Death shows danger of silicone injections
Case shines spotlight on practice
known as ‘pumping’
Todd Stone / AP
Nikkia Scott, shown here March 29 at her home in Albany, Ga., holds a newspaper article about her. Scott, identified as Freddie Clyde in court documents, was charged with conspiracy and practicing medicine without a license following the death of Andre Jeter, who died after being injected with industrial grade silicone.
updated 4:16 p.m. ET April 1, 2004
ALBANY, Ga. – Nikkia Scott and other drag queens have been getting illegal, back-room injections of industrial-grade silicone to give themselves some of the things nature denied them when they were born male — breasts, wider hips, more prominent cheekbones.
They know the risks are extreme, and still they do it.
“Anything you put in your body that don’t belong there will hurt you in the long run,” Scott said of her $6,000 worth of injections. “But believe me, it has been worth it. It has been worth it.”
The dangers were illustrated recently by the death of 23-year-old Andre D. Jeter, who authorities say suffered convulsions and fell unconscious Dec. 10 after receiving injections in her hips and buttocks during a “pumping party” in Albany. She died a month later.
Scott and three others were also arrested in the case and charged with conspiracy and practicing medicine without a license. They were accused, among other things, of helping Thomas by recruiting patients at drag-queen beauty pageants.
Spotlight on ‘pumping’
The death has thrown a spotlight on “pumping,” a thriving underground practice among men living as women, particularly those who compete in beauty pageants and perform in drag shows. Pumping parties are typically held in motel rooms or apartments.
The silicone is often mixed with paraffin, oil, even peanut butter, said Dallas Denny of the transgender support group Gender Education & Advocacy. In Jeter’s case, it was probably mixed with baby oil, based on how it smelled to others who received the injections, said James Paulk, an investigator for the district attorney.
‘Slew’ of injuries reported
The scope of the phenomenon is unclear. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration and transgender groups said they do not keep track of the problem. But Paulk said a “slew” of people have been injured, including three or four in Montgomery, Ala., six or seven in Columbus, Ga., and a few in Jacksonville, Fla.
“The transgender society is a very tight-knit society. They don’t like to give each other up because if you do, you get barred from the pageants,” Paulk said. “If they’re not hurting and they’re not experiencing medical problems, they aren’t calling me.”
A day after his arrest, a stubble-faced Scott, wearing large hoop earrings, was back to gluing weaves to heads at a beauty parlor in Albany, a town 150 miles south of Atlanta. His roommate Jazz, also arrested in the case, was at home, wearing pajamas and pink flowered flip-flops.
Severe side effects
Scott, identified as Freddie Clyde in court documents, said her silicone injections have not caused any serious health problems. But Jazz, whose legal name is Mark Edwards, said she has had three procedures — face, bust and lower body — that cost her about $3,300, and has suffered severe side effects.
Last year, she said, she started coughing heavily and discovered that the silicone had gotten into her lungs, giving her chemical pneumonia. She spent two months in the hospital and several more months on bed rest, and her weight dropped from 270 to 150.
As for Jeter, Jazz said, she had taken the injections too far. Jeter had complained that her head itched and that her hair had stopped growing, according to Jazz. “Jeter was making herself look like a monster,” Jazz said.
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