I had what was then called a sex-change operation decades ago. I know it’s called Gender-Affirming Surgery now. The language changes a lot. I was born male, but I always intuited that I was female. I played with my sister. I assumed that we were the same. At some point, I saw a book that described where babies came from, and all of a sudden, I understood the difference between us. Growing up in the 1970s, I played with Barbies. Coming of age in the 1980’s I watched the David Suskind Show, where I saw a trans woman and she was glamorous.
These were the little landmarks in my journey towards arriving at what was possible. Being female was the only “choice" for me as a way to occupy my body. I was coming to understand my identity. In high school, I struggled and experienced feelings of isolation and confusion.
For the families and friends offering support to someone who is in the process of Gender-Affirming Surgery, begin by listening. Just start there. Consider the humanity of the person.
If you transition everyone else around you transitions too. Those you love and want to keep close should be provided a way to ask questions. It is important to resist the impulse to correct those who slip up in language. Patience can and should run both ways. If there is really no way to ask questions and have discussions, you are stopping helpful conversations before they can begin.
There is a good amount of pain involved in recovery. There are lots of skin grafts and other procedures that require ongoing medical intervention to promote healthy successful healing in genital areas and complete healing. If a friend offers to help, do put them to work. Offer to shop, care for pets, run errands. Create a Give InKind Calendar.
The hormone treatments were rough. While I understand that they may have improved somewhat, they cause moodiness and can make you hot. (You’ll need a fan everywhere.)
There are a whole bunch of necessary over the counter medical supplies that add up. Depending upon how close you are to the person, you can describe the items you need. Being open about gender reassignment is not shameful. Some will want to scaffold your privacy or may themselves be uncomfortable. They may prefer to offer a pharmacy card or a Postmates card.
I think that self-awareness and self-honesty are difficult and remains a moving target for a long time. The road towards gender reassignment is a long and difficult one. I am happy that I did it. I am happy when I did it when I was young enough that some of the pressures about appearance that women face were less of an issue for me. My skin and body were able to heal in a way that enabled me to feel attractive as a woman. I do not regret my decision, although it was not always easy.
The process of transition is complicated. It is natural to have doubts. Once you start down the path, you will sometimes have doubts. This is why being able to have people to talk to is so important. I myself was very fortunate in that my family was very supportive. All relationships are built on trust and transparency and I strive to share it with those I love and trust.
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