Gender reassignment surgery (GRS) is complicated — and that goes all the way down to what you call it. Commonly known as "bottom surgery" in either direction, GRS can also be called "sex reassignment surgery." All these terms refer to the medical procedure that changes the genitals from one sex to another, explains Jess Ting, MD, a plastic surgeon who specialises in transgender surgery and assistant professor Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.
But GRS is more than just going under the knife to change your genitalia. For many people those physical changes go hand in hand with a total transformation, Dr. Ting says. "No amount of pain you go through with surgery can measure up to the mental pain you feel on a daily basis," says Mahogany Phillips, 49, a transgender woman in New York City. "GRS helps a trans person be able to look at themselves in the mirror, that's something cisgender people take for granted," she says. Phillips says she spent many sleepless nights researching whatever information she could find online about the surgery and watching YouTube videos of people who had transitioned: "I felt like I was making a stew, and I just wanted to put it all together; I discounted nothing because I knew every experience would be different."
Understanding a little more about what GRS entails is just one step toward compassionately recognising transgender people. "We're dependent on society to give transgender people some kind of acceptance," says Christine McGinn, DO, a plastic surgeon who specialises in transgender surgery. Here are some common GRS misconceptions — and the truth about each.