Written by DiveThru Team
6 Self-Care Tips to Practice After a Gender-Affirming Surgery
Published Aug 16th, 2022 & updated on Aug 16th, 2022
Gender-affirming surgery can be such an amazing tool for people to feel right in their bodies. It has a HUGE satisfaction rate post-op, with over 94% of people happy that they underwent the procedure! Trans people deserve to feel secure in their bodies, and surgery is one way to achieve that!
But just like any surgery, you’ll need to focus on self-care afterwards. Post-op self-care for trans folks will be different from the normal physical routine! For this list, we’ll break down some self-care tips for people who’ve undergone gender affirmation surgery.
1. Lean On Your Support System
Surgery is a big deal, so you’ll probably need some help right now. Your support system is gonna be huge in making this process as painless as possible!
Whoever you include in your support system is up to you. Friends, coworkers, family, Mr. Rogers-esque neighbours, and anyone else who has showered you with unconditional love after coming out can count here! If you’re looking for a little extra mental health support, talking to your therapist can deeefinitely help.
If you’re too sore to go get groceries, need reminders to take your pain meds, or are feeling so many emotions about the procedure, let your support system know that you need your people around you. You would do the same for them, so relying on them right now will make both of you feel good!
2. Prioritize Physical Recovery
You should obviously take care of your mental health right now, but your physical health is your top priority. Make sure that you follow directions from your doctor regarding the aftercare of whichever procedure you got done.
When it comes to physical recovery, some trans people that have undergone surgery are critical of the lack of warning from therapists pre-op. Lily Carollo, a trans woman, said this about the vaginoplasty recovery process:
“… my pre-op therapy didn’t help me realize how extraordinarily hard it would be to recover from the surgery I had: the stress from being unable to eat solid food for a week and a half, and the feeling of helplessness from being so bedridden and unable to walk normally for weeks, to name only two difficulties.”
The recovery process will be challenging, and the way you physically feel can affect your mental health. So make sure you’re ready to take on these challenges before you undergo surgery. Definitely look up personal experiences from trans people and find out the reality of gender affirmation surgery. There’s also post-surgery physiotherapy for trans folks that can help with recovery after and preparation for top, bottom, or any other kind of cosmetic surgery.
3. Prepare Your Expectations
Carollo points out another important factor to consider after undergoing gender-affirming surgery: it’s not a cure-all for the struggles that trans people face.
The message isn’t exactly upbeat, but it’s an important thing to remember. While gender-affirming surgery does have a huge satisfaction rate, it won’t get rid of gender dysphoria. There’s also societal issues, like discrimination, misgendering, and increased rates of violence against trans people.
We’re just adding this as a primer for the procedure. If you’re struggling with gender dysphoria, anxiety, depression, or other mental health issues, make sure you’re taking all the steps needed to take care of your mental health before AND after the surgery. It can act as a mental health boost to help with gender dysphoria, but there might be more work to do!
4. Find Your Community
Undergoing a procedure like gender-affirming surgery is a big deal that not a lot of people are going to understand. Your inner circle will empathize, sympathize, and accept you during your social transition, but gender-affirming surgery is not an experience that many people go through. That’s why it’ll be hugely helpful to find a community that has had gender affirmation surgery.
You can look for local 2SLGBTQ+ organizations in your city to find people who are experiencing the same thing as you. You can also turn to the internet for support! Organizations like Trans Lifeline can help out, with trans people on phone lines ready to talk through any concerns, and microgrants for things like legal name changes, gender identification changes, as well as trans healthcare. You can also check out The Tribe for 2SLGBTQ+ peer-to-peer support.
Finding your people can be tough sometimes, but that’s the beauty of the internet! Get connected with other trans folks who know what you’re going through.
5. Journal It Out
Journaling can be a super helpful tool to figure out your own thoughts. You’re probably going through a lot post-op: physical pain, stress, and a whole bunch of other emotions surrounding your surgery. So how do you really feel about it?
Think about prompts like these:
- How do I feel about my gender identity now that I’m post-op?
- What are some ways that gender affirmation surgery has affected the way I view my body?
- How am I feeling about my gender dysmorphia? Would a check-in with my therapist help me manage these feelings?
- What are five kind things I could say about my body right now?
Journaling is a great (low impact) activity to work through whatever you’re going through at the moment. It’s for your eyes only, so don’t be afraid to let it all out! And the DiveThru app has plenty more prompts to choose from.
6. Practice Self-Love
Your post-op sensations are gonna be overwhelming. You’re sore, tired, but most likely happy with your choices. So show yourself some love!
It can be difficult to show self-love when your body doesn’t feel right. So now’s a time to show gratitude for yourself! Grab your favourite snack, wear your comfiest pair of sweats, and watch your most loved nostalgic movie. Self-love is a great way to boost your happiness and really act on your own feelings to show appreciation for yourself.
And if you want to find out all the wonderful ways you can build gratitude in your life, check out the course Practicing Gratitude in the DiveThru app. Therapist Simone Saunders will cover the incredible ways that gratitude can make a positive change in your life – without that toxic positivity nonsense.
Gender affirmation surgery is no small decision, but you committed to it. Whatever makes you feel at home in your body is worth it! So take all the time you need to recover, heal, and become emotionally well. From the DriveThru team to you, you have our full support!!