Your gender affirming surgery is scheduled. Now what?
By Andrew Adams
Welcome to part 5 of my phalloplasty adventure! The first parts of this series cover everything up until just after the surgery itself is scheduled. That includes selecting what procedures you want, researching and selecting a surgeon, having a consultation with the surgeon, and acquiring surgical support letters. Now, the surgery is scheduled, and it’s over six months away. What do we do now?
Preparing for surgery depends a lot on the type of surgery you’re getting. For phalloplasty, my preparations include permanent hair removal on my donor arm, working out to strengthen the muscles of my donor arm, saving up 2–3 months of money for bills while I’m out of work, setting up time off with my job, making preparations to travel for the surgery, preparing my partner to take care of me, and talking to my therapist about the surgery and potential outcomes. Because I need to prepare quite a bit for this surgery, I scheduled it several months out. The waiting can also be a topic of discussion for therapy, as it can be hard to deal with at times.
Some preparations should start sooner than others. Hair removal, for example, can often take several months, so starting laser or electrolysis (whichever your surgeon requires) sooner rather than later is a must. I’ve had several sessions of laser over several months and my donor arm is looking as smooth as a dolphin, still with plenty of time to spare. Some insurances won’t cover hair removal, and it can be quite expensive, but the sessions are spaced out quite a bit, which can help with affording them. In addition to hair removal, I’m also trying to improve my outcome by improving my arm overall. Since I’m getting radial forearm phalloplasty, I want both my arm and my hand to be in the best condition they can be in before surgery. For this reason, I’ve been trying to do more exercises to build both strength and dexterity in my arm and hand.
In therapy, I set a few goals for ‘before we get to surgery’ for her and I to discuss before the time comes. This includes the possibility of something going wrong, how I’m going to be dependent on people for several weeks or longer, how my expectations will be different from reality, how I may lose some function in my hand, and how I may look or feel different. I also want to talk about dysphoria and how this might not completely rid me of it like I hope it will. I have the time, so I want to use it to prepare.
Additionally, learning more about other people’s recoveries and surgery experiences can be a good way to still feel like you’re making progress when you have to wait. Checking in with the Facebook groups dedicated to transgender bottom surgery, or whatever surgery you’re waiting for, can be really helpful. Similarly, signing up for your surgeon’s news letters or following them on social media is a good way to get any major updates.
Things like travel plans, preparing my partner to take care of me, and buying supplies that I’ll need for recovery can be taken care of closer to the surgery itself.
About the Author
Andrew (he/him) is a transgender student at the University of Central Florida where he is studying psychology in the hopes of becoming a therapist. He is a peer mentor for at risk teenagers at Aspire Health Partners, and he enjoys gardening, taking care of several pet reptiles, playing the piano, and replaying Skyrim on X-Box. While he has focused on his own growth and wellbeing recently, he has previously worked or volunteered with The Trevor Project, Point of Pride, GLSEN, March For Our Lives, and for local political campaigns as an advocate for LGBTQ rights. Specifically, he also is the plaintiff in an ongoing legal battle against his high school who barred him from using the men’s bathroom due to him being transgender, and that legal battle is still ongoing (See Adams v. St John’s County School Board). Additionally, as an Autistic ADHDer with a connective tissue disorder, Andrew is an advocate for both neurodiversity and disability rig.