Sex Reassignment Surgery
Also known as Sex Change or Gender Reassignment Surgery, Sex Reassignment Surgery is a procedure that changes genital organs from one gender to another.
Description of Sex Reassignment Surgery
Converting male to female anatomy requires removal of the penis, reshaping genital tissue to appear more female, and constructing a vagina. A vagina can be successfully formed from a skin graft or an isolated loop of intestine. Following the surgery, female hormones (estrogen) will reshape the body's contours and stimulate the growth of satisfactory breasts.
Female to male surgery has achieved lesser success due to the difficulty of creating a functioning penis from the much smaller clitoral tissue available in the female genitals. Penis construction is not attempted less than a year after the preliminary surgery to remove the female organs. One study in Singapore found that a third of the persons would not undergo the surgery again. Nevertheless, they were all pleased with the change of sex. Besides the genital organs, the breasts need to be surgically altered for a more male appearance. This can be successfully accomplished.
The capacity to experience an orgasm, or at least "a reasonable degree of erogenous sensitivity," can be expected by almost all persons after gender reassignment surgery.
Reasons for Sex Reassignment Surgery
There are two main reasons to alter the genital organs from one sex to another.
First, newborns with intersex deformities must early on be assigned to one sex or the other. These deformities represent intermediate stages between the primordial female genitals and the change into male genitals caused by male hormone stimulation.
Second, both men and women occasionally believe they are physically a different sex than they are mentally and emotionally. This dissonance is so profound that they are willing to be surgically altered.
In both cases, technical considerations favor successful conversion to a female rather than a male. Newborns with ambiguous organs will almost always be assigned to the female gender unless the penis is at least an inch long. Whatever their chromosomes, they are much more likely to be socially well adjusted as females, even if they cannot have children.
Reliable statistics are extremely difficult to obtain. Many sexual reassignment procedures are conducted in private facilities that are not subject to reporting requirements. Sex Reassignment Surgery is often conducted outside of the United States. The number of gender reassignment procedures conducted in the United States each year is estimated at between 100 and 500. The number worldwide is estimated to be two to five times larger. Thailand has become the most famous and well known country in the world for Sex Reassignment Surgery. In fact, it is believed that Thailand has the largest number of Male-to-female transsexuals per capita in the world. Gender Reassignment is regarded as a common procedure in Thailand. There are over 170 active surgeons.
Diagnosis and Preparation
Gender identity is an extremely important characteristic for human beings. Assigning it must take place immediately after birth, for the mental health of both children and their parents. Changing sexual identity is among the most significant changes that a human can experience. It should therefore be undertaken with extreme care and caution. By the time most adults come to surgery, they have lived for many years with a dissonant identity. The average in one study was 29 years. Nevertheless, even then they may not be fully aware of the implications of becoming a member of the opposite gender. In-depth psychological counseling should precede and follow any gender reassignment surgical procedure.
Social support, particularly from one's family, is important for readjustment as a member of the opposite gender. If surgical candidates are socially or emotionally unstable before the operation, over the age of 30, or have an unsuitable body build for the new gender, they tend not to fare well after Sex Reassignment Surgery. However, in no case studied did the gender reassignment procedure diminish their ability to work.
Risks of Sex Reassignment Surgery
All surgery carries the risks of infection, bleeding, and a need to return for repairs. Sex Reassignment Surgery is irreversible, so a candidate must have no doubts about accepting the results and outcome.
Plastic surgery involves many choices. The first and most important is selecting a physician or surgeon you can trust. When choosing a physician or surgeon for Sex Reassignment Surgery, you should find one that:
- Has completed at least five years of cosmetic surgical training with a minimum of two years in plastic surgery.
- Is trained and experienced in all plastic surgery procedures, including breast, body, face, and reconstruction.
- Operates only in accredited medical facilities.
- Adheres to a strict code of ethics.
- Fulfills continuing medical education requirements, including standards and innovations in patient safety.
- Is Board Certified.
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