Social and cultural Trans Surgeries

Mental health and gender affirmation surgery

Santé mentale trans

Symptoms of anxiety and depression often mark this difficult journey. This is commonly known as gender dysphoria.

At the beginning of the 20th century, psychoanalysis was recommended for patients suffering from gender dysphoria. It was believed that the mind must be changed to match the body. Today, we see things differently, mostly because of Dr. Harry Benjamin who made his career in the United States. He created the term Benjamin’s Syndrome to designate “transsexualism” which he is the first to define as “neither a perversion, nor a homosexuality” in 1949. He was one of the first to believe that the body must be altered to fit its perceived identity, and to recommend surgery or hormone therapy to his trans patients. Initially considered as an eccentric by the medical community, his views were eventually adopted.

The decision to begin a transition is usually made when an often complicated psychological journey is already well underway. Symptoms of anxiety and depression often mark this difficult journey. This is commonly known as gender dysphoria. Support from loved ones can be of major importance.

The often complicated socio-economic factors only make this suffering worse. For example, the number of homeless trans people is statistically higher than in the general population. Once on the streets, access to information about gender affirmative surgeries and related care that could alleviate their suffering becomes much more complicated. That is not even considering the additional barriers faced by trans people belonging to Aboriginal minorities or refugees, who are alone and do not yet have access to the public health system or speak official languages.

Because morals change slowly, the long journey of accepting oneself and others can be a source of pain that is equally worthy of recognition. However, a recent study from the Yale University School of Public Health in the United States showed that in the years following surgical procedures, transgender individuals are significantly less likely to require mental health follow-up for depression, anxiety or suicide attempts.

More recently, Dr. Pierre Brassard of the GrS Montréal clinic told a journalist from Le Devoir about his first patient: “I saw the extraordinary effect that surgery had on this person and the suffering that had beset her until then. Her reaction convinced me to continue doing this kind of surgery. There is no better patient than a trans patient.”

If a hundred years ago trans individuals were secretly operated on by courageous surgeons who defied the existing laws, today these surgeries are more and more accessible and recognized as therapeutic in the treatment of gender dysphoria. However, it is important to always remember that this choice is very personal and can contribute greatly to improving mental health.

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