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Bay Area man receiving gender affirming care at 67

Bay Area man gets gender affirming care at 67 years old
Bay Area man gets gender affirming care at 67 years old 04:53

Buddy Wolf is a regular at the Center for Elders Independence in San Leandro. It's where he receives his health care under Dr. Eileen Kim. And for Wolf, that care now includes gender affirming care and soon, surgery. 

"My dead name was Nancy Jean," Buddy said on a recent visit.

Buddy — who has cataracts and is legally blind — said he knew since he was 5 years old, when he told a department store Santa, he wanted to be a cowboy, that he was always meant to be a man.

But growing up in conservative Modesto, he never felt that he could be himself.

"When I went to school, I was forced to wear dresses. My mother knew I was different, and she let me be myself.  She just wanted me to be independent," Wolf said. "I remember coming home from kindergarten, my mom kept this wooden box in the closet, and I'd come home, undress and throw all that stuff in the box and then put on my jeans and boots and go gallivanting around the neighborhood. And I played with the boys."

He admitted he felt like an imposter for most of his life and battled depression.

He was even married for a short time in his early 20s, a sort of marriage of convenience for both partners.

"We decided that we would get married just to please our relatives. Did he know? Oh, yes. And for those wondering, the marriage was never consummated," Buddy laughed.

But it took decades to talk openly about his identity with his late mother. The breakthrough came one night when they were washing dishes.

"She says, 'OK, you're transgender.' And I said yeah! I found that out the other day.  I still remember the look of relief on her face.  We were so glad to finally have a name for it.

Before she passed away, I made a promise to her that I wouldn't commit suicide and that if I ever got the chance I could get surgery, I would get it.  And that's kind of sort of is where I'm at now," Wolf said.

"Buddy is loads of fun, he's easy to talk to," said Dr. Kim who was already Buddy's doctor when he came to her one day with a request for gender reassignment treatment.

It was the first case of its kind at the center and certainly not the last.

"It's only now that people are finding out, 'OK, I can get this done, this is available to me, or I'm just ready now.'  There are people who turn 60 or 70 and feel like, 'OK, I feel comfortable with this, I'm ready now, I want to get this done,'" Dr. Kim said. 

"It was always full speed ahead, whatever I could do to make me, me. And make it so I don't get beat up anymore, I don't get my nose broken," Wolf said. 

Dr. Kim helped Wolf build a coordinated team of specialists for his gender reassignment and all his health and mental care needs. He has had both breasts removed and has been on hormone therapy for four years.

But his planned lower body surgery called a metoidioplasty is on hold because of other health issues.

"I'm almost there. Mentally, I'm there. Physically, the surgery will be the last thing. And even if my does things that you know, I can't get the surgery, then I'm satisfied with what I've got," Wolf said. "At least I have what I always wanted and that's to pass. To look like who I am."

Wolf lives alone but has a girlfriend and is in a long term relationship.  

He said he always wanted to be a cowboy, but he became a real-life pioneer instead: a pioneer for older trans people to go after what they need to feel like the whole and healthy person they want to be.

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