Gender Reassignment Surgery, Explained - Crozer-Keystone Health System - PA

Published on December 14, 2015

Gender Reassignment Surgery, Explained

Crozer-Keystone Health SystemMedia Contact:
Mary Wascavage
(610) 284-8619
Mary.Wascavage@crozer.org

Kathy Rumer, D.O.

Kathy Rumer, D.O., a board-certified plastic
and reconstructive surgeon, is an experienced
and nationally recognized transgender
surgical specialist.

Transgender and gender reassignment surgeries are not new, but both have been prominent in headlines lately, especially following Caitlyn Jenner’s very public reveal of her transition.

When someone comes out and makes the decision that they want to transition genders, it’s not as simple as going to a doctor who performs gender reassignment surgery and scheduling the procedure.

“It’s different than the well-known cosmetic surgeries most people are familiar with. It’s a process. The beginning steps are seeking therapy,” said Kathy Rumer, D.O., a board-certified plastic and reconstructive surgeon who is also a highly experienced and nationally recognized transgender surgical specialist.

“Sometimes people are confused about what’s going on with their mind and body. A therapist can help diagnose them with gender dysphoria,” she said. Gender dysphoria is the condition of feeling one's emotional and psychological identity as male or female is the opposite of one's biological sex.

Being diagnosed with this condition is the first step toward gender reassignment. A person desiring to transition often must live their life as their desired gender for at least a year before gender reassignment surgery. During this year, the person takes hormones – a male transitioning to a female will take estrogen and a female transitioning to a male will take testosterone.

Hormone therapy, Dr. Rumer said, helps bring on some of the characteristics of the gender the person is transitioning to. For a male transitioning to female, taking estrogen will change their skin, musculature and fat distribution, making them appear more feminine. For a female transitioning to male, taking testosterone will help them develop male characteristics such as facial and body hair as well as a deepened voice.

“We want them on hormones for a year and living full time in their preferred gender in order for them to be considered to be good surgical candidates,” Dr. Rumer said.

There isn’t just one surgery for people transitioning. There are male-to-female and female-to-male gender reassignment surgeries, but there are also surgeries that help people appear more like their desired gender.

“The whole goal is to get the mind and the body to reconcile,” she said. “Everybody is different. Some people want all of the surgeries, some people don’t want or need all of them.”

For a female transitioning to a male, taking testosterone as hormone therapy may be enough to get their appearance closer to their desired gender.

“For some of the male-to-female cases, depending on when they transition, sometimes it’s hard for them to transition,” Dr. Rumer said. “They may have a strong jaw, strong forehead, a stronger nose.”

In those cases, they may opt for surgeries to make their facial features more feminine.

Each surgery related to transitioning carries a different recovery period.

A patient receiving a male-to-female vaginoplasty must be in the hospital on bed rest for three days to heal.

“In cases of people transitioning from female-to-male, they’ll have chest masculination, body contouring for a more masculine trunk and hair restoration for facial hair,” Dr. Rumer said.

There’s no set order of surgeries people in transition should have and some people may opt out of full-blown gender reassignment surgery, opting for just the surgeries to appear more feminine or masculine.

“Their needs are different and their transition is different. It depends on their lives and what they can and cannot do,” Dr. Rumer said.

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