What Is Gender Reassignment Surgery?
Sex reassignment surgery (SRS) is known by a variety of names, including gender reassignment surgery (GRS), sex change surgery, sex affirmation procedures, and genital reconstruction surgery. These procedures, which are known clinically as genitoplasty procedures, are done to surgically change the genitalia from one gender to another.
For most patients undergoing SRS, the surgery is performed in order to match their physical gender with what they feel emotionally and intuitively is their true gender. This condition, known as gender dysphoria or gender identity disorder, is rare but becoming more widely diagnosed. You may also hear these people being referred to as "transgender."
Male To Female Transition
The procedures that change male genitalia to female genitalia include a penectomy (removal of penis) and orchiectomy (removal of the testes), which are typically followed by a vaginoplasty (creation of the vagina) or a feminizing genitoplasty (creation of female genitalia).
For those born male and transitioning to female, there may also be procedures that include breast implants, a procedure to minimize the appearance of the Adam's apple, and possibly, feminizing hormones. Facial feminization surgery (FFS) is often done to soften the more masculine lines of the face. Each patient is unique and the procedures that are done are based on the individual need and budget, but facial feminization often includes softening the brow line, rhinoplasty (nose job), smoothing the jaw and forehead, and altering the cheek bones. For some, a chondrolaryngoplasty, commonly known as a "tracheal shave," can help reduce the prominence of the Adam's apple.
Female to Male Transition
The procedure that changes female genitalia to male genitalia is a masculinizing genitoplasty (creation of male genitalia). This procedure uses the tissue of the labia to create a penis.
The procedures that change the genitalia are rarely performed without other procedures, which may be extensive. For those born female, the change to a masculine appearance may also include hormone therapy with testosterone, a mastectomy, a hysterectomy procedure, and perhaps additional cosmetic procedures intended to masculinize the appearance.
Paying For Sex Reassignment Surgery
While some health insurance providers in the United States are now covering the portion of sex reassignment surgery that alters the genitals, those companies remain in the minority. For most transgendered individuals, the burden of financing the procedure(s) is the main difficultly in obtaining treatment. The cost of transitioning can often exceed $100,000 in the United States, depending upon the procedures needed. A typical genitoplasty alone averages about $18,000. Rhinoplasty, or a nose job, averaged $4,314 in 2010.
Traveling Abroad For Sex Reassignment Surgery
Some patients seek sex reassignment surgery overseas as the procedures are often far less expensive in other countries. It is important to remember that traveling to a foreign country for surgery, also known as surgery tourism, can be very risky.
Regardless of where the surgery will be performed, it is essential to utilize a surgeon who is skilled in the procedure being performed and that surgery will be performed in a reputable facility that offers high-quality care.
Choosing a Surgeon
When choosing a surgeon, it is important to do your research, whether the surgery is performed in the Unites States or elsewhere. Talk to people who have already had the procedure and ask about their experience and their surgeon. Before and after photos don't tell the whole story, and can easily be altered, so consider asking for a patient reference with whom you can speak.
It is important to remember that surgeons have specialties and to stick with your surgeon's specialty. For example, you may choose to have one surgeon perform a genitoplasty, but another to perform facial surgeries. This may result in more expense, but the right surgeon performing the right procedure typically results in a better outcome.
Rights Group: More U.S. Companies Covering Cost of Gender Reassignment Surgery. CNS News. Accessed April, 2012. http://cnsnews.com/news/article/rights-group-more-us-companies-covering-cost-gender-reassignment-surgery
The Sex Change Capital of the US. CBS News. Accessed April, 2012. http://www.cbsnews.com/2100-3445_162-4423154.html