Christine Jorgensen. The name may or may not ring bell for you, or maybe you have heard of George Jorgensen? Well, both are one and the same. Christine Jorgensen is the first woman who sought gender reassignment surgery in 1952. She was drafted to the US Army to fight WWII in 1945. Upon returning she travelled to Copenhagen to undergo a series of surgeries.
When she returned to the United States she instantaneously became a celebrity and used this attention to advocate for transgender awareness and rights. Although gender reassignment surgeries didn’t start in the United States until 1966, she ignited a movement, which would change countless lives in the years to come.
Each treatment is unique depending on the person, as there are a wide variety of invasive to non-invasive procedures. Transgendered women can opt for breast augmentation surgeries, as well as body sculpting and fat transfer procedures to achieve more feminine hips and waist. For transgendered men this can range from the removal of their mammary tissue, obtaining fillers, fat injections, and minor surgeries in the brow, jaw and nose areas to achieve facial masculinization. The most invasive surgeries for both transgendered women and men are the genital reassignment procedures.
No gender reassignment surgery is the same, as procedures vary for each individual depending on their own comfort level.
A vaginoplasty is the most invasive gender-affirming surgery for women. It consists of creating a functioning vagina using the skin and tissue from the existing phallus and scrotum and is usually performed all at once. The recovery period is lengthy as it can take up to 4 months for swelling and bruising to diminish. The patient can experience numbness for up to 18 months as the nerve endings heal.
The most common surgical procedure for transgendered men is a phalloplasty. It entails the construction of a phallus through surgical means. Skin and tissue grafts are taken from the arm, waist, or thigh area, and are use to form the phallus. Once constructed, an erectile prosthesis can be inserted, but some may opt to go without. The urethra can be elongated and re-routed through the phallus for urination, although this procedure on its own may lead to further complications, and many decide to not go through with this step. Many of these procedures are performed separately and can span a long period of time. The patient must give himself enough time to heal in between surgeries before moving on to the next step. Recovery time for a basic phalloplasty, without prosthesis and the elongation of the urethra, can take up to 4-6 weeks alone.
Unfortunately, not everyone is a candidate for gender reassignment surgery and must consult with many doctors before being given consent to undergo these treatments. Medical history or medication use may impact whether a patient will receive clearance to have these procedures. Many patients must also undergo mental health evaluations to certify that they are prepared for this transition.
These procedures can range anywhere from $5,000 to $30,000 depending on the type of surgery. For transgendered women, breast augmentations can range from $5,000 to $10,000, whereas genital reassignment surgeries can cost upwards of $50,000. For transgendered men, costs can range anywhere from $7,500 to an upwards of $100,000. As many gender reassignment procedures include multiple surgeries such as hysterectomies, mastectomies, and phalloplasties (for men), or orchiectomy and vaginoplasties (for women), the costs vary considerably.
The American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) released statistics from 2016, 3,250 individuals obtained gender reassignment procedures in the United States. More and more surgeons are seeking increased training and knowledge in gender confirmation surgeries, not only to be able to assist these men and women, but more importantly to ensure the safest and highest quality treatments.