Have you ever wondered what a sex reassignment surgery is? Apart from the self-evident name, there is a lot more about this seemingly strange but a necessary procedure for some. This article provides information regarding the same.
Transgender literally means ‘involving partial or complete reversal of gender’. The term can be applied to any individual or a group having tendencies that diverge from the normal gender role. These are people who are unable to identify with the sex that they have been born with. Some of these people suffer from gender identity disorder (GID), and hence, they undergo a sex change operation or, technically speaking, sex reassignment surgery.
What is Sex Reassignment Surgery?
The sex or gender of a person cannot be truly changed. That is the reason why this procedure is known as sex reassignment surgery (SRS), and not ‘sex change surgery’. The process involves changing the physical look of a person’s anatomy and making it similar to the anatomy of the opposite sex. The procedure also involves changing the existing sexual characteristics to that of the opposite sex. SRS is also known as gender affirmation surgery, gender reassignment surgery, sex reconstruction surgery, genital reconstruction surgery, and gender confirmation surgery. Besides these, the surgery has other scientific names too. People who undergo SRS are usually referred to as transsexuals.
SRS is generally performed between the ages of 18 to 21. This is because the earlier transsexuals undergo the surgery, the more time they have to recover and adjust themselves according to the new gender identity and sexual orientation.
There are two kinds of SRS:
- Male to female (transwomen) surgery: In this surgery, the genital reconstruction involves surgical construction of the vagina.
- Female to male (transmen) surgery: In this surgery, the genital reconstruction involves surgical construction of the penis.
SRS: Male to Female
The transwomen surgery involves operating and reconstructing the male genitals to a form that resembles as well as functions like the female genitalia. The vagina can be successfully constructed surgically from either a skin graft or an isolated loop of intestine. Prior to the surgery, transwomen undergo hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and facial hair removal to procure and enhance feminine characteristics. Post surgery, female hormones help stimulate the growth of breasts and reshape the body. For transwomen undergoing the SRS, facial feminization surgery and breast augmentation become a medical necessity.
SRS: Female to Male
The transmen surgery involves creating a functioning penis from the tissue available in the female genitals. Penis construction surgery isn’t attempted for up to a year after a preliminary surgery known as ‘hysterectomy’ in which the female genital organs are removed, is performed. Many transmen undergo bilateral mastectomy, the removal of breasts and shaping of masculine chest. Female to male surgery has achieved a lesser level of success due to the less amount of clitoral tissue available in the female genitals which is essential for the construction of a penis.
Drawbacks of SRS
One major drawback of this surgery is that male to female transsexuals cannot become pregnant. While research is still on, it will take time for scientists to come out with new techniques that would enable transwomen to become pregnant. Also, some transwomen are dissatisfied with this procedure as they retain some bodily features like large feet and hands, quality of voice, and prominence of the Adam’s apple. Also, existing health conditions such as obesity and diabetes can increase the anesthesia risk and post-surgery complications.
People suffering from HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C cannot easily find doctors who will willingly perform the surgery on them. This is due to the fact that post surgery, the doctors are forced to dispose the surgical equipment used in the surgical procedure in order to curb the AIDS and hepatitis viruses from spreading. As the cost of surgery is also high, transgender patients from advanced countries like Germany, France, and US opt for SRS in Thailand, where the cost of this surgery is comparatively lower.
While complications do exist, research and the progress in the field of medicine will help scientists come out with a way to solve all the problems that still hinder the success of sex reassignment surgery. However, making transwomen conceive children will be the most demanding and challenging task for scientists and doctors to overcome.
Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.