In forty-three days, I will have sex reassignment surgery (SRS).
Last Friday, I met with my SRS surgeon, Dr. Sidhbh (rhymes with “five”) Gallagher, hoping to determine that I am ready for surgery. Four days before that, last Monday, I met with a doctor to determine whether I am a candidate for surgery on my vocal cords, to raise the pitch of my voice.
When we moved to Indianapolis, and if I were to make the decision to transition, I never dreamed that I would be able to do everything right here. After Julie got her job and I knew what insurance would cover, I was positive that I would have to go to Ann Arbor, to the University of Michigan hospital, for SRS, the closest in our insurance network. A year after we moved to Indy, to my wonderful surprise IU Health announced that they were bringing on a surgeon for SRS. Dr. Gallagher began working over a year ago.
And when I learned that vocal cord surgery is now a viable option for raising the pitch of the voice, I thought the odds of finding a surgeon in town were slimmer than our getting an SRS surgeon. Well, shut my mouth, but The Voice Clinic of Indiana, on Indy’s north side, in Carmel, has a surgeon experienced in this procedure.
Assuming I get insurance approval on everything I desire—I am awaiting word for my facial surgery—I will not have to leave Indy to transition. Color me dazzlingly delighted!
Sex reassignment surgery
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This section contains sensitive information. If you don’t want details about SRS, please skip to the next section where I talk about the vocal cord surgery.
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Julie and I had my initial consultation with Dr. Gallagher last March. Dr. G thoroughly went over the surgery. Since my penis and scrotum will be used to construct the female genitals, my “homework” was to get the hair removed from my genitals, as that skin will go from being on the outside to the inside.
My weekly visits to Barb the Impaler now ignored working on removing my facial hair, to focusing on my genitals. Since last spring, she has worked 27 pain-inducing hours in the area. Dr. G had given me a diagram, showing what to remove and, by mid-November, Barb felt she had accomplished that, so I went to my appointment on Friday hoping for good news from the doctor.
I was prepared for the worst, which would have been, “You’re making progress, but this area and right here need more work,” but almost immediately into the exam Dr. G said, “You’re looking really good, Gina.” That prompted me to ask, “Good enough?” When she replied in the affirmative, I asked about hairs that might still grow; indeed, some have popped up in the three weeks since I last had Barb work down there.
Dr. G said she scrapes whatever remaining follicles she finds and, with that, answered a big question Barb and I had. (Another question was whether the live follicles are easy to spot from the back of the skin. Dr. G said they are, and that the ones that have been removed leave no mark—no hole or scarring—and that only smooth skin appears underneath, just as on the outside. Oh, the things I am learning!)
Barb had told me that a client of hers said that Dr. G scrapes the back of the skin, to remove hair, the impression being that a person need not have any at all cleared before surgery. Of course, in my consultation last March, Dr. G had told me exactly the opposite. So, I had been very curious to find out the truth.
Dr. G’s answer was that, no, she will not accept a person’s not having had the majority of the hair removed, as it is way too much work for her to remove that many follicles. The opposite would be if she did no scraping at all—which was my concern—meaning that a person had to be sure all of the hairs have been completely removed or risk having post-surgical ingrown hairs. I was so hoping her answer would be exactly as it was that I exclaimed, “I wish I would have bet a large sum of money on this!”
With that, my next question was natural: “May we set a surgery date?” “Yeah. Sure,” she almost-too-casually replied, in that lovely, Irish accent of hers.
Her earliest available date was January 24. I snatched it up. I am now counting down the days.
Vocal cord surgery
At the voice clinic, Julie and I met with Dr. Noah Parker. After a bit of getting-to-know-you, in which we immediately found Dr. Parker to have a good bedside manner, he did some tests. First up, placing a stethoscope-type thing on my neck he measured my pitch.
My voice vibrated 115 times per second, which is right on the average for males. Since Julie was in attendance, the doctor checked hers. She clocked in at 246, near the top of the typical 200-250 for females. Neither pitch was a surprise.
Next came a scope down my throat, to look at my vocal cords. He numbed my throat with a spray, then proceeded to run a laryngoscope down my throat. He hit the top of my throat, causing me to gag, and removed the scope. Two more tries, and each time hitting the top of my throat I gagged. He said this was not uncommon, so he ditched that method and went for the nose scope.
Now, there’s a unique/creepy sensation that I’d never before experienced, feeling that scope go through my nose and into my throat. (A year ago, when a laser was used to repair my torn retina, I experience another weird feeling, one of intense pressure on the eye, which I had to strain to keep open during the procedure.) Thankfully, the scope went down and back up pretty quickly. Even more thankfully, when he showed us my vocal cords, he pronounced them perfectly healthy.
I am a candidate for surgery.
Dr. Parker makes no guarantees how high my pitch will be after surgery. I spoke for him in the higher-pitched voice I can do on my own (but have not been able to do it for long, so I gave up trying). He measured my pitch. 180. He said that if surgery can get me to 180–200, and with some voice therapy, I should have a voice which fits my presentation as a female. I am very eager and excited at the prospect.
A question I will not presume to answer now, but know it will arise, is whether I will have a really hard time in the days leading up to each surgery, as I did before getting my name changed. While I am very pleased to have my new legal name and female sex marker, as I have been thankful for each accomplishment I have had over the course of transitioning, no big change has come without deep introspection and prayer, and great emotional suffering.
Just because transitioning is working for me does not mean that it doesn’t come without a cost. The costs have been many and varied and steep. I can still say that my preference would be to remain male, to be Greg, to end all of this. If I had a reasonable expectation of being able to do that, I would cease my transition.
Since I have no reasonable hope of living as a male without the extreme suffering I had, which only worsened each time I stopped transitioning and resumed trying to be a male, I move forward. And, forward it is. I feel good about myself. Healed. Whole.
Healing and wholeness allow me to be happy, and while happiness is neither my ultimate goal nor promised to anyone, I’ll take it, and I’ll be thankful for it, and I will continue to live in a manner which benefits my family and community, and glorifies my Lord Jesus Christ.