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25 April 2016

David R Wesser (1933 – 2008) sex-change surgeon

David Wesser gained an MD degree from New York University-Bellevue College of Medicine and was trained in Reconstructive Surgery. During the Vietnam War he served as a Major in the US Army Medical Corps and afterward as a consultant for the US State Department in Vietnam caring for war-wounded children.

He taught and practiced surgery in the New York area, usually at the Yonkers Professional Hospital. He also had an office at east 86th St and Park Avenue. His first transsexual patients were those who had surgery elsewhere, and corrections were needed.

In 1972 Rupert Raj had his mastectomy from Dr Wesser and later said “a finer set of (man-made) male pecs I have yet to see”. In 1977 Rosalyne Blumenstein had an orchidectomy and a nose reduction. By 1980 Wesser had done 200 sex-change operations.

One of his patients that year was Sharon Davis, 24, who was well pleased with the results.

Another was Romain, 30, previously a social worker with a city child-welfare department, and also an organizer of S&M parties. His friends knowing that he thought himself to really be a woman, had suggested Dr Benito Rish, who sent him to a panel of experts including a psychiatrist, all of whom approved her for surgery. Rish sent her for surgery with Dr Wesser. However as she later remembered it, she developed doubts while under sedation and on the gurney. As she was medicated, she was not considered rational. Seven months later, after failing to find a surgeon who would reverse the operation, Romain killed herself. Dr Wesser then started requiring a full-year of living as the target gender before surgery.

This was a few months before the Yonkers Professional Hospital was closed down after a surprise inspection by the state.

Also in 1980, David Wesser married. They had several children.

In 1981 he was charged before a panel of the New York Department of Health with
“negligence or gross incompetence, or both, in connection with the care of five gender-change patients. The basis for the charges was that he had diagnosed transsexualism and performed the gender-change operations without obtaining an adequate medical history, adequate physical or psychiatric consultations and without having obtained an adequate informed consent. Petitioner denied the charges and alleged that he had relied upon the psychiatric evaluations of a board-certified psychiatrist”.
His lawyer describes the panel:
“The Chairperson of the panel was a psychiatrist who believed homosexuality to be a deviant criminal activity. Another doctor on the panel was a close friend and professional colleague of the expert witness testifying for the prosecution. The lay person, non-medical professional member of the panel was a Roman Catholic Monsignor.”
Wesser’s license was suspended for one year in 1983, but the case had been pursued for seven years and Wesser was left psychologically broken, and in diminished health.

Dr Wesser started doing silicone injections, although by the end of the decade the procedure was being done by non-doctors such as Jimmy Treetop.

Wesser suffered a heart illness in 1993.

In December 1994 Dr Wesser admitted to the truth of allegations of malpractice endangering the life of a patient receiving liposuction and breast reconstruction. His license to practice medicine in New York State was revoked and he was fined $10,000.

He then lived in Palm Coast, Florida, and was a Counselor at the Stewart Marchman Center in Bunnell where he was an advocate for substance abuse treatments, especially for youths. He died at the age of 75.
  • Edward Falces, David Wesser & Mark Gorney. “Cosmetic Surgery of the Non-Caucasian Nose”. Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, 45,4,April 1970: 317-3324.
  • A Robert Beck & David R.Wesser. "Constrictive Digital Injuries in Infants, Caused by Human Hair". Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. 49, 4, 1972: 420-422.
  • David R.Wesser. "A Single Stage Operative Technique for Castration, Vaginal Construction and Perineoplasty in Transsexuals". Archives of Sexual Behavior. 7, 4, 1978: 309-323.
  • Sharon Churcher. "The Anguish of the Transsexuals". New York Magazine, 13, 25, June 16, 1980.
  • “Matter David R. Wesser V. State New York”. Supreme Court of New York, May 24, 1983.
  • Sharon Davis. A Finer Specimen of Womanhood: A Transsexual Speaks Out. Vantage Press, 1986:
  • Rupert Raj. “Metamorphosis: Man in the Making (A Personal and Political Perspective)”. In Bonnie Bullough, Vern L. Bullough, James Elias (eds) Gender Blending. Prometheus Books 1997: 480-4.
  • Rosalyne Blumenstein. Branded T. 1stBooks, 2003: 83 -5.
  • David R.Wesser. "Repair of a Cryptotic Ear with a Trefoil Flap". Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. 50, 2, 2006: 192-193.
  • Laura Rena Murray. “The High Price of Looking Like a Woman”. New York Times, Aug 19, 2011.
  • Deyan Ranko Brashich. “Transgender’s Dark Ugly Past and Present”. Litchfield County Times, June 10, 2015.
Obituary    License termination

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