there's a lot more than we think of it?

VOLKER: We are learning a lot of things that can happen in a mother's uterus that can affect the shaping of people's brains which doesn't always match what's between the legs. And so there's a lot that we're seeing -- pediatric endocrinologist, people who study hormones and chromosome patterns. And yet the most, the most extraordinary thing of all, Larry, is that we see the human spirit who is saying to us, "See me. Do you want me to tell the truth? Let me be able to be me."

KING: Do we -- are there any studies, physiological, psychological, as to why these folks basically had the wrong sex?

VOLKER: Oh, sure.

KING: And what have we found?

VOLKER: Well, we've certainly seen that in a mother's uterus there can be all kinds of things that could be different and that could be a baby girl born with an XO chromosome, a baby girl born with an XY chromosome, a child with a vagina having let's say testosterone -- testicular tissue in the ovaries, which can shape the brain in a different way.

We've seen children who have problems and differences with hormones right from the get-go, right at birth. And it can shape the brain. So we're very interested and excited about what's happening and what we call brain sex as related to gender. And that's what folks are telling us but a lot of research is looking at it.

KING: Do you -- and this is for each of our guests. We'll start with Susan. Do you ever wonder why you're the way you are?

STANTON: Initially, yes, but then you realize that God has reasons for doing what he did and you stop trying to ask why and you just accept yourself for who you are and want to be authentic to that type of feeling.

KING: Didn't it drive you nuts when you were young?

STANTON: As a kid, absolutely.

KING: I'm wrong. Why me, right?

STANTON: Oh, absolutely, primarily because there's no good way of finding out when I was growing up what this was about to answer your questions and to address your fears. KING: Toni, you ever wonder why you?

LLERENA: When I was younger, I really did. I used to ask myself why can't I be like a regular boy. But now that I'm older and I'm more mature I realize, you know, that this is a gift and not everybody is blessed with this. So...

KING: Ryan, when you weren't feeling like a regular girl, were you angry?

SALLANS: Well, I never really felt like a regular girl. And I was very angry when I was little. I always journaled about why I felt like such a freak and didn't fit in like all the other girls.

KING: How did you feel, Jessica, mad?

LAM: I was maybe a little angry. I tried everything to try to fight this feeling. I mean, mom never told me that I was a girl. I mean on the contrary, she told me I had a son not a daughter. And so obviously I tried to fit into that role. I mean it was really difficult. So what did I do? I became a Christian minister at one point thinking that God was going to change me and...

KING: Do you have a lot of clients who are transgenders?

VOLKER: About a third of my practice is not only transgender but what we call, Larry, gender variant children. And we're seeing more and more families being able to recognize that.

KING: And what's the biggest problem they face?

VOLKER: The children, actually their parents' love and support. Children are very, very, I'm going to say accepting. It's the adults that when you really see a child with their heart, with a heart, that you're able to see then who your child really is. They're telling you that -- I think when the land mines of puberty then appear, that's when we begin to see some problems.

KING: We'll ask in a moment if it's a thin line when you see someone that you say that person is gay, whether that's a thin line between they're gay or they want to be something else.

We'll be back right with our panel after this.


KING: Marilyn Volker, how does a gay person know that they're gay and not a transgender?

VOLKER: That's a really important question. The easiest way to say it is sex is between your legs, gender is between your ears, and who you're attracted to is who you're attracted to by fantasy and thought. So I work with many, let's say, gay men who really are men between their legs and men between their ears and attracted to the same sex.

KING: They don't want to be a woman? VOLKER: No, no.

KING: Do any of them have the puzzle of not knowing?

VOLKER: Well, certainly there are people in the middle. In fact, medically, there are children that are born that are called intersexual children. And their brain could be in the middle and they could be more toward male or more toward female but orientation is something entirely different.

KING: Thank you. That clears that up.

Jessica, we mentioned this off the air, since you said you date women...

LAM: Yes.

KING: ...that's just like you were when you were a guy.

LAM: Well, not really. See, it's interesting that you ask me that. My father had difficulty with me having the surgery because he knew I identified as lesbian. His point was don't lesbians strap one on anyway, you've got the equipment, why get rid of it, you know.

And it was a simple answer really. Whether or not I had that equipment to use, in my mind that's not how I felt. So for me to get to a point with another woman when I was in a relationship with another woman, what would look like a heterosexual relationship what was going on up here was completely different. For me to reach a point of climaxing, I have to almost picture myself as a lesbian woman with another woman. So whether I had something strapped on or not, what was going on up there was something completely different.

KING: Now Ryan, you date women?

SALLANS: Correct.

KING: All right. Do you feel like a lesbian?

SALLANS: No, I don't feel like -- even when I was a -- still had a woman's body I did not feel like a lesbian. My partner is a lesbian so that can make it kind of interesting because she's dealing with her own identity issues now.

KING: By the way, the subject of gender reassignment took the spotlight briefly last night at the latest debate between Democratic presidential hopefuls. In fact, one of our guests here tonight was mentioned. Take a look at the exchange that aired on the Logo Channel. Watch.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Susan Stanton is in our audience tonight. My question for you is if a member of your staff came to you and told you that they were transgender and that they were thinking of transitioning, how would you react to that?

JOHN EDWARDS, DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I would support them in every possible way, including on a personal and an emotional level, provide every bit of help and support that I possibly could.


KING: Have we come a long way, Susan?

STANTON: Yes, we have, yes. The thought that you could be having this discussion at a Democratic National Debate, televised nationally, was superb and it does show we've come a long way.

KING: Did the rest of the panelists deal with it?

STANTON: Deal with did?

KING: Did any other panelist deal with the same question?

STANTON: No, I don't think so. Yes, they did. Yes, they did. Yes, and the panel at the -- and everybody said the same thing, that you should not be denied employment based upon your gender or your sexual orientation.

KING: Are you surprised, Toni? We seem to have come a long way. In fact, this is the kind of show you wouldn't have done 20 years ago, 15 years ago.

LLERENA: Yes, I am really surprised. As a matter of fact I am, because, I mean, in the 80s or in the 70s, you couldn't even talk about it. It was like a big issue and now something normal.

KING: In fact, Marilyn, it was laughed at, wasn't it? VOLKER: It was. It was but lots of things were laughed at before we could really understand. I'm just so impressed because what's happening not only with this show but all of the panel members are making not only it safer for the next generation but hopefully the parents will really, really see a wide range of possibilities for their children and love them and love them, and seek support.

KING: We'll be back with our remaining moments on this illuminating show right after this.


KING: We're back with our remaining moments. This is for all of you. You are all lumped into the lesbian, gay, business sexual, that community.

How do you feel about that, Jessica?

LAM: It's -- well, in the gay community...

KING: Unfair?

LAM:'s a little unfair really. I find though in the gay community, the transgendered community tends of kind of sit on the outskirts as exclusive a club as the gay community is sometimes.

KING: The gay don't like you?

LAM: Exactly. Yes.

KING: Why?

LAM: I don't know to answer the reason why maybe because I was born differently. I don't know. That's a really good question to ask someone.

KING: Ryan?

SALLANS: I think it's really important that we're part of that community because all of us, this isn't not about sexual orientation. It's actually about gender expression and presentation because when two women are together, the reason that they have that controversy is that one may be presenting differently than the other. It's about the gender of the two woman together.

KING: Do you feel that gays kind of put you out there?

SALLANS: Absolutely.

KING: We're OK, you're not.

SALLANS: No. I feel in the community I'm in that we all kind of embrace each other.

KING: That's true. And that's in Lincoln, Nebraska. And that might not be true in Miami. SALLANS: It may not be.

KING: How do you feel, Toni? Do you feel you're all lumped?

LLERENA: Not necessarily because there's different, like, levels of gayness. I see it like that. But sometimes people can be really cruel and they, like, downsize us and they see us, like, something bad. But...

KING: Was there a time you felt gay?

LLERENA: Yes, when -- before my transition.

KING: How do you feel, Susan?

STANTON: I think it's irrelevant. I think compartmentalizing people based on their gender identification or their gender -- their sexual orientation is just silly. So I think it's an irrelevant issue.

KING: But it's done, isn't it?

STANTON: It is. But I don't think it's necessarily significant one way or another.

KING: Marilyn, do the communities kind of go at each other?

VOLKER: I think everybody -- every community does. The one thing I do know it's been the gay and lesbian and bisexual community that have really opened their hearts to people that heterosexual communities often do not accept. And if you go to, you will see that there are family members and Mary Bankey (ph) who's written a book available there, "Our Transchildren." And also opened their hearts in Cleveland to a lot of people who are gay, lesbian and bisexual. I'm very proud of the community.

KING: Do we know how many transgenderites, if that's the correct term, there are in this country?

VOLKER: No. But do you know that about one in every 2,000 to 5,000 children have something different about chromosomes, hormones, brain development differences. And that's going to teach us a lot -- now, not all of them are transgender.

KING: And thank you all very much for an, I've got to say, illuminating hour.

Before we go, do you think Jerry Seinfeld, Larry David and John Stewart are funny? Check out "The Book of David." This is written by my friend, David Steinberg and it is very funny. The legendary stand- up comic, talk show host, award-winning comedy writer, TV and movie director -- no wonder it's his first book, he never had the time -- and like everything David Steinberg has ever done, this book is flat out hilarious.

And finally, don't forget to go to our website, You can send an email or a video question to upcoming guests, participate in a quick vote, download our newest podcast, which is Paula Deen. We've even got an Elvis Presley photo gallery for you. We're loaded. It's all at

Next week, by the way, we'll be live from Graceland next Wednesday night with Priscilla Presley.

Right now Soledad O'Brien and "AC 360."