TV Review: Sex Change Hospital



As you might imagine, this series is not for the squeamish. The WEtv entry details the sexual reassignment surgeries (to use the latest PC term) of several patients in all of the multifaceted procedure's bloody glory. And bloody it is.

The messiness isn't really the point, of course. The series of six documentary hours -- originally released some 18 months ago in the U.K. -- follows the real-life patients as they beat a path from across the country and around the world to the tiny mining town of Trinity, Colo. (population: 10,000), the unlikely sex change capital of our planet because of the work of Dr. Marci Bowers. Bowers is a living example of the work she does at her clinic, having previously been Dr. Mark Bowers. The transgender doc provides the candor and charisma that gives "Sex Change Hospital" its quirky power.

Each episode supplies a self-contained journey of two people who opt to have the radical surgery, taking us along as they endure the final step in their gender transitioning. We learn all of their reasons for doing this (trapped in the wrong body, never felt quite right, etc.) and the accompanying observations of Bowers, who performs more than 100 of these things each year on patients ranging from housewives to businessmen to construction workers to office managers.

The people in the opener who remove the veil from their lives for the camera are almost shockingly open, which is no accident considering the program's pedigree. It comes from the World of Wonder team of Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato, who have become something of the grand gurus of broad-minded content. Their past projects include the likes of "Inside Deep Throat," "The Joy of Cleavage" and "Secrets of the Sexually Satisfied Woman" as well as acclaimed docs about Tammy Faye Meisner and Anna Nicole Smith.

Probably the most intriguing aspect of "Sex Change Hospital," however, is the sheer visual nature of it that smacks us in the face. Somehow, we never really think about the fact this is major, messy surgery -- perhaps imaging that the genitalia are magically, cleanly altered and that's that. The hard-core reality underscores the full sacrifice, both medical and psychological.

Production: World of Wonder.
Executive producers: Fenton Bailey, Randy Barbato, Jeremy Simmons.
Producer-director: Chris McKim.
Director of photography: Damon Hennessey.
Editors: Nathan Allen, Jon Anderson.
Music: David Benjamin Steinberg.
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