Earlier this month, a group of transgender individuals -- all of whom have undergone genital surgery -- released a letter to the World Professional Association of Transgender Health (WPATH) to request reform in the way the organization polices its surgical members -- mainly, that it do so at all. Surgeons are allowed to be members of the collective without providing any real proof of training when it comes to performing these complicated procedures (besides being licensed plastic surgeons).
"I can't count how many times I've heard groups of trans people say, 'we should start a database on surgeons' because the reality isn't matching the claims they make about their outcomes, and it doesn't feel like anyone besides us cares," says Gaines Blasdel, a trans community advocate who runs the site Healthy Trans and one of the co-authors of the letter.
Blasdel and the other authors of the open letter aim to provide a resource to trans patients who are often left with little to no medical support once they return home from surgery.
"Not everyone has the safety to be out about being trans, much less out about having genital surgery. People who have bad experiences are silenced by that, silenced by the threat of TERFs (trans exclusionary radical feminists) using their surgery as a scare tactic or talking piece, and silenced by the worry that they'll be seen as a problem patient and other surgeons won't want to take on their case. It's a dangerous and isolating mixture, and emotionally devastating for people who go through it- which makes it even easier for surgeons to excuse upset patients as 'crazies' when they are having a very understandable reaction. I want to speak publicly about this because unlike some of the other writers of the letter, I had an amazing surgery experience and have gotten excellent follow up care from my surgeons," explains Blasdel. He also compares the need for trans people to be involved in the regulation of the surgeries that will impact their lives to the legacy of ACT UP. "We need a real seat at the table, because cis surgeons are not going to represent our interests."
You can read the letter in full here.
The authors of the letter are demanding that WPATH be required to accredit doctors performing gender-affirming genital surgeries and give patients access to information that surgeons either aren't collecting or are editing in their favor. "Historically they've been more concerned with deciding if the patient is trans enough for surgery -- that era is coming to an end, and I think that we'll see an increase in the 'informed consent' philosophy in the next standards of care. But the question is, are they still going to continue let surgeons do a week of observation, pay their membership dues, and just start advertising as WPATH surgeons? Because that is happening."