I didn’t feel any jitters.
That probably surprised me more than anything as I lay on the operating table back in November, staring at the ceiling while waiting for my anesthesia.
In a few moments, doctors would begin the six-hour, $70,000-procedure that most trans women consider the biggest step in their transition: facial feminization surgery, often referred to as FFS.
I’d already had my boobs done, and braces had recently closed the gap in my front teeth that had long been a source of insecurity. But this procedure was on a different level. It would be far more aggressive—and more jarring—than anything I’d ever endured.
My jawline and brow bone would be shaved and softened.
A rhinoplasty would reshape my nose.
My forehead would be contoured; my chin size reduced.
A tracheal shave would eliminate the appearance of my Adam’s Apple.
I’d been preparing for this moment since the summer of 2021, when—nearly two years into my transition—I’d decided for certain that FFS was something I needed to feel like my true, authentic self. For the next 18 months I worked relentlessly, putting almost all of the money I earned from studio porn and self-produced content into a special bank account I’d opened specifically for the procedure.
It was a grind.
And now the time had come.
Nerves and anxiety had tortured me ever since I’d arrived in San Francisco a week earlier to prepare for the surgery. And I’d hardly slept the night before. But suddenly, in those final moments—surrounded by strangers in that hospital room, hundreds of miles from my home in Las Vegas—I was overtaken by a sense of calm, a sense of peace. As the anesthesiologist gently inserted the needle into my arm, I may have even smiled.
“How many times do you have to die to be reborn?” I remember saying out loud. “How many times do you have to die to be reborn?”
And then I blacked out.
To truly understand what a pivotal step FFS was in my journey, I suppose you need to know a little more about me, a little more about my story.
Long before I became Izzy Wilde—a energetic, award-winning porn star with more than 300,000 followers on Twitter—I was a quiet, emotional teenager working in a gas station in central Michigan, confused about who I was and uncertain about where I was headed.
Like most people, I was conditioned as a child. And by “conditioned,” I mean I was brought up to believe that gender was attached to genitalia, and that I had to live my life a certain way. I was told what my gender was and made to believe it was true. It wasn’t malicious, but that’s how conditioning works. Obviously, as I’d find out later, those beliefs aren’t true at all. You go through life and create your own truths.
Still, early on, I didn’t understand any of that.
When I was around eight- or nine-years-old, I started having a lot of dreams. And in every dream, in every vision, I was female. It felt so natural and real to me. I remember waking up from those visions, and I’d be so giddy and excited about the world. I was so eager to see what would come next. Again, this was before I had any concept of gender, so these dreams didn’t seem abnormal to me at all.
It wasn’t until I was 13 that things hit me.
My family never had very much money. My parents divorced when I was 11 and a lot of things started falling on my back. My mom was grieving, so I took care of a lot of the household chores and just helped out however I could. I think my mom appreciated me for that, so for my 13th birthday she really wanted to do something nice. She and her boyfriend at the time—who is now her husband—started hyping up this birthday present they’d bought for me. She kept telling me that they had spent a lot of money on it, and that I was going to love it. I was thinking it would be a video game or something small and cute. When the big day finally came I was so excited. A lot of friends and family members had come over to celebrate and we were all sitting in the living room. For a kid, your 13th birthday is a big deal.
Mine was deflating.
The present that was so hyped up ended up being a little weight set. It was the cheap kind, where you pour sand into the plastic dumbbells to make them heavy. It had a picture on the box of a really big, buff guy doing curls. I looked at it and started crying. It just wasn’t for me. All of these emotions that I’d never felt before hit me all at once. I ran upstairs to my room, curled up on my bed and wept.
My mom came in and asked what was wrong. I said, “This isn’t it. It’s not what I thought it would be.” But deep down I realized it wasn’t simply about being disappointed with a present. It was more of a realization of who I was. Or more accurately, who society expected me to be. It was a very difficult moment to experience as a child. It was very melancholy, very sad. I still have an emotional scar from it. At that moment, I began playing the role that I’d been assigned at birth, the role of a male.
But I never used that weight set for anything.
For most of my middle school and high school years, I was lost. I was an emotional kid who wore dark clothing and faded into the background with the art kids and the nerds and the skaters. I assumed the role society told me I was supposed to play. As I became older I started having relationships with females, but they never worked out. I had my heart broken a few times and couldn’t figure out what the issues were. Was something wrong with me? Why weren’t things working?
When I was 20, I went on a psychedelic journey, I had this girlfriend, and we decided to experiment with acid together. It was very profound. We started having sex one night, and in the middle of fucking her, I looked down at her and thought, “I’m literally fucking myself. Literally and figuratively, I’m fucking myself.” By that I meant that, I was literally fucking myself over, because I was trying to be someone I wasn’t. And more literally, I felt like I was fucking my own self, right in front of me, if that makes sense. It was a very transcendental experience.
That relationship ended, and it was a very awkward time after that. I went into a deep psychosis to fully understand who I was, even to the point of going temporarily insane.
Eventually all of the visions I had as a child came to the surface. There was so much interconnection with all the little events that were happening in my life at the time. All of a sudden it just hit me. I remember laying in bed and looking up at the ceiling and saying, “I’m gay.”
Random sidenote: It was actually kind of funny, because I had this friend who loved the popular YouTuber Idubbz. I loved him, too. There was a funny meme soundbite from one of Idubbz’s videos that someone made into a ringtone. It said, “I’m gay! I’m gay!” I’d programmed that ringtone into my phone so that whenever my friend called, that’s what I’d hear.
It was almost surreal that he called me within seconds of me having my realization that night, so the first thing I heard was that ringtone saying, “I’m gay! I’m gay! I’m gay!”
Anyway … shortly after I came out, I got a boyfriend. I’d been working at a gas station and he was a customer that came in a lot. His nickname was Gay Mike. He’d come in there with a ukulele and start playing songs. It was a little crazy, but also endearing.
Things with Michael started out magical. I remember walking through downtown the first week we were together. He was holding me by the arm, and there was a sparkle in my vision. Everything was glistening. It was like the world around me had suddenly changed.
At one point we were like, “Hey, fuck these sidewalks.” We ended up walking in the street and doing this dance in the middle of the road. We didn’t care if anyone was watching and looking at us like we were weird. We were just on an emotional high that we’d never experienced before. It was so exhilarating. I know that’s not like everyone’s experience when they come out. It sounds like a fairytale. But for me, that’s what it was. That’s how it happened. Everything was so bright and full of life. It was like a big explosion. I’d been in this desolate state beforehand, and now my world had shifted and changed dramatically.
Eventually, things with Michael started to get a bit tedious. He was counting on me for sex and I started to get turned off by the way he approached it. But there were other issues, too. Issues within myself. Deep down, I knew I was more than just gay
I was trans.
I’d actually come to the realization shortly after I’d come out as gay. Around that time, I’d put my hair in a ponytail and looked in a mirror. I remember at that moment thinking, “I’m transgender.” But at that time, I wasn’t ready to take that step. The common progression, at least in my mind, was “Gay first!” I wanted to experience that first. I didn’t want to leave any stone unturned, so I went through that journey.
And then after all of that happened and everything with Michael ended, and I found myself in a whole new location and situation from the year prior … that’s when I was like, “OK, I’ve experienced being gay, now and I’m trans. This is my journey, and this is for me.” That’s what got me on that track. I already kind of knew, but I really put my foot down and made it happen.
I started taking hormones in April of 2019. I found myself alone again. I went to counseling, because you have to start HRT. I had this really wonderful transgender group of people—a support group in town—who helped.
Getting my first HRT shot was a euphoric feeling, but it wasn’t as other-worldly as before, when I came out as gay. What made the other experience so crazy was the experience prior to that, when I was in the abyss. I was very deep into psychedelics. So deep, in fact, that I was living in hell. You’ve heard the saying that you have to walk through hell to get to heaven? That describes it perfectly. That’s why it was so different compared to when I came out as trans, because I was already past that point. I wasn’t in hell anymore, but I was still finding myself in this new place. It was a step-in the right direction. I was taking the next step to becoming my truest self.
I knew I was a woman and I was ready to become that.
Everyone’s initial transitional stage is very awkward. I wasn’t a manager at the gas station yet, but I was behind the counter. People who knew me from a year or two prior were seeing a new side of me now, and that was a different experience. Sure, there were some negative comments, some awkward reactions. But I never let it get to me. I’d spent an entire lifetime figuring out who I was and who I would be when the right time came, and now the time had come, and I was going to keep doing it, because I knew this was the life for me. Thankfully the people who ran the station were very supportive. They didn’t understand, but they were supportive, because they knew me and they knew I was a good person.
When I first transitioned I never thought about going into sex work. And I didn’t really think about going into the porn industry until just before COVID. I was working 50 hours a week at the gas station and I felt like I wasn’t appreciated. It drove me to a point where I didn’t want to be living that life, not that I really had a life. I’d wake up, go to work, come back home and sleep. Eventually I thought, “I’m not meant to not have a life. I need to do something.” In my mind, I said, “Fuck it, I’m going to do porn.” I thought I was sexy enough, and I didn’t really think of myself like that beforehand. But once I decided I was sexy enough to do porn, it just kind of hit me. Plus, I had an asexual partner at the time with a big dick, but we weren’t having sex, so I was sexually frustrated. So everything kind of bubbled up at once. So I was like, ‘Fuck it, I’m going to do porn. I don’t know how I’m going to do it. I don’t know how it’s going to happen. But I’m going to do it.”
I got on the website SexyJobs. I signed up for the gold membership so I’d stand out. I ended up escorting for a little bit. It was $180 an hour. My manager took 40 percent and I’d take 60. She’d talk to the guy first and then send me on my way. I was only making $13 an hour at the gas station. I’d escort after my shift. I discovered it was something that I really enjoyed.
Sex with strangers was strange but exciting. The first two people didn’t know I was transgender. The first person freaked out and went through with the sex, and then had a mental breakdown afterward. The second person touched me “there,” freaked out, and then we had a conversation and I got paid. Even the first person who had sex with me, even though it rattled him, it turned out OK. He wasn’t attacking me or anything. He was just coming to grips with what had just happened. It’s a spiral people have when they’re conflicted with their sexuality.
It wasn’t until COVID hit that things really shifted and changed. Michigan was one of the first states to go on lockdown. I knew if I wanted to keep escorting I’d have to leave the state.
I went to Oklahoma for a week to escort and then I spent a month doing it in Nebraska. I was making it OK. Then I found the Grooby website.
There was an ad where you could send in some photos and see what happens. I did it in the middle of the night after being on the computer for a while. A few weeks later I got a message from Radius Dark. Hey, we’d like to shoot you and fly you out to Las Vegas. I’d never been to Las Vegas, and now they’re going to fly me out there to shoot porn? That sounded amazing. It was very surreal.
I went to Vegas and had an amazing experience. I was like, “Whoa, this is actually happening.” I shot three scenes on my trip: a solo, a girl-girl with Chelsea Marie and a boy-girl with Chris Epic. I flew home and thought, ‘OK, that was really fun. If nothing ever comes out of it, I’ll be fine. I had a great time. It was amazing.” I didn’t have any thought that anything was going to go further.
But then Grooby ended up making me one of its Models of the Month for July of 2020. At that moment, my intuition kicked in and I was like, “You can actually do this. You don’t have to just dip your toes into the water anymore. If you go for it, you can do this!” I never thought beforehand that I was going to be a porn star, but I was ready to be one now.
I moved to Vegas and started staying with a friend named Matthew who I’d known since kindergarten. I didn’t have a bed or anything, only some blankets, so I was planning to sleep on the floor. But after a few weeks Matt decided he was going to move back to Michigan, so he gave me all of his furniture. I also found someone to help me get a minivan. Everything was coming together. It was like the universe was telling me I was heading in the right direction and that this was where I needed to be.
Once I started doing shoots I pretty much kept to myself. I didn’t really know anybody. I reached out to some veteran girls as a baby performer, as many baby performers do. I quickly realized that new performers need to establish themselves before they can really talk to anyone. It was all about creating a body of work and showing what you have to offer. It’s a growing period where you really have to show your passion and work ethic in order to be fully accepted by everyone in the industry. Otherwise, you’re going to look like every other newcomer who could easily burn out or fade into obscurity if you don’t change and grow.
I’ve always been really good at sex. That was never really a problem. I wasn’t the best actor in the beginning, but I’ve really honed in on that skill. I’ve been able to harness my character and my brand. It took some time. Not everyone welcomed me with open arms. I had to get past some unsavory people in order to really grow into my own. That’s true for most performers who are new.
The best part about this job—at least for me—is the fans. I have so many people who have supported me since Day One. Then I have ones who hopped on board after a year, and I continue to make new fans every single day. They stick with me, and I love engaging with them. I’m very proud of the fact that I won the “Fan Favorite” award the past two years at the TEAs, because I work very hard at that aspect of my career. Plus, they know I’m consistent with my output and I make good shit.
What’s cool about my fans is that they’ve stuck with me through so many changes. I still see my old pictures on Google images. It’s a pain in the ass, but it makes me realize how much I’ve grown, and for the better. It’s a rewarding feeling to evolve and change. In our everyday lives we run into people who refuse to change. They stay the same, they stay stagnant and they give themselves a million excuses to keep themselves from moving forward. I never do that. I continue to change. It’s something to behold.
Obviously, some of my biggest changes involved my appearance. When I decided to get my top surgery, my boobs … sure, the fact that I was in porn may have had an influence. But I also wanted to wear certain things and to be able to fit into different types of clothes. I wanted to have a sexy top. So that surgery was for me. I knew it was going to impact my work in the industry, but the industry wasn’t my motive. I wanted it for myself.
Same thing with my braces. I had a gap in my front teeth since high school and I got teased for it a lot. I grew up with very little money and my parents never could afford braces. Once I was able to get braces, I did. I felt such an adrenaline rush last fall when I looked in the mirror for the first time after they’d been removed. I looked like a new person. It was a huge step in my transition. But not the final one.
When I first started my transition, face surgery wasn’t even a thought in my head. I wasn’t really aware of my self image at the time. I was very certain of what I wanted to become, but didn’t pay much attention to what I currently was at the time.
Eventually, though, I started to notice things about myself that I didn’t like. I started seeing the “dead me”—the old me—in my face. I had shed that person a long time ago, so I didn’t want to see any part of it when I looked in the mirror. It was the summer of 2021, and I recognized I needed to change. I had dysphoria about having a bigger chin and I also started noticing a bigger brow bone.
I wanted to soften myself up
I wanted to have FFS.
At that point it became a waiting game, because I needed to figure out how I was going to raise the $70,000 it would cost to get the surgery. I opened a separate bank account and—aside from living essentials—I basically put everything I made in there. (I remember a year-and-a-half later, when it was time for the surgery, the account had $72,000 in it).
When it came to finding a surgeon, I got some great advice from Korea Del Rio as we were driving back from LA one time after a shoot. She recommended a doctor in San Francisco that had done her surgery. He’d also performed the same procedure on Emma Rose and Casey Kisses, two of the biggest stars in our industry’s history. Both of them are so beautiful. So hiring this guy seemed like a no-brainer.
After about a year I started feeling good about the money I’d saved, so I scheduled the surgery for November 17, 2022. I arrived from Las Vegas about a week before the procedure, just to get myself ready, mentally and physically. I stayed with Janie Blade, who lives there, and I couldn’t have been more appreciative of her for opening up her home.
Everything leading up to the surgery made me very nervous. The night before the procedure I hardly slept. I was tossing and turning in this little bed in Jamie’s computer room. I wanted the surgery to be right then. I was ready to get on with it.
As I mentioned back at the beginning, once I was on the operating table I was totally calm. I still remember saying, “How many times do you have to die to be reborn?” right before I blacked out. I don’t know what prompted that. I was in a lucid state. I got prophetic and it was a stream of consciousness thing, I suppose. It’s kinda cool, looking back at it. I’ll explain what I meant—or what I think I meant, lol—once I’m done with my story.
Anyway … the surgery was six hours. They made an incision on top of my head and underneath my lip, and then they went in and worked everywhere in between. I remember waking up and thinking how things weren’t as bad as I was expecting them to be. They were actually a lot better. When I got my top surgery done, I was fucking woozy. I I remember asking the nurse if she would put her forehead up next to mine, to make me feel comfortable and safe. And she did. It was a very sweet thing. This time, though, that wasn’t going to happen. My face was almost completely bandaged up.
I remember the doctors standing there, giving me a briefing, I suppose for legal reasons. ‘You just had surgery, blah, blah, blah.” I was very hazy. I wasn’t all there yet. But I didn’t feel any pain. You could probably chalk that up to all of the pain killers they were giving me. But I was like, “I’m OK. I’m all right. Let’s begin the recovery process.”
My face was so bandaged up that basically all you could see were my eyes and my cheeks. My mouth had tubes in it, and there were tubes under my lips. My whole body looked puffy, especially my fingers.
I was in the hospital for three days. I had to relearn to walk for the first two but I picked up on it really quickly. Miraculously I didn’t have much pain at all. The only real pain I had was when they pulled out the catheter. I was off opioids by the third day, and that’s when they moved me into a hotel next to the hospital to recover. I was there for two weeks. I was told to rest as much as possible and to avoid laying down, so I slept while sitting up in a recliner. I didn’t eat anything except yogurt and soup. Once I got my bandages off I’d take walks around downtown San Francisco, just to keep my blood pumping. Throughout the whole process I lost about 10 pounds.
When they first took the bandages off, I was worried because my chin was still pretty inflamed. But I kept reminding myself that it was a process and that I wasn’t just going to heal immediately. I kept applying the ointment they gave me to my scars and tried to be patient. Sure enough, after I’d been back in Vegas for a few weeks, I put on makeup for the first time and looked in the mirror and thought, ‘Wow! This really worked!”
For most of December I took it easy and laid low. But as the holidays got closer I started getting invited to some Christmas parties, and I ended up going to one. For only being four weeks out of surgery, I looked pretty damn good! I still had some inflammation around my chin and jaw, but nothing too extreme.
The AVN convention was the first week of January, and honestly, once I’d scheduled my surgery, I’d pretty much written off any possibility of going. I had circled the TEA Awards in March as the date of my official “reveal.” But I was healing so quickly that, when some friends called and invited me to AVN, I figured I’d least pop in and check it out.
I tried to keep a low profile as I walked the convention floor, but so many fans ended up stopping me to chat. A few people handed me a tip, 10 or 20 bucks, and thanked me for all of my hard work. Another guy asked to take a picture with me. I was a little hesitant at first, because I was still in the healing process, but I told him it would be OK as long as he kept it for himself and didn’t share it on social media.
Granted, that stipulation seemed funny one night later, when I ended up walking the red carpet at the awards show. Khloe Kay and Kasey Kei convinced me to go with them, and there were cameras everywhere. I loved it, though. All of the insecurities I once had were gone. It was the feeling I’d been longing for. The whole experience was incredible.
When I look at myself now, nearly six months later, I couldn’t be happier with my decision to have FFS. It’s boosted my confidence. I had a fairly long chin. Now I don’t. I love that. I feel like, ‘Oh my God. This is what was hiding in my face beforehand.’ I don’t see my dead self anymore. I see something new and magical. I feel re-invigorated. I was afraid I was going to have the surgery and look completely different, like someone else. I still look like me. I just look a lot hotter and softer and more polished, and I can perform better because of it.
Everyone will still nitpick at themselves about certain things. That’s common. And I don’t know if this will be my last surgery. It will probably be one of the last big surgeries before I eventually end up getting SRS. But I don’t think I’m going to go full surgery-psycho again anytime soon. This is good for now. This is all part of my transition. And that’s important to remember. As much as I’m evolving in the industry, I’m not at the end of my transition.
If I had to give advice to someone considering FFS, I’d say, “Don’t rush yourself. When it feels natural to take that step, go for it. But ultimately everyone is working at their own pace and nothing is comparative. When it comes to your transition, don’t try to do what other girls several years ahead of you, pace-wise, are doing for themselves now. You still have to conquer point A, point B and point C first. Don’t take that big of a step before you’re ready. Not just with surgery, but other types of experiences and procedures, too. Some girls want to do everything all at once. You have to be patient. You have to let it ride. Trust me, I wanted to look like a beautiful, prestigious woman right off the bat. But I knew that in order to actually reach that point, I had to be patient.
That’s especially true when it comes to getting FFS. When you’re ready and it feels correct for you, do it. But if you’re rushing yourself and you feel like you have to do it for something outside of yourself, rather than for something inside of yourself, then just wait until it feels right. Go with the flow and let nature take its course when it comes to your transition. When the time is right, you’ll know. It’ll be glaringly obvious, because you’ll want it more than air.
I realize we’ve covered quite a bit of ground here, but that’s OK. If sharing my story impacts even one person—whether they’re at the beginning of their transition, or considering entering sex work, or preparing for FFS—then I’ll consider this memoir a success.
My goal is for everyone to not be fearful of change, but to embrace it.
Over and over again.
I suppose that was the point of my little comment as I lay on that operating table back in November, literally seconds before the anesthesia kicked in. How many times do we have to die to be reborn? How many times do we have to die to be reborn?
I was referring to change. There’s nothing wrong with allowing old mindsets to die and new ones to grow. Let yourself grow. Stop making excuses and let it happen. Get out of your own way. Experience it as it comes. You don’t have to rush yourself to have an experience, you just have to live through it. Stop trying to do things before you’re ready. Let yourself die so you can create this newer person, because you’ll know yourself better for it at the end of the day.
There will be times when there are big changes and there will be times when there are small changes. There are big deaths and small deaths. You’re working on yourself incrementally. Death is a part of life. You need to go through death. That is how you’ll be reborn. You’ll become anew as long as you allow older parts of yourself to die to make room for the new, wiser, more open parts of you. You have that ability. Don’t get in your own way about it. You need to welcome the change. Embrace it.
That’s what I did back in November, when I had to die to be reborn.