While having surgery is not a requirement of being transgender and not everyone medically transitions (perhaps out of choice, due to financial situations, or other reasons), undergoing surgical procedures can be a big step in some trans folks’ transitions.
After surgery comes a healing process, and not just the physical kind, as trans people start a new chapter in their lives with new mental and emotional challenges. However, for some, accepting their scars from surgery is a major aspect of accepting who they are as a person.
Let’s meet three trans people who found power in learning to love their scars.
Lara realized she did not identify as masculine when she was a toddler, however, they were forced by family members and religious pressures to hide their identity until they turned 30.
While coming out is still an ongoing process for Lara with other relatives and friends, she decided to have bottom surgery to affirm her feminine identity.
“I refused to get any surgeries until I came to terms with who I am and the body I was born with. I didn’t want to undergo surgery than still have the same issues with myself on the inside as before, since surgery only solves some of the challenges of being trans. The real challenge is loving and accepting who you are on the inside,” they say.
Lara shares that the biggest benefit from her surgery is that she can’t produce testosterone anymore.
“I had to come to terms with the fact that I would depend on injecting hormones for the rest of my life rather than feel the way I did with the wrong, naturally occurring, chemicals in my body. I had to accept that there was nothing wrong with me. There was something wrong with the way my body produced chemicals.”
Following on from their surgery, Lara says their scars have healed largely, but she can still feel them.
She says they are a constant reminder that she was able to become their whole, true self.
“The decision to have surgery changed my entire life. I’m reminded of that decision every time I trace my fingers over my scars, and it makes me feel validated. It allows me to move through my days with more clarity and purpose.”
When asked their advice for other trans folk learning to accept their bodies post-surgery, Lara wants everyone to know that self-love is the key.
“Scars from gender-affirming surgeries are a mark of self love. Let your scars be a permanent reminder to love yourself and your identity.”
Faye also had an emotional experience when she saw her scars for the first time after surgery.
“The first time I looked down and saw my scars after surgery, I thought they were so beautiful that I cried. I felt proud and sexy because they symbolized the fact that I took charge of a bad situation and did everything I could to ensure that I would live a long, healthy life. They prove I’m a warrior.”
She feels like she saved her own life by choosing to transition and live as her authentic self, and Faye wants the world to accept trans scars and how they mark a chapter in someone’s life.
“We need to show our real skin so others can see what that looks like. We need to show our scars because they are simply part of being human, and mine just add to the tapestry of my life,” Faye says.
She continues to assure others that, while others may see your scars and judge you, how you feel inside is what matters most.
“Only you know what you’ve been through and how much stronger you’re becoming because of it. If you want to talk about your scars and your journey, that’s fine. You are allowed to show them off.”
However, Faye also highlights how surgery isn’t just one thing, since representations of trans people in the media tend to focus on the surgical aspects of transitioning, especially bottom surgery.
“Surgery can be incredibly affirming for people like me who wish to have it. But, it’s important to remember that hormonal transitions are also valid medical options and can produce results that alleviate dysphoria.
“But, ultimately, having or not having surgery doesn’t make anyone’s experience more or less valid. Surgery simply changes the body in which you experience your gender, not your gender itself. So, to any other trans people, I remind you that your gender is valid, regardless of whether you want to have surgery.”
Finally, we meet Ethan, who came out as transgender in the summer of 2016. He first recognized that he was trans in his teenage years, but coming out was a journey, especially to his parents.
“Admittedly, it took both of my parents quite some time to adjust, to move through their own phases of processing and understanding, and eventually settling in a place of support and acceptance. With that, of course, came many a time of still using my birth name, or female pronouns which was impossibly hard to cope with. But, I knew they needed time and space to let the new reality become familiar territory,” he shares.
Fortunately, his family unit is now stronger than ever and he has fiercely supportive friends who are quick to correct others and advocate on Ethan’s behalf when he isn’t present.
“I had top surgery in 2019, but that in itself is quite a broad and all-encompassing term for any of the chest masculinizing surgeries transmasculine folks undergo. I had a double incision, bilateral mastectomy, with free nipple grafts.”
Ethan says his initial focus of importance when he came out was to start testosterone and effectively go through a second puberty. He wanted the world to see him the way he was on the inside.
However, once that started to kick in and the discomfort began to lessen around his image, he felt overwhelming dysphoria around his chest. Therefore, chest surgery and no longer needing to wear a binder to compress the tissue and give a flatter appearance in clothes was really important for Ethan.
He says having surgery solidified the comfort he had found in his identity, and he felt immediate relief post-op that he struggles to describe with words.
Following surgery, Ethan has been on a journey with his scars, since he initially experienced pain and frustration that his body wasn’t healing quickly as his incisions popped open.
“This means now that parts of my scars are thicker and more raised than perhaps they would have been. For at least a year or more that really got me down. I desperately wanted my scars to heal and fade to be barely noticeable so that they didn’t ‘out’ me. However, chest surgery has been a wholly liberating and genuinely life-changing process,” he shares.
Ethan does admit that surgery isn’t a “fix,” and there are still aspects of his body where he doesn’t feel comfortable, but he has developed a happy relationship with his scars.
“There are days where they itch and are tight, and that’s frustrating. But, there is comfort in sitting massaging them with creams to help with the long term fading and settling that scar tissue does over many years. I never once have felt ashamed of my scars.”
He says scars tell a story, and his are a story of strength and ownership as he began living as himself.
“Scars come in many colors, shapes, sizes, and body locations, and that’s something to celebrate.”