By Joe Roberts @jrobertsjourno

TRANS bodybuilder Cody Harman was once a bride, but has now achieved one of his biggest surgery goals by undergoing a full phalloplasty procedure

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Videographer / director: Adam Gray
Producer: Joe Roberts, Ruby Coote
Editor: Sonia Estal

Cody, who was born female, gained attention last year for his dramatic transformation from a petite military wife to muscle-bound hunk, and has now spoken about his female-to-male transition in detail.

His remarkable journey has seen him get married in 2008, before divorcing his husband and beginning gender hormone therapy to become a man in 2014.

The 31-year-old told Barcroft TV: “I think most people don’t truly understand what it’s like to be transgender and look in the mirror and not align with who you see in the mirror for so many years.

“And they don’t understand that you would do anything to truly see yourself. It’s like walking through this life being invisible and all anyone wants in life is be seen and heard and acknowledged and loved.”

The fitness trainer, from Auburn, California, has already undergone a mastectomy and hysterectomy, and has now completed a milestone surgery by having a phalloplasty procedure.

Using skin, nerves, and arteries from Cody’s forearm, doctors performed an eight-hour surgery to create a phallus and give Cody the life he’s always felt he should be living.

He said: “Phalloplasty was important to me because I felt It was the last piece of the puzzle to really complete or really align myself, just to feel comfortable in my own self and my relationships.

“Surgery recovery has been longer than what I expected. Complications are pretty high for the surgery. I had a second surgery due to a urethral stricture but that was repaired and I am good now.”

Cody has has been documenting his transition on his YouTube channel ‘Cody_Talks’, where he details the various stages of the journey in order to help others and raise awareness.

It’s all part of his new-found philosophy to “not let fear run your life” – a belief which has lead Cody to completely transform his life after previously following a path where he says he felt he was simply doing what he was “supposed to do.”

He explained: “As a child I definitely always felt like a boy. I grew up with boys. You really don’t think about gender a lot until puberty hits or they start separating you.

“Puberty was definitely the darkest time for me because you feel out of control. I didn’t really know what was going on. I felt very ashamed of the thing that was going on with my body. I just I knew that something was off.”

Cody’s parents Cindy and Paul Harman recall their son being a ‘tomboy’ growing up, and are now fully supportive of Cody’s decision to transition into the person he has always wanted to be.

Paul said: “Unlike the some parents that you see around the world we just decided we’re gonna love him and accept it and support him and give him as much support as we possibly could.

“He looks like a guy, acts like a guy, and I think most people that have met him really accept him. One of my neighbours saw him running by and she said ‘dang, Cody looks good, he’s a handsome kid’.”

And while Cody is finally living the life he always wanted, it took him some years to shake off the fear of religion and conforming to what he felt was expected.

A pre-transition Cody would eventually marry a man he met in 2007 just a year later, before moving to Germany to live with his then-husband on a military base.

Speaking about his marriage, he said: “My wedding day was the day that I completely lost myself. I had given up like my truth in order to please other people. I was afraid of what people would think of me.

“That whole day was just going through the motions, and that’s what I did for the next three years.”

After becoming lonely and feeling unfulfilled on the military base, Cody eventually decided to turn his life around and pursue his love for cooking at culinary school back in the states.

He eventually got divorced and came out as gay to his parents, before ultimately coming out as trans to his brother via email, and his mother in a therapy session.

Since then, the young chef and fitness trainer hasn’t looked back, beginning his surgery journey and spending hours in the gym honing his physique.

His dedication to bodybuilding paid off when, in October 2016, he came second in his first-ever transgender bodybuilding competition.

He said: “It’s important for me to become a bodybuilder because it’s a way to take control of your body. The competition I was in was one of the biggest challenges I’ve ever done and it was also exhilarating.”

‘Coach Cody’, as he is now known, has now started his own personal fitness business, and was able to quit his job as a chef to devote his time to helping others reach their fitness goals.

The coach’s friend Dezirae Hartwell has been helping Cody through his surgery journey since 2012, and says her friend has never been more happy and content.

She said: “When I first met Cody, he was very shy, very quiet, little lesbian. And today he is a really hilarious, fit, awesome guy that really enjoys his life immensely.”

Dezirae has helped Cody through the often gruelling phalloplasty process, supporting her friend through the setbacks, such as the urethral stricture he experienced post-op.

Despite these issues, Cody has managed to make it through the first stage of the phalloplasty process, and is now setting his sights on stage two phalloplasty, which involves inserting an implant into the new phallus.

Meanwhile, he has continued to date as a trans man, and says little has changed since his days of dating as a female, and as a lesbian.

He said: “I think that people generally think that [trans people] are never going to find love in life – we are just so hopeless and no one is ever going to love us.

“I have dated a bit and it hasn’t been a problem thus far, so I’m sure there’s going be people that aren’t going be with me because I am trans, but that’s not really on me.

“if they don’t like me for being trans than I don’t want to be with them anyway, so whatever.”

Parents Cindy and Paul say they want to see Cody in a relationship, but that they are generally happy to support Cody in whatever way they can.

Cindy said: “I missed having a daughter when it first happened, and then from every little point of transition I’d go through a state of mourning all over again, and then I get past that and now it’s just seeing him happy, as he is, I get over it.

“Now I think Cody is very happy, he has done very well in his transition. He is a lot more confident, because he used to be real shy, which he still can be, but he’s coming out of that really well.”

It’s this kind of support that has helped Cody transform his life and overcome his fears of not being accepted and doing what’s expected.

He explained: “If I had one message I was trying to spread, it would just be ‘don’t let fear run your life’. I did that for way too many years and if I regret anything it would be putting my life on hold for just because I was afraid of what people would think of me and that people wouldn’t accept me.

“Self-acceptance is way more important, and your happiness is way more important, and people are going to see your truth. They are gonna see your happiness and that’s the most important thing in life – everything else should follow.”