Body modification can be traced to many ancient cultures and today exists as a wide range of elective changes that can be made to the body’s anatomy or physical appearance, including something as minor as an ear piercing, or as extreme as dermal implants and ear removal. Eva Tiamat Baphhomet Medusa, known by some as “the Dragon Lady,” falls into the extreme category.
Tiamat, who was born in 1961 as Richard Hernandez, is transsexual and has spent the last 20 years undergoing extensive modification to appear more like a dragon. Tiamat, who prefers the pronoun “it,” said its transformation, which has cost an estimated $60,000 so far, is paying tribute to the reptilians it considered its parents after its human parents abandoned it as a child.
“I was born to my human mother in the Phoenix area, but I was born to my reptilian parents when my mother and stepfather abandoned me to the woods,” Tiamat, now located in Texas, told Fox 10. “My whole transformation today is basically an honor to my reptilian parents, which are the rattlesnakes— the Western Diamondback in particular.”
Achieving the appearance of a rattlesnake has included subdermal implants, which were made to appear as horns; removal of ears; reshaping and removal of nose cartilage and septum; dying the whites of the eyes; full body tattoos; and dome implants along the eyebrows. On Facebook, Tiamat credits most of the work to Emilio Gonzalez, a body modification artist who has been associated with various tattoo studios and modification procedures.
Herein lies the trouble for Dr. Matthew Schulman, a Manhattan-based, board-certified plastic surgeon who has not treated Tiamat, and has not performed any of these procedures on his patients.
“In general, these can be dangerous procedures,” Schulman told FoxNews.com. “We’re modifying important structures of the body— the external ears serve a purpose to channel sound waves so hearing can be more efficient.”
In an email to FoxNews.com, Tiamat said it has not had any adverse effects from any modifications.
"I can see, perfectly, except for I need reading classes from pushing sixty, I have had no hearing loss, and my sense of hearing has been heightened, I can breathe easily and I have had no complications from any of my MODs," Tiamat said.
In Facebook posting, Tiamat has mentioned dealing with pain from the horn-like implants. Schulman surmised that if the implants occurred in tattoo parlors, or some other non-medical facility, the artist likely did not have certification or licensing to obtain or prescribe any anesthetics or painkillers.
“Body parts are removed because of trauma and cancer, and there’s a whole field of reconstructive plastic surgery to rebuild these structures and restore normal function— the removal idea is something that no plastic surgeon is going to do,” Schulman said. “The danger with that is people are going to do what they want to do, and it forces them to go down a different route such as having these [procedures] done by non-medical professionals in settings that may not be appropriate.”
Properly sterilized equipment as well as antibiotics to fight off any infections can be a concern, said Schulman, who added that if any are available, it is likely to have been obtained through improper channels. It’s also important to note that many of these procedures are irreversible. For example, Tiamat had its nostrils and septum completely removed along with any cartilage, and it chose to have the skin of the nose pulled down and reattached to the upper lip. It also had its tongue split to appear more reptilian.
“In terms of the ears and the tongue and the nose, those require major reconstructive surgery in order to recreate the structure. And even if we’re able to do that, a lot of times it’s more of a cosmetic repair— it’s much more difficult to recreate or restore the function of the structure,” Schulman said, later adding that splitting the tongue could cause complications with speech, chewing food and swallowing.
Tiamat countered that double-standards make it difficult for society to accept its body modifications the same way it does tummy tucks and facelifts.
"If someone can get a stomach band to help them lose weight, which I believe can be a dangerous procedure as well as heart transplants, which can be a dangerous procedure, etc., etc., etc., then why is it so bad for me to have had my ears removed if I am not having any problems?" Tiamat said.
Part of Tiamat’s finishing touches were to dye the whites of its eyes green. While it did not elaborate on what exactly the procedure entailed, Schulmann said it involves more than simply dripping dye into the eye.
“It’s done with eye dye injected just under the outer layer of the eyeball, so that it actually will stain and color the surface of the eye, but you have to get through the outer coating,” he said. “Any time you inject a sharp object into the eyeball there’s chance of infection, corneal infections or tears, or a global rupture— which is a rupture of the actual eyeball.”
In addition to personal satisfaction, Tiamat told Fox 10 there are more people who react positively to its appearance than negatively. It also wants to use the platform its gained from the fame to raise awareness for HIV, which it has. It plans to undergo more modifications in the future.
“I’m very happy,” Tiamat said. “I’m happy for my life for the first time ever.”