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Choosing My Surgeon/Clinic

It’s about a week out from my trip to Canada.  Now that things seem to be settling down a bit for me at work, I’m trying to take some time to explore what I’m feeling.

As I’ve connecting with folks about my nerves and excitement about surgery, one really basic question keeps coming up: What made me choose to go to Mclean Clinic for top surgery?

Many of my friends have gone to Chicago, Cleveland, Florida, or San Francisco…the most well-known clinics/surgeons in my friend circles.  While I’ve heard mostly positive feedback about these places/surgeons and the results folks have gotten, I had a ton of anxiety about a few common elements with these clinics (and many in the US).

So here are the main criteria I used to pick my surgeon:

Cost

First off, top surgery is expensive.  While some folks might have more access to $6,000+ or might be able to secure loans, this is a huge stress factor/barrier for a ton of folks.  In addition to the surgery, there’s also the transportation cost, the cost of finding a place to stay, and food/medicine for the time you’re away.  Also,there’s the issue of potentially losing income or your job if you need to take time off.  I’m lucky enough to work for an organization where this won’t jeopardize my job or my income while I’m in recovery.

Some folks have also asked about medical coverage for top surgery.  I can’t give a comprehensive answer to this, but from my research…this isn’t something that’s often available with many insurance providers in the US.  Some providers do cover top surgery expenses, I’m told…but would require other medical/pathologized prerequisites to go this route (re: gender identity disorder “diagnosis” and a letter from a psychiatrist), which brings me to my next criteria…

Informed Consent V. Gender Identity Disorder

On a trip to Montreal to visit close friends this fall, I asked about anyone they could recommend in Canada who didn’t follow the same restrictive “gender identity disorder” (GID) requirements.  I was wicked excited to hear that Dr. Mclean used “informed consent” rather than the GID model.  This allowed me to engage directly with the surgeon and his staff without making me fit into the rigid binary of gender boxes or feel anxious about lying to get a letter stating I had a disorder*.  I’ll speak more directly to this in upcoming posts.

*While some folks find that this model and way of thinking about gender works for them, it feels incredibly alienating and restricting to me.  I don’t want to be pathologized for falling outside of gender norms that I believe are socially constructed and forced onto me.

Care

In addition to this, there’s also the issue of finding a caretaker for the super important after-care duty.  I’m so lucky to have my parents supporting me (in general, they’re super supportive!) and with this particular part of my gender journey.  I wanted to find a place that wouldn’t be too far from WI (they live in Milwaukee) and from Boston.  So with this in mind, Toronto, Chicago, and Cleveland were on the top of my list.

Quality and Procedure

I was also really invested in finding an experienced surgeon.  This is an unfortunate reality of balancing emotional/physical well-being while also thinking of class/monetary privilege.  If I had chosen a surgeon who was covered by insurance or someone in my area, things would definitely be less expensive.  However, I hadn’t heard much about surgeons in the greater Boston area, so I was really reluctant to trust a surgeon with a super invasive (physically and emotionally) surgery.  I didn’t want to have to worry about infections or follow-up revisions to this process. While I understand that no surgery will be perfect, I wanted to feel comfortable that I was trusting someone with experience.

Also, in the process of learning more about Mclean, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that his procedure didn’t involve the use of drains.  I won’t go into detail with this, but from stories I’ve heard…drains are annoying to deal with post-surgery.  In addition to this, I liked the idea of knowing that I’d be all sewn up after the 2 hour surgery…without having additional medical equipment and open wounds for a period of time after surgery.

**

In addition to all this, I want to put out that I am in a privileged position to be able to leave the US for this procedure.  I have a passport, and my gender (related to my gender marker) has not served as a significant barrier to my ability to cross into Canada.  Because I can pass freely without giving too much thought to the matter, I felt like it was a feasible (and my best) option to go to Toronto to have surgery at Mclean’s clinic.

Thus far, I’ve been really happy with the interactions I’ve had with the surgeon and the clinic.  I’ll make sure to update on this more, but it’s been an easy process and the staff/surgeon have been really open to talking with me about the procedure and any questions I’ve had (including whether or not I’d be able to play video games while in recovery). 🙂

Okay, that’s it for now.

Peace, Asher

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About Queerly Asher

I'm a genderqueer, trans-masculine Jew. I grew up/went to school in the Midwest (UW-Madison) and recently re-located to Boston (Jamaica Plain, MA) to work as a Community Organizer with a LGBT & Queer Jewish organization. I started this wordpress to document my experiences and journey of my own psychological, emotional, and physical form of transition. We'll see where it goes!

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