Preparing for Gender Affirmation Surgery: Ask the Experts
Preparing for your gender affirmation surgery can be daunting. To help provide some guidance for those considering gender affirmation procedures, our team from the Johns Hopkins Center for Transgender Health (JHCTH) answered some questions about what to expect before and after your surgery.
What kind of care should I expect as a transgender individual?
What kind of care should I expect as a transgender individual? Before beginning the process, we recommend reading the World Professional Association for Transgender Health Standards Of Care (SOC). The standards were created by international agreement among health care clinicians and in collaboration with the transgender community. These SOC integrate the latest scientific research on transgender health, as well as the lived experience of the transgender community members. This collaboration is crucial so that doctors can best meet the unique health care needs of transgender and gender-diverse people. It is usually a favorable sign if the hospital you choose for your gender affirmation surgery follows or references these standards in their transgender care practices.
Can I still have children after gender affirmation surgery?
Many transgender individuals choose to undergo fertility preservation before their gender affirmation surgery if having biological children is part of their long-term goals. Discuss all your options, such as sperm banking and egg freezing, with your doctor so that you can create the best plan for future family building. JHCTH has Dr. Mindy Christenson, a reproductive endocrinologist, on staff to meet with you and develop a plan that meets your goals.
Are there other ways I need to prepare?
It is very important to prepare mentally for your surgery. If you haven’t already done so, talk to people who have undergone gender affirmation surgeries or read first-hand accounts. These conversations and articles may be helpful; however, keep in mind that not everything you read will apply to your situation. If you have questions about whether something applies to your individual care, it is always best to talk to your doctor.
You will also want to think about your recovery plan post-surgery. Do you have friends or family who can help care for you in the days after your surgery? Having a support system is vital to your continued health both right after surgery and long term. Most centers have specific discharge instructions that you will receive after surgery. Ask if you can receive a copy of these instructions in advance so you can familiarize yourself with the information.
An initial intake interview via phone with a clinical specialist.
This is your first point of contact with the clinical team, where you will review your medical history, discuss which procedures you’d like to learn more about, clarify what is required by your insurance company for surgery, and develop a plan for next steps. It will make your phone call more productive if you have these documents ready to discuss with the clinician:
- Medications. Information about which prescriptions and over-the-counter medications you are currently taking.
- Insurance. Call your insurance company and find out if your surgery is a “covered benefit" and what their requirements are for you to have surgery.
- Medical Documents. Have at hand the name, address, and contact information for any clinician you see on a regular basis. This includes your primary care clinician, therapists or psychiatrists, and other health specialist you interact with such as a cardiologist or neurologist.
After the intake interview you will need to submit the following documents:
- Pharmacy records and medical records documenting your hormone therapy, if applicable
- Medical records from your primary physician.
- Surgical readiness referral letters from mental health providers documenting their assessment and evaluation
An appointment with your surgeon.
After your intake, and once you have all of your required documentation submitted you will be scheduled for a surgical consultation. These are in-person visits where you will get to meet the surgeon. typically include: The specialty nurse and social worker will meet with you first to conduct an assessment of your medical health status and readiness for major surgical procedures. Discussion of your long-term gender affirmation goals and assessment of which procedures may be most appropriate to help you in your journey. Specific details about the procedures you and your surgeon identify, including the risks, benefits and what to expect after surgery.
A preoperative anesthesia and medical evaluation.
Two to four weeks before your surgery, you may be asked to complete these evaluations at the hospital, which ensure that you are healthy enough for surgery.
What can I expect after gender affirming surgery?
When you’ve finished the surgical aspects of your gender affirmation, we encourage you to follow up with your primary care physician to make sure that they have the latest information about your health. Your doctor can create a custom plan for long-term care that best fits your needs. Depending on your specific surgery and which organs you continue to have, you may need to follow up with a urologist or gynecologist for routine cancer screening. JHCTH has primary care clinicians as well as an OB/GYN and urologists on staff.
Among other changes, you may consider updating your name and identification. This list of resources for transgender and gender-nonconforming individuals can help you in this process.
The Center for Transgender Health Team at Johns Hopkins
Embracing diversity and inclusion, the Center for Transgender Health provides affirming, objective, person-centered care to improve health and enhance wellness; educates interdisciplinary health care professionals to provide culturally competent, evidence-based care; informs the public on transgender health issues; and advances medical knowledge by conducting biomedical research.