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25 April 2016

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

Revised September 2017 re Wesser's first marriage.

David Wesser gained an MD degree from New York University-Bellevue College of Medicine and was trained in Reconstructive Surgery. He married in 1963. During the Vietnam War he served as a Major in the US Army Medical Corps and lived in Saigon with his wife and two children.  Afterwards he was 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 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 orchiectomy and a nose reduction.

Earlier, in 1976, there had been 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.

++Sandra Mesics wrote after Romain's suicide:
"But can you blame the physician? I was operated on by the same doctor who performed Romaine' s surgery and I can attest to his technical competence. I have known about six other transsexuals who had their surgery performed by this man, and there was not one botched job in the lot. I found him to be a very warm , compassionate man , who feels that he is genuinely performing a much needed service for people with gender problems. Sure, he's making money by the fistful, but he could do just as well performing nose jobs on wealthy society women."
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.

Later that year, the Yonkers Professional Hospital was closed down after a surprise inspection by the state.

Also in 1980, David Wesser remarried. 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.
  • Isaac Kaplan & David Wesser. "A Rapid Method for Constructing a Functional Sensitive Penis".  British Journal of Plastic Surgery, 24, 1971: 342-4.  
  • A Robert Beck & David R.Wesser. "Constrictive Digital Injuries in Infants, Caused by Human Hair". Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. 49, 4, 1972: 420-422.
  • "Post-Op Transsexual Commits Suicide - Operation was a Mistake!"  Drag, 7,25, 1977: 6-7.  Online
  • ++ Sandra Mesics. "Thoughts on the Suicide of Romaine Atura".  F.l. News, No. 22.  Reprinted in The Journal of Male Feminism, vol. 77, No. 4 & 5:  47-9.   Online.  
  • 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


  1. Dr Wesser's daughter wrote to me:

    "What I'd really like to impart was that my father was a pioneer in the privatization of transsexual surgery and it cost him everything - his medical license, his health, his life savings. This was a huge sacrifice. All this stuff about what a terrible doctor he was and how he butchered people was part of a smear campaign to justify ending his career as a transsexual surgeon. That aside, I don't expect you to white wash him or be his cheer leader. It's just that transgender wouldn't be here today without people taking that first headlong plunge into the unknown, as you must know."

    1. Anonymous2/8/23 00:41

      Dr Weser did my first pair of implants and some minor face adjustments and I was very pleased and happy with the results I had my breasts for many years until I changed them I didn’t know he did the GRS surgery had I known I would have let him perform my bottom surgery as well he was a great surgeon he is missed

  2. I think Dr. Wesser has been given a bad rap. I found him to be an excellent doctor. In addition he performed my breast augmentation in 1993 which I still have.

  3. I was Dr. Wesser's patient from 1976-1980. He was an extremely compassionate and competent physician. He was a pioneer in preserving tissue allowing for a sensate clitoris and orgasmic ability post-vaginoplasty. At the time of my GRS in 1976, he had done over 300 vaginoplasties. He also did my breast augmentation, and the subsequent repair of a capsular contraction. I had those implants for 38 years! He operated at Yonkers Professional Hospital, which was pretty run-down in this time period. He had an office on Park Avenue, which was notable for his having a rather intimidating-looking "bouncer" providing security for the office. I owe my life to him.

  4. I believe the timeline concerning Romaine's death is a bit off. I knew Romaine personally, and she had SRS with Dr. Wesser shortly after I did. In fact, Drag Magazine, Vol. 7, #25 has an article about Romaine's suicide. This was published in 1977, which is prior to 1980.

  5. Yes. You are quite right. I do in fact list the Drag Magazine article above, despite saying 1980. Apologies.

  6. I wrote a piece in Female Impersonator News in 1977 about Romaine Atura's suicide. It was reprinted in the Journal of Male Feminism, vol. 77, No. 4 & 5, page 47. You can access that publication from the Digital Transgender Archive.

  7. Thank you for the reference, which I have now included. And also a quote therefrom about the quality of Dr Wesser's work.

  8. Sandy, you raise the issue of the inadequacy of the psychiatric interview for someone who knew the textbook answers. That was back in the 1970s. Now the ICD has delisted transsexuality as a mental condition, and psychiatric interviews are no longer to be required. Many of us knew exactly what we were doing and the interview was just an annoyance. However there were and are others who did need, not an interview to pass or to fail, but counselling. I like your proposal that candidates for completion surgery should have sessions with those who are already completed.

  9. I had surgary in 1976/7 by Dr Wesser, he did my brest augmentation as well. I still have my impats today but one has become hard as it has been encapsulated. I always had prolrms with sex, as it never was big or deep enough. I have been without a partner for over 40 years. After surgery i have been working as an engineer. The irony is that i am a Veteran as well the VA said tney could remove my one brest implant but would not replace it. But the approved me for vaginal repair, but doctors will not do it for what they are wkilling to pay.
    Cris H.


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