On her 50th birthday, Liz Youngs received the gift of being able to become her true self.
"I am a female now and that's just the most relief I've had," she said.
The Tustin resident was born as Roy Youngs -- a gender and name that never fit. But for Liz, transgender surgery was unobtainable.
She said, "I just figured I wasn't going to get any surgeries at all. I couldn't. I just didn't have the money for it."
The costs for gender-affirming surgery can be prohibitive. Youngs said she was quoted $40,000 for just partial reconstructive surgery. Plus there are other costs associated with surgery, like anesthesia.
Experts say the feeling of being born in the wrong body may be the reason suicide in the transgender community is threefold higher than in the general population.
"I did suffer from a lot of anxiety and depression," Youngs said.
Under the guidance of Dr. Maurice Garcia, Cedars-Sinai is one of a few academic medical centers in the U.S. to provide gender-affirming surgery and comprehensive transgender health services.
Garcia said, "We remain one of the largest volume medicare providers of the surgery anywhere."
In 2013, California's Department of Managed Health Care lifted the exclusion on transgender surgery. This made the procedure accessible under public insurance. But the problem is that many doctors in private practice didn't accept it.
Garcia said one of the things that was very important to him was making sure https://www.cedars-sinai.edu/Patients/Programs-and-Services/Transgender-Surgery-and-Health-Program/ Cedars-Sinai continued to offer transgender surgery, especially making it accessible to people with Medi-Cal.
In April, Youngs underwent male to female genital gender affirming surgery. She feels her transformation is complete and she is grateful.
"Never have I been treated so kindly, and cared for," she said.
Garcia said improving the quality of lives of transgender people like Youngs also has other benefits. Mastering the complexities of gender-affirming surgeries improves science, which will help even more people.
"It's led to us providing better and more diverse care", he explained.