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| Feb 15, 2010
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Michelle Moore brings you TG History“Where is my honorable man? Where is my prairie son? Where is my happy ending? Where have all the Cowboys gone?” “” Paula Cole

Trinidad, Colorado is a historic old frontier town that’s proud of its Western heritage. “A pocket of peace, plentiful clean air, and pure Western Americana” they like to say. With access to the Santa Fe Trail, it was a real Wild West boomtown. Doc Holiday gambled here. Billy the Kid and Black Jack Ketchum’s gangs paid calls there all too often. Bat Masterson was even Town Marshal for a while. Place was also a major coal mining town back in the day. Over 50,000 people lived there once. But after World War II Trinidad’s fortunes started to change. The coal industry bottomed out, the mines began closing, and times got tough. It was about that time that old Doc Biber came to town.

Stanley Biber was a Midwesterner, actually. Born in Des Moines, Iowa, he was, the older of two children. Father owned a furniture store. Mother interested in social causes. Parents first saw him as a concert pianist, if you can believe it. He was pretty darn good at it too. But young Stanley’s own dreams were to be a doctor ““ or maybe a cowboy. “I used to go to Sargents’ Feed Store and sit on the bales of alfalfa and just smell the alfalfa,” he remembered. “I told myself, ‘Someday, I’m going to get me a ranch.'”

21579809Unfortunately World War II got in the way’a that. Biber served as a civilian employee with the Office of Strategic Services (precursor to the CIA), performing “unspecified operations” in Alaska and Canada’s Northwest Territory. “Let’s not make that too specific,” he later said. “Just say I was there.”

After the War, Biber returned to Iowa and began taking liberal arts and pre-med courses. Not exactly puny either “” he almost made the United States Olympic weightlifting team. “I think I missed it by twenty pounds.”

Biber graduated the University of Iowa Medical School in 1948. It was during residency at an Army hospital in the Panama Canal Zone Biber discovered a talent for surgery. “I kind of fell into it by chance,” he says. “It was like my second or third choice, but I was very adaptive to it. My hands took to it. Like playing piano. You know how it is “” when you’re commended for something, you take an interest in it. And it was a constant challenge. At least you had a chance to do innovations.”

Biber got his chance to innovate, all right – seven miles behind enemy lines in Korea. When war broke out there he was assigned as Chief Surgeon to a Mobile Army Surgical Hospital (MASH) and struggled to save lives as the fighting escalated. But the Korean War soon turned into a bloody stalemate as both sides hammered ruthlessly at each other. MASH units were constantly overwhelmed with casualties. Dr. Biber once performed 37 consecutive abdominal surgeries before passing out. Still, war also produces technical innovations and Dr. Biber supervised medical advances such as vessel transplants. “I got a tremendous amount of experience there,” he said. “Tremendous.”  He’d need it.

After the Korean War he was reassigned to the hospital at Fort Carson. In 1954, a friend there asked him to join up with a five-member United Mine Workers of America clinic in nearby Trinidad. “I thought, ‘What the hell. It’s close. I’ll spend a year there until they get the clinic going and I’ll move on,'” Biber recalled. “Hell, all the rest are gone, and I’m still here.”

Doc Biber was the town’s only general surgeon and he worked hard. Real hard. Eighteen-hour days, sometimes, six days a week, doing everything from appendectomies and tonsillectomies to Cesarean births and gunshot wounds. “I must have operated on everyone in town five times,” he says. “I was young then. When you’re young, that’s how you work.”

But he also did pretty well by himself and finally bought that ranch he always wanted. Started small at first, bought himself a few head of cattle. Then bought more, then more after that. Pretty soon he was one of the biggest ranchers in all of Las Animas County. Riding, now that was a different story. “The first few times he rode,” one friend remembered, “he had a good cow horse, and the horse went one way and the rider went somewhere else. If you know what I mean.”

But his greatest adventure began with a special visitor in 1969. Her name was Ann.  Social worker by trade. Reddish hair. Medium build. Not bad-looking, either. She was a friend of Biber’s and brought him all her welfare cases, poor folks from all around Las Animas County needing corrective surgery for harelips and cleft palates. But this time Ann was approaching Dr. Biber for herself:

“Can you do my surgery?” she asked.

By now Doc Biber’s 46 years old and has already fought two wars. He’s confident, cocky, and riding high.

“Sure,” Biber says. “There’s not a surgery I can’t do.”
Then he asks: “What kind of surgery is it?”

“I’m a transsexual,” Ann says.

“A transsexual? What in hell’s name is that?”

Part II next Month: “The Sex Change Capital of The World”


Sex Machine. Dr. Stanley Biber has made 3,500 women–and 300 men, Harrison Fletcher, Aug 27, 1998 ©2003 New Times, Inc.
Former Cattle Town Becomes Sex-Change Capital. Trinidad, Colorado, Owes It All To Pioneering Surgeon. James Brooke, New York Times
Old Mining Town Now ‘Sex-Change’ Capital. Pauline Arrilaga, The Sun Chain, May 24, 2000
Dr. Compassion, One surgeon’s work has made residents of a small Colorado town experts on transsexualism. Lisa Neff, The Advocate, May 25, 1999
How Sex Changed: A History of Transsexuality in the United States, Professor Joanne Meyerowitz
Aging Sex-Change Doctor Seeking Insurer, Associated Press, 22 Sep 03
Marci Bowers Interview, Transgender Community News, April 2003

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