When Dr. Marci Bowers became an OB-GYN more than 20 years ago, she had found more than her professional path. Assigned male at birth, Bowers had spent years living in denial about her true gender identity, and she had hoped her chosen medical career would allow her to put those feelings aside and simply be a part of women's lives. However, the effect was quite different for the married father of three.
"The more I felt a part of their lives, the more I felt that, actually, this should be my life," Bowers told Oprah on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" in 2007.
Twenty-two years into her marriage, Bowers underwent gender reassignment surgery. Today, she is one of the world's leading gender reassignment surgeons herself, having helped more than 1,500 patients transition since she began practicing.
"Oprah: Where Are They Now?" recently caught up with the renowned doctor, who opened up about the dramatic changes she has seen take place in not just her own practice, but in the transgender movement as a whole.
"We have seen almost an explosion of interest in people coming out as trans," Bowers says. "They're coming out at earlier and earlier ages. There's less resistance to it, I guess I would say, by parents [and] loved ones."
As Bowers knows firsthand, this was not the case a generation ago.
"A generation ago, if you came out to your parents and you said, 'Mommy, I'm a girl,' or, 'Daddy, I'm a boy,' they would slap your hand or punish you in some way that you never brought those feelings up again," she says. "Now, we're seeing parents seeking answers."
For the patients themselves, getting answers is a big part of the transformation process when they first set foot in Bowers' offices.
"Probably the biggest fear that they have after a surgery like this is, 'Will I be able to orgasm? Will I be able to be a responsive lover? I know what I had before; what am I going to have afterwards?'" she says.
The way Bowers likes to describe this change to her patients is by using a musical metaphor. "When you have new anatomy, it's like changing instruments in the orchestra. So, you're giving up the trombone, and you're picking up the violin," she explains.
Of course, this transformation extends far beyond the physical.
"What patients really experience in terms of their emotion after surgery is a sense of relief more than anything," Bowers says. "They feel like they're one with their soul, finally."
As a surgeon, Bowers also shares this sense of emotion following the procedures.
"I think the most rewarding part about surgery is when you can say to someone, 'Now you are a complete man,' or, 'You're a complete woman,'" she says. "Wow. That's very powerful."
Seeing positive shifts taking place in our society, Bowers is in awe of the cultural progress and looks forward to a future of total acceptance and equality.
"The transgender movement has progressed in ways even I didn't really think was possible," Bowers says. "Gender and the exploration of gender is really, if you think about it, the last wave of the human rights movement... We're going through, still, racial rights and women's rights and sexual rights. Now, this latest and, hopefully, final wave is the right to express your gender identity in the way you feel it to be. It's actually very exciting."
Related: Catch up with the 11-year-old "Oprah Show" guest who wanted a sex change.
"Oprah: Where Are They Now?" airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on OWN.