Kim Sallans starved herself to look masculine. But after a sex change she has beaten her eating disorder
When Kim Sallans lost 4st in eight months, she became dangerously underweight. Her periods stopped, she developed an erratic heartbeat and she looked skeletal – but she saw her anorexia as a blessing, as her breasts disappeared and her hips became slim and boyish.
Now transexual Kim – who longed to have the man’s body she believed she should have been born in – has spent £18,000 on a sex change to become Ryan, and has beaten her eating disorder. “I’m finally proud of my body,” says Ryan, 28. “I’m looking forward to living the rest of my life as a man.”
Kim took up weightlifting in a bid to stop her body becoming curvy
Growing up on a farm, tomboy Kim never felt happy as a girl. “While my sister Deborah dreamed of becoming a model, I loved working with Dad,” says Ryan. “I would dress in baggy trousers and T-shirts, hiding my short hair under baseball caps.”
When Kim was maid of honour at Deborah’s wedding in March 1998, she felt uncomfortable in her dress and changed into jeans when the service ended. “I felt so uncomfortable walking up the aisle with everyone looking – I just wanted to get out of that dress,” says Ryan.
During her teens, Kim took up weightlifting in a bid to stop her body becoming curvy. Ryan says: “I watched a programme on female bodybuilders and was fascinated, because they had huge muscles and no breasts. It’s what I wanted, so I worked out constantly.”
Kim maintained her boyish frame until she started university at 18, but she soon became too busy to work out as much. Her weight increased and by the end of her first year, she weighed 12st 4lbs and was depressed by her growing hips and breasts.
“When I looked in the mirror, I just saw flab and hated my female curves,” says Ryan. “I started constantly running, cycling and weightlifting to lose weight again.”
As the pounds began to drop off, Kim became obsessed with her diet, eating just vegetables, fruit and lean meat. In eight months, she went down to just 8st and, at 5ft 10, looked worryingly skinny.
Kim’s periods stopped and she suffered brittle hair and shortness of breath – both signs of anorexia. Ryan says: “I was delighted when I stopped menstruating, even though I knew I was damaging my health. And I loved my boyish figure, especially when strangers mistook me for a man.”
'It wasn't until a therapy session in 2003 that she realised the root cause of her unhappiness'
But Kim’s parents were horrified by her appearance when she visited them eight months after leaving her home in Nebraska, USA. Ryan says: “Dad was angry and Mum wouldn’t stop crying.”
In 1999, Kim admitted to Deborah, 31, that her periods had stopped, and she urged her to get help. Kim went to an eating disorder specialist, who diagnosed anorexia and placed her on a high-calorie diet.
Within six months, Kim was back to a healthier weight of 9st 4lbs, but when her curves returned, she began making herself sick after meals. It wasn’t until a therapy session in 2003 that she realised the root cause of her unhappiness.
Ryan says: “I had to read out a list of about 200 words and I couldn’t say the word ‘lesbian.’ It was then I finally realised I was gay. Even though I’d had relationships with boys at college, I was still a virgin. “I’d had crushes on girls, but I’d always suppressed those feelings because I was scared of what people would say.”
In April 2004, Kim started dating domestic violence counsellor Michelle Smith, 26, after meeting her in a bar. But even after coming out, Kim still had a negative body image. Ryan says: “When things got sexual it was exciting, but it made me more aware of my body. When Michelle touched my breasts, I felt awkward.”
In December that year, Kim had a breakthrough. “I was reading a book on transgendered men and something clicked,” says Ryan. “I realised I could become a man.”
Five months later, Ryan had surgery costing £2,700 to remove his breasts. “Michelle wasn’t keen on me having surgery, but she was tired of hearing me complain,” says Ryan. “Finally, I could wear tight clothes without looking feminine.”
But while Ryan, who makes a living speaking to groups about eating disorders, was happy, his family were confused by his bid to become a man. He says: “Dad stopped talking to me, while Mum kept saying it was a phase. That hurt because I wanted them to be happy for me.”
Weeks after the operation, Kim started having male hormone injections to acquire facial and body hair, and a deeper voice. “Each day I’d check to see what new hair had sprouted,” says Ryan. “It was so exciting hearing my voice change and I started to feel proud of my body for the first time.”
In August 2006, Kim had a hysterectomy, the only one of the operations she didn’t have to pay for, as insurance covered it. “That was the best day of my life,” says Ryan. “I was fine about never having children, as childbirth was never something I saw myself doing.”
Despite being a lesbian, Michelle has stuck by Ryan. “She loved me when I was a woman, and she loves me now,” says Ryan, who now has a manly 12st frame. “It’s hard for her because she’s not physically attracted to men, but I’m still the same person.”
Michelle was at Ryan’s side six weeks ago when he completed his sex change with a final £5,400 operation to transform his vagina into a penis. “I’ll always have a small penis, but it works,” says Ryan. “I can pee standing up and I get erections. Penetrative sex is out of the question – it’s just not big enough – but at last I’m all man.”
And Ryan feels he’s finally beaten his anorexia. He says: “I’ve embraced who I really am and don’t need to diet any more. “Now I eat when I’m hungry and stop when I’m full – I finally feel complete.”
By Victoria Raymond