41 days until surgery!

I’m down to less than 6 weeks before gender confirmation surgery and I’m so nervous! I’m not anxious about the surgery itself other than a natural concern about the rare complications. I’m nervous that something will happen between now and then to prevent me from getting the surgery. Because the idea of delaying it sounds like torture. When I did my consult a year ago, I was ready. And now I am wishing I had started the process sooner.

I’ve done literally everything I can do. I’ve bought medical supplies, collected comfortable clothing for the recovery, changed our original flight plans to a roadtrip, booked an accessible AirBnb, and even scheduled my pre-op bloodwork. But my brain can’t stop focusing on all the things that could go wrong.

What if there’s a new wave of COVID-19 cases now that we are re-opening businesses prematurely? What if I get sick right before surgery? What if I get down there and find out that the hair removal wasn’t sufficient because I missed 2 months due to COVID shutdowns? What if the doctor says that my weight is too much of a problem since I’ve put on 20 pounds in the last year?

The last one is the one I hate the most. I’m a very fat positive person and generally I don’t care about my weight. But last year I had a bad experience with Dr. Satterwhite when I consulted with him and he was hyper-focused on my high BMI. He claimed that if I gained any more weight it would be “unsafe” to do the procedure. Thankfully Dr. Wittenberg, the surgeon I ended up choosing, told me that they are more like guidelines for optimal results which I absolutely agree with, but my brain is still anxious about it. Fatphobia is one of the few remaining socially acceptable forms of overt discrimination.

In the end, there’s not much I can do about it. I know all the data about how fad diets don’t work and can cause more medical issues than they solve. And luckily the nutritionist/therapist I’m working with agrees and is helping me balance my food in a way that feels appropriate to me. But the voice of that fatphobic doctor still haunts me. I also wonder how many fat trans people he’s turned away and made believe that they can’t get surgery.

On a more positive note though, my job is being super supportive. They have hired new permanent and temporary staff to take on my workload while I’m gone with enough time to train them before I go. So now I know I can leave even in the midst of a busy period of running COVID research studies and know my work is in good hands.

Currently I am hoping to be able to return to at least part-time work after 6 weeks which is the minimum time my surgeon recommends. Since we are completely online now it should be more accessible. But there is a potential that I may need the full 12 weeks before I’m lucid and off pain meds.

For housing I was lucky enough to find a basement apartment owned by a gay couple to rent that not only is ground floor but has a kitchen and even AC! It was very expensive at $3,400 but it’s centrally located in San Francisco so I can easily make it from the hospital and to my follow up appointments without sitting in traffic. I’ll be staying for a full month since I need to arrive 5 days prior to surgery for my pre-op and stay for 3 weeks after for post-op check ins before I’m cleared to travel. I’m really hoping that I can handle the 800 mile drive home without too much pain since I don’t feel very safe about airports right now.

I’m in the final countdown period and I am so excited! Thank you to all my friends who donated over $2,500 to make this happen. And I couldn’t do this without the support of my wonderful spouse who will be my caretaker after surgery. I guess you could say it takes a village to make a vagina.

Surgical Consults

I have a date for gender confirmation surgery! August 3rd, 2020.

I’ve decided to go with Dr. Heidi Wittenberg for my vaginoplasty. She is who I have been researching for the past year and my consultation with her last week confirmed that she is everything I had been hoping for. Her staff were all wonderful and friendly. And she was very approachable with a great bedside manner and excellent at explaining the process and answering questions. She seems very factual and will be straightforward with the risks and complications. She also has the training in alternate techniques such as peritoneal pull through that would allow her to perform a revision surgery with the latest technology if that was needed. More importantly, she feels like someone I can trust completely and it makes sense to me to have a woman with a background in gynecology and urology doing my care.

I did do a second consultation while I was in San Francisco with Dr. Thomas Satterwhite who trained with Dr. Wittenberg at Brownstein and Crane. He comes highly recommended from friends but I didn’t have the greatest experience with him. In both his intro video and in person he was very fixated on BMI (Body Mass Index) and treated it as medical fact, despite the vast body of evidence that it is wildly inaccurate, scientifically useless, and never intended by the creator to be used on an individual basis. He brought it up multiple times in my 20 minute consult to warn me that if I gained 10 lbs before next summer, I would be ineligible for the surgery. And yes, I have what many people would consider excess fat around my belly, but I am not objectively that fat of a person. I am tall and large and I am built that way naturally. In fact, I am pretty average in build for a white American.

If I, who have quite a bit of relative privilege, am receiving this much fat phobia from him, how much more pronounced would that be for the many trans people who are larger than me? And if he puts stock in pseudoscience like the BMI, what other areas does he make inaccurate conclusions in? To me, this is the kind of thing I would expect from a plastic surgeon that makes money off of fatphobia. And maybe that’s his background, but I’m not giving him money to support that. Even if he was the best surgeon around. Luckily, I have choices.

Now I’m not saying other people haven’t had wonderful experiences with Satterwhite, but I loved Wittenberg and I’m excited to be having her do my surgery. Next up, I am submitting documentation to get laser hair removal done on my genitals to prepare the area for surgery. Then I need to get 3 letters from my physician, therapist, and a PhD level psychiatrist because my insurance still goes by the outdated WPATH standards of medical gatekeeping.

In the meantime, I’m starting my countdown now for surgery. 377 days!

If you would like to contribute to my transition fund, you can donate at: https://www.gofundme.com/f/haven-gender-confirmation-treatments