Not all transgender people decide to go through with Gender Confirming Surgery (GCS) as part of their transition. Many transgender folks are quite content to express their gender without taking the surgical route. Whether a trans person has surgery or not does not diminish their gender in the least. However, for those who do opt for surgery, it can be a very liberating experience and a bit of a game changer. There is a lot of maintenance that comes after your surgery and we will definitely get into that in a future installment of The Road to GCS. For part 1, we are going to look at the things you need to be doing before GCS to make your overall experience better for the long term.
One of the key focuses in preparation for your surgery is getting your body ready for the trauma it will endure on the operating table. It is not a simple procedure and preparing properly for it can help you recover faster and also reduce the chances of something going wrong. General health and nutrition is a huge factor when it comes to how your body will cope. Ideally, you should be making positive nutrition and exercise changes in your life at least a year before you have your surgery. Eating a nutritious diet in combination with exercise will prepare your body for a quicker recovery. If you have extra pounds, you definitely want to look at losing some of your weight before surgery. Just a 10 pound loss can positively impact your blood pressure and take a lot of stress off of your heart. Exercise will surely help with the weight loss though it will also make your body more limber and increase its ability to bounce back. Stretching cannot be overemphasized as to how important it is to a successful and less painful recovery.
Nutrition and exercise are a very good start. However, the whole health package also includes quitting smoking if you are a smoker. Ideally, if you are on hormones, especially estrogen, you should not be smoking because it greatly increases your chances for a blood clot. During surgery, blood clots are even more of a risk which is why your doctor will ask you to stop your hormones roughly 2 weeks before surgery. It is really important that you follow these instructions as they can save you from a very serious clotting complication. I realize that it is hard to quit smoking but it is worth it and considering how much you want to get your surgery, you have yourself a pretty huge motivator.
For M2F transgender women, some doctors will want you to have the hair permanently removed from your genitals before surgery. There are also doctors who do not want you to have the hair removed because they will burn it during the procedure which will kill most of it. Keep in mind that any hair that is not in an active growing phase will likely survive. If you are not that hairy to begin with you are probably fine. Definitely check with your surgeon and follow whichever route they want you to take.
Finances are another area you need to have in order before surgery. You are simply not coming straight home from surgery and heading back to work. You need to plan to be off work for a minimum of 2 to 3 months thus you need to be sure you have saved enough money to pay bills, rent, buy food, etc. In most cases, it is best if you stockpile the food before surgery so you don’t have to go shopping anytime soon in your recovery. It is also a good idea to have someone to help you out as you may not want to do a lot for yourself initially. You can never under estimate the value of a good friend.
There is a lot to do before surgery in terms of getting your body in a good place to maximize your recovery and it may be a lot of hard work depending on your starting point. The big thing is to just take it day by day and do your best to eat right, exercise, stop smoking, stretch, and put some money away for the aftercare. The time will pass quick enough and once you are on the other side, you will be so thankful that you took the time and effort to prepare on the road to GCS.