updated in 1997
Post Op Living
G E N D E R A R T I C L E S This regularly posted Internet column
provides educational information regarding transgender living.
column has been written to inspire contemplation and dialogue.
Authored by Gianna E. Israel, columns may be reprinted in any medium
insofar as each article, its introduction and the author's contact
information remains unaltered.
"POST-OP LIVING" #05 / August '96
This article addresses some of the questions and issues presented
to me by individuals who have had genital reassignment six, twelve,
and even twenty years ago. The material addressed may also be of
interest to persons who are considering permanently living "in
role" as a member of the opposite gender, or who are considering
undergoing genital reassignment. The decisions to live in role
permanently and undergo genital reassignment are serious ones having
Wish I Had Waited..."
Surprisingly, for all the clamor I have heard over the years from
pre-operative transsexuals who feel waiting one year while living in
role is too long, the preceding is one of the most frequent comments I
hear in the privacy of counseling from persons who underwent genital
reassignment. After feelings of permanency and newness wear off, many
new women find that little else has changed in their day-to-day lives.
This is particularly true for those who placed more importance on
obtaining surgery than on refining their overall appearance and
For example, women who did not finish their electrolysis still get
5 o'clock shadows, and those who gave up on needed speech practice
still sound like men. Occasionally, I hear very masculine appearing
women state that they wished they had spent their money on facial
reconstruction, rather than spending it all on hidden body parts.
There are many reasons a person may wish they had waited before
undergoing genital reassignment, however, once the surgery is done
life does not stop.
After surgery, having special transgender needs does not cease, and
persons with unfinished business are advised to move forward
completing unfinished business as time and finances allow. If an
individual is having difficulty putting together a good presentation,
such as for a job interview, then seeking wardrobe and cosmetic
consultation would be beneficial. If a person finds him or herself
dealing with confrontation or transphobia, then he or she should seek
assertiveness training and learn how to deal with harassment.
I've Gone Stealth and Might Be Found Out!..."
This is a very, very common concern. Many transgender persons who
are in the process of coming out or who have lived in role for only a
short time look forward with anticipation to the day they can
"pass" all the time. Others, who during transition had great
difficulties, find themselves working as hard as possible to bury
their former identity. However, no matter how presentable you are or
how many surgeries you have, this does not stop you from having a
transgender identity. For numerous transgender men and women, passing
becomes easier the longer they live in role. However, passing can
present problems of its own. After surgery, some persons disconnect
entirely from the transgender community. They may move to areas where
few transgender resources exist, or accept an employment situation
where nobody questions their gender identity. Sometimes these persons
have difficulty explaining their situation to a new physician,
particularly after disclosure skills become rusty from disuse.
The art to living in stealth takes skill. A person must decide when
disclosure is appropriate, and when people do not need to know.
Generally speaking, a person's regular physician need know, while a
temporary care provider need not know if this will not affect medical
care. An employer need not know, however discreetly letting an
employer know can prevent co-worker difficulties if someone finds out.
A one-night-stand need not know about your transgender identity if
you are post-operative; however, if you are dating or seeking a
relationship it is generally a good idea to disclose early on so as to
Generally, disclosing your transgender status is best done when you
are sharing personal information about yourself and gauging how that
person responds to new information. Doing so "matter of factly"
before actually engaging in sexual intercourse works well for many.
Sometimes telling about your transgender status isn't easy. I have
frequently received calls from people stating that they are involved
in a relationship which is becoming serious, and that they feel afraid
to disclose because they may get rejected. If a person is going to
rejected, it is best to get it done and over with. However, in most
circumstances transgender men and women aren't rejected. Disclosing
under these circumstances is not that much different from when a
person is just in the coming out process. Set an appointment to talk,
validate the relationship, disclose, offer an opportunity for
question-asking, and reiterate your love. Finally, if you must respond
as to why you did not disclose earlier, simply state you did not know
how to do so. Be honest!
Now Had Surgery, So I Can't Get AIDS..."
WRONG! Having genital reassignment does not make a person immune to
HIV or any other sexually transmitted disease. I have heard this
misconception too many times, sometimes too late. If you have sex
where body fluids are exchanged, use condom protection or abstain.
Also, taking "birth control" does not protect against
sexually transmitted disease, only pregnancy.
Can I Get Gender-Sensitive Medical Care?..."
If you are located in a major city, contact a gender specializing
counselor or therapist and ask for a referral. The next step is to
check with gay and lesbian resources. Both post-operative males and
females frequently require follow-up work, sometimes years after
surgery. Stenosis or hardening of tissue may set in, or the person may
have difficulty with urination. Transgender women who failed to dilate
may need surgical intervention. They should contact a local
gynecologist, urologist, or sex reassignment surgeon and ask for a
Tax Statement Showed Up With My Old Name..."
Oh, that paper tiger rears its ugly head again! Lots of people
think being transgender is all about hormones and surgery. Wrong. It's
really about the creation of lots of unnecessary paperwork and
aggravation. If the tax collector says you owe money, pay it and then
ask a supervisor to follow through with correcting your name. If you
have problems with bureaucracies, continue climbing the
supervisor/manager ladder until you find someone who will help you. If
that doesn't work, try visiting a different office. Surprisingly, I
have heard from clients having serious difficulties getting passports
changed at one location who later had no problem whatsoever at another
location. Finally, if you receive an inheritance or trust fund check
payable to your old name, on the reverse, sign it the old way, then
the new way and deposit it. This is standard banking practice.
Afterward, write out a donation to your local transgender support
****G I A N N A E. I S R A E L provides nationwide telephone
consultation, individual & relationship counseling, evaluations
and referrals. She is
principal author of The Recommended Guidelines for Transgender
Transgender Tapestry's "Ask Gianna" column; is an AEGIS
board member and
HBIGDA member. She can be contacted at (415) 558-8058, at P.O. Box
San Francisco, CA 94142, or via e-mail at Gianna@wco.com.