Right around the first time I almost transitioned in 1999, I knew most of my major and minor surgeries and surgeons inside out.
There was SRS/GCS (sexual reassignment surgery/gender confirmation surgery), FFS (facial feminization surgery) including rhinoplasty and brow bossing/supraorbial rim adjustment, orchiectomy (removal of the testes), tracheal shave, laryngoplasty (voice surgery), and breast implants.
Bangkok and Montreal looked like the best places to go for SRS/GCS from the dozen or so choices and FSS was Ousterhout, hands-down. Orchiectomy was if you decided you couldn’t afford or didn’t want SRS/GCS and was usually done by a local, sympathetic urologist. Voice surgery was a crapshoot and providers seemed to shift around depending on technique, cost, and results. Breast implants could be done just about anywhere if you had the money.
Back then, insurance didn’t pay for anything. It was all out-of-pocket. So it’d be no surprise that the vast majority of before and after photos and testimonials were from white women. Luckily things are changing on both accounts now.
At the time I desperately wanted all the surgeries. All of them. But I was self-employed and married to a woman who while tolerant, was only tentatively supportive. With only enough money saved up for one major procedure, I decided I wanted SRS/GCS.
But there was one tiny, little problem. I hadn’t transitioned. And I certainly hadn’t transitioned and had my year of RLT (real-life test of living in the target gender; it feels icky even to write that down nowadays, like my life is some sort of test.) FFS seemed like a good backup option, but again, having not transitioned it would have been difficult to have that done and not transition.
Fear of losing my business and my marriage kept me from transitioning and by 2001 I was divorced, underemployed, living off my savings, and working very hard to pretend I wasn’t trans. By 2003 I was almost homeless and even the deeply closeted hopes and dreams around transition and surgeries evaporated.
In 2006 I landed a good job with great medical benefits that paid for my kids to be born and all the other maladies that happen in life, and they covered trans-related medical care, including surgery. Oh!
But again, I was scared. I didn’t want to end my marriage and maybe lose my kids over transition. And well, you can read my blog from the beginning if you want to know my story about all that to today.
Recently I’ve been asking myself what happened to that girl who wanted it all done?
Mostly, she’s older and hopefully a bit wiser. Getting all those nips and tucks doesn’t feel as urgent with almost three years of feminizing HRT (hormone replacement therapy) and nine months of living as myself, post-transition.
Some of my reticence comes from watching dozens of other women blast through transition and surgeries as fast as possible and seeing more than I would have expected crash and burn emotionally afterwards. For them, it was too much too fast to process. Being a very slow emotional processor, I wanted to avoid that.
Then there’s the fact that I’m lucky. HRT has done much for me and while my voice is still sometimes problematic, it seems like I pass fairly well. FFS feels less like something I really, really have to have in order to pass and more like something that will enhance what I already have.
Fears of complications have also haunted me. I stopped reading about complication outcomes years ago. They were scary and depressing and everything new I read is even scarier edge cases. Finding time for recovery is also somewhat problematic being a part-time parent and single.
The wheel keeps on turning and I’m back to being unemployed with limited health insurance, but I have promised myself I’ll get something done in 2017. It’s time. I’m ready. It’s a relief to be at a spot where it’s coming from a spot of deliberative choice instead of compulsion. Onward!