At IM GENDER we make every effort to provide information and support to all those who seek replies to their queries about gender affirming surgery. Through this article, we provide you with a detailed explanation of this procedure, its implications and what you can expect when you undertake this type of operation.
What is gender affirming surgery?
Gender affirming surgery, also known as sex reassignment surgery, is a series of surgical procedures that are undertaken with the aim of aligning a person’s physical appearance with their gender identity. Gender surgery can be divided up into facial, corporal and genital surgery. Facial gender surgery includes in particular facial masculinisation or feminisation, while the main types of corporal surgery are breast augmentation and feminising or masculinising liposculpture. The main categories of genital reassignment surgery include vaginoplasty, phalloplasty, metoidioplasty and subcutaneous bilateral mastectomy. The aim of all these procedures is to improve the well-being of trans persons in relation to their gender identity.
The decision to undertake one of these operations is personal, and not all transgender persons request them or require them in order to feel that they identify with their bodies. It is important to have access to good medical counselling and strong emotional support in order to be able to take your decision in full confidence and with reasonable expectations.
Who is gender reassignment surgery intended for?
The various types of gender affirming surgery are intended for persons who feel that their biological gender is not aligned with their gender identity, and see surgery as a means of transition.
Not all transgender or non-binary persons opt for this type of surgery, and not all those who opt for gender surgery undertake the full range of available operations. This is a personal and individual decision, in keeping with the personal and individual nature of each person’s transition. Some trans or non-binary persons may feel that they do not need surgical changes to feel at ease with their gender identity, while others may have recourse to various medical procedures to achieve harmony between their body and their identity.
It is important to understand that the decision whether or not to undertake gender reassignment surgery is a personal one and that different persons will take different decisions. Furthermore, this type of operation is not exclusively intended for transgender persons, since they may also be an option for non-binary persons or persons of fluid gender who wish to make specific adjustments to their bodies in order to feel more at ease with themselves.
Differences between transgender and non-binary persons
Throughout history and in all societies there have always been persons who did not identify with their sex at birth or who did not fit in with the binary description that society has ascribed to the concept of gender. There have always been trans, trans-sexual, transgender or non-binary persons. However, it is only now that we can use these terms more freely, thanks to the greater level of inclusiveness and normalisation in our society. All these concepts are related to gender identity, albeit with different characteristics.
The term “transgender” refers to persons whose gender identity does not coincide with the gender that was assigned to them at birth. For example, persons who were assigned the male gender at birth but who identify themselves as a woman can describe themselves as transgender women. Transgender persons may decide to undertake a transition, whether it be at a social level, such as by changing their name or pronouns, or at a medical level, through hormonal treatment or surgery.
Non-binary gender is a concept used to describe a person whose gender identity is neither male nor female. In other words, non-binary persons may feel that their gender identity is outside the traditional categories of “masculine” or “feminine”, or that it may fluctuate between the two. At this point it is vital to understand the difference between gender identity, sex and sexual orientation.
Types of gender affirming surgery
As we have already mentioned above, despite the fact that we tend to associate gender affirming surgery with genital surgery, there is in fact a wide range of types of corporal and facial surgery that may help trans persons to undertake their transition. There are however also persons who prefer simply to undertake a change of social and/or legal identity, to restrict themselves to receiving hormone therapy and/or speech therapy treatment, or to have recourse to emotional support, without undertaking any form of surgery or medical treatment. How to undertake your transition is a personal decision that depends on the wishes and requirements of each individual.
The following are some of the most popular types of surgery:
Surgical operations on the breasts are in great demand, whether it be to remove breast tissue and leave a smooth thorax with a masculine appearance through subcutaneous mastectomy or by increasing their volume.
These operations consist of changing certain facial features to obtain an appearance that the trans person concerned may consider to be more masculine or feminine.
Genital affirmation surgery
Genital gender affirming surgery focuses on transforming the external genitalia so that they align with the gender identity of the person requesting surgery. Vaginoplasty is the type of surgery that creates a new vagina with the appropriate functionality, aesthetic appearance and erogenous sensitivity. On the other hand, phalloplasty is the surgical procedure that focuses on the creation of a functioning, sensitive phallus. This type of surgery is usually accompanied by penis and testicle prostheses. Metoidioplasty is the type of surgery that creates a micropenis out of the clitoris. Despite the fact that the new organ has a high level of erogenous sensitivity, it does not allow for sexual penetration and is only small in size. It is usually complemented by testicle prostheses.
Important things to bear in mind before the operation
Deciding whether or not to undertake gender reassignment should be a personal decision that must never be taken due to social pressures or because the persons around you think that it is the best solution for you.
In order to take this decision in the right way it is vital to find out about the pros and contras with a good team of helpers, so as to assess, on the basis of all the information available, whether or not it is the best option for you, taking into account objectively both the benefits and the possible complications.
At IM GENDER we have expert specialists who will be at your side from the initial consultation right through to the postoperative stage, to ensure your well-being and accompany you throughout the entire process. If you have any further questions or queries, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us.