I have started doing facial feminisation surgery because I understood that many transwomen suffer from being recognized as a man. It makes them insecure and depressed. Therefore many transwomen consider facial feminisation surgery even more important than their sex-change surgery as the impact on their lives is bigger.
As I find it very rewarding to help other people I have decided to spend a big part of my life working with transwomen. Facial feminisation surgery really changes lives, even mine. It helps transwomen to be recognised as the women they are.
In facial feminisation surgery many patients want a big change, but without leaving any stigma that shows a surgery has been performed. Not an easy task for the surgeon!
Over the years I have developed a series of procedures which are the tools I use to provide these changes in a predictable and safe way.
Facial feminisation surgery is a fairly young type of surgery so there is still a lot of work to do in developing the proper treatment strategy for each patient. To achieve good and natural results the surgeon needs craftsmanship, knowledge of technology as well as art (feeling of aesthetics beyond the existing rules) and he needs to be a perfectionist (continuous self-critique and evaluation).
In facial feminisation surgery the goal should be to respect the personal characteristics of a face as much as possible and at the same time change the masculine characteristics into feminine ones, this to ‘set free’ the true feminine version of the patient. The wish of a patient not to change certain facial features, because they belong to the family or she thinks it is her characteristic feature, is important to me.
My approach consists of a combination of bone reduction techniques, frequently combined with a facelift and almost always lipofilling, as a finishing touch. The results of lipofilling depend to a large extend on the skills of the surgeon and the technique used. But the right technique in the right hands gives excellent results that are very long, if not everlasting.
Dr Bart van de Ven,
Maxillofacial surgeon, specialised in facial feminisation surgery
A patient sent me this by e-mail. I couldn’t explain better what FFS is about:
My whole life i have known that inside i am a woman, and not a man. The last two years my shrink and I have been working on my transition from man to woman. My mental health is fine, just my outside appearance is not (in my opinion). For me it is not enough to know that I’m a woman, I want total strangers to think I’m a woman too since strangers make up an important part of your life (shops, services, etc).
My goal has always been, that when I walk into a store (where nobody knows me) they all think that I’m a women and greet me with Miss and not Mister without a shadow of a doubt. Passability to me is a big thing, probably to most transgenders. My family, friends and co-workers all know I feel inside like a women, and will probably accept me as a woman regardless whether I do FFS or not.
To me FFS is the most important surgery, and not SRS which results will be invisible for most people. FFS however will be visible to all.
It will mark a restart of my life, a new one… »
In the last 2 years some genetic women have come to me with the question if I would also operate them, which I did. Many genetic women have some masculine features in their faces as well. It can be some frontal bossing with low eyebrows, a receding hairline with widow peaks, a hanging tip of the nose, sometimes with a hump, a flat midface, a wide and/or high chin, low jaw angles, long upper lip, small vermillion of the lips, large ears or just earlobes etc. Over the years normally the face looses some subcutaneous fat. With that fat disappearing these masculine facial features, that are caused mostly by the shape of the bones, become more visible. That is why many women, as they grow older, start to look more and more like their father. Facial feminisation surgery, done either at a young or an older age, can take away these masculine features. It makes these faces not only more feminine, but also younger and more attractive. Therefore facial feminisation surgery is to be considered a new type of facial plastic surgery.
For his specialization, he worked in the department for oral and maxillo-facial surgery at the Utrecht academic hospital for two years, in general surgery in Arnhem and Utrecht (Diakonessenhuis) for three years, spent 8 months working in plastic and reconstructive surgery and the Maastricht academic hospital, and 2 years in the Mund, Kiefer und plastische Gesichtschirurgie (oral, maxillo-facial and plastic facial surgery) department at the Academic hospital in Aachen, Germany.
From 1999 till 2008 he was a member of the medical staff of the Beatrix hospital in Gorinchem, the Netherlands.
In 2001 he founded the Cleftsurgery Organisation. This organisation provides free surgeries to cleft lip and palate patients in developing countries. Over the years Dr van de Ven has performed several hundreds of free surgeries in Kenya, Vietnam, Nepal and Indonesia. In 2008 he was first author of the book ‘Cleft Lip Surgery, a practical Guide’ that has been published in English and Spanish.
From March 2008 he was director of Agave Clinic, international center for advanced maxillofacial, plastic and reconstructive surgery. Unfortunately the Clinic had to be closed down due to difficult economic times in Spain.
He rebuilt his practice in Belgium in Ghent (Coupure Centre/EMC2).
In January 2014 he moved his office to Antwerp, where he lives, into a new clinic called o2 Clinic.
He has two children, Anne and Peppino, and lives in Antwerp with his partner Dr Ellen Defrancq and her 2 children Adriaan and Selinde.