BRA Day is an initiative designed to promote education, awareness and access for women who may wish to consider post-mastectomy breast reconstruction.
Plastic surgeons provide gender-affirming surgeries for the treatment of gender dysphoria with the aim of helping a person physically actualize their internal sense of self. The goals of these procedures are therefore patient specific and can vary beyond the gender binary.
Gender-affirming surgeries can be grouped into four main domains: facial, chest, body and genital procedures. Talking to your plastic surgeon about your individual transition will help direct which surgery options are best for you. Below are some commonly performed procedures, however, all patients should discuss both variations and the spectrum of options with their surgeon individually to make sure their chosen procedures match their individual needs and goals.
Please click here (https://www.wpath.org/publications/soc) for information from the World Professional Association of Transgender Health (WPATH) on information on preparing for Gender-affirming surgery.
Facial Gender-Affirming Surgery
Facial procedures can either masculinize or feminize the appearance of the face.
To enhance a feminine appearance, both bony anatomy and soft tissue augmentation can be done. Hairline lowering, forehead shortening and forehead contouring are typically done in a combination to achieve an overall feminine appearance of the upper face. Alterations to the middle face include rhinoplasty and upper lip lifts. Fat grafting can also be used to create fuller and softer cheeks. For the lower face, the jawline can be softened and reduced with mandible contouring. Finally, the thyroid cartilage can be reduced to feminize the appearance of the “Adam’s apple” and voice procedures can be used to increased vocal pitch.
Due to the effects of gender-affirming hormones therapy (testosterone) on the skin and facial hair growth, facial masculinization surgery is much less common. Some examples of surgical procedures include facial implants for augmentation of the jawline or chin.
Gender-Affirming Chest Surgery
Gender-affirming mastectomy is the most commonly performed gender-affirming surgical procedure, often referred to as “top surgery”. The most frequently performed technique is the “double incision with free nipple graft” where the breast tissue and excess skin is removed in addition to removing, re-sizing, re-shaping and replacing the nipples as free grafts. Some patients choose not to keep their nipples. Alternative techniques exist when minimal skin removal is needed. Additionally, chest reduction surgery is an option for patients who wish to keep some of their breast tissue.
Breast augmentation is available for patients who aim to increase their breast size. A minimum of 12 months of gender-affirming hormone therapy with estrogen should take place prior to considering or evaluating an individual for breast augmentation. Usually, silicone implants are used. Your surgeon will discuss variation in scar placement techniques.
Genital Gender-Affirming Surgery
For individuals assigned male at birth, options for orchiectomy (testicle removal) in isolation or in combination with vulvar procedures can be done for gender affirmation. Vulvar procedures include either a vulvoplasty or a vaginoplasty. Vulvoplasty refers to creation of an external vulva without a vaginal canal while vaginoplasty similarly creates the external genitalia in addition to a vaginal canal capable of receptive penetrative intercourse. The preoperative preparation for these surgeries varies and may influence your choice of treatment. Vaginoplasty typically requires extensive pre-operative hair removal and a post-operative dilation regimen.
Genital gender-affirming surgery for individual’s with assigned female at birth anatomy falls into two main categories: metoidioplasty and phalloplasty. In both categories the main differentiating factor between the various surgical options is the desire to stand to urinate. While metoidioplasty is done using only pre-existing genital tissue, phalloplasty requires tissue to be transferred from somewhere else on the body to construct the penis. Phalloplasty surgery is often done over multiple stages meaning more than one surgery is required to obtain a functioning phallus capable of standing urination. Many variations of phalloplasty exist. The traditional phalloplasty includes urethral lengthening with the goal of standing urination. Other variations of phalloplasty, referred to as “shaft-only” phalloplasty are increasingly performed. Shaft-only phalloplasty refers to the creation of a phallus without lengthening the uretha. Options in addition to a shaft only phalloplasty include vaginectomy, perineal urostomy, clitoral burial and scrotoplasty, depending on patient goals and individual preference.
Gender-Affirming Body Contouring
Gender-affirming body contouring includes liposuction or fat grating to change the distribution of adipose tissue in the body. Liposuction is done to help narrow the hips and alter the shape of the body. Conversely fat grafting can help augment the buttock and hips to accentuate curves.