Who Is Elijah Stephens?
While growing up, Elijah Stephens knew that he was different. As early as age 6, he began to accept that he was actually a boy.
Although he never knew any transgender people as a child, Stephens did his research and wanted to transition. The first step of his transition was hormone therapy. It wasn't an easy process for Stephens, who endured years of depression and contemplated suicide. Even today he reportedly has co-workers who ridicule him and spread gossip about his transition.
"I love who I am," he told NJ.com. "Because I didn't like who I was, and to see how far I've come; that's what keeps me grounded."
The Female-To-Male Genital Reassignment Surgery
To help with his transition, Stephens endured numerous surgeries. He had a "top surgery" in 2016 to make his chest look more masculine. Stephens had a "bottom surgery" afterward to remove the vaginal canal. In February 2018, the 28-year-old finally decided to undergo a phalloplasty, a female-to-male genital reassignment surgery. It would be the first surgery of its kind in New Jersey history.
The 14-hour operation occurred at Saint Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston and it was conducted by a 15-member team of surgeons led by Dr. Jonathan Keith. Although Keith studied sexual reassignment surgery in Belgium, he never performed it before. It took him three years to plan out every aspect of the surgery.
Keith removed skin and tissue from Stephen's left forearm to create the penis. Tissue from his thigh was implanted in the forearm to replace the other tissue. The forearm tissue was used to lengthen the urethra to carry urine through the penis. Nerves were transplanted to the penis and labial tissue was transformed into a scrotum. Keith also used arteries from the forearm so that the blood could circulate.
The Aftermath Of The Surgery
The surgery was a success. In the months since the procedure, Stephens was able to urinate in a standing position and he could achieve an orgasm. Stephens said that walking with his penis was a little awkward at first, but he has since gotten used to it.
"It's hard to put into words," Stephens told NorthJersey.com. "I feel whole, complete — happy beyond happy."
His next surgery will be to add implants to help him get an erection.