Category Archives: Surgery

Gender Dysphoria

Although it is not something I tend to openly admit to, one of my guilty pleasures is indulging in an episode of Hollyoaks every now and again. I have been watching the show on/off since I was younger, as it was one of the Soaps my sister would watch every day after school without fail.  It is easy to get absorbed with all the intertwining plot lines that are not at all unbelievable and characters that are not as all stereotypical or one dimensional. The reason I have admitted to being a fan of Hollyoaks is because of one of the storylines shed light on a condition I had previously known nothing about, but which has been more focussed on recently by the media, increasing public awareness.

Gender dysphoria is a condition where a person feels that they are trapped within a body of the wrong sex. Those with gender dysphoria may experience anxiety and a persistent discomfort about the gender that they were born with, or may believe that their gender identity is different from their anatomical sex. For example, a woman may be convinced that she is a male, despite having a female body.

The symptoms of gender dysphoria usually begin to appear at a very young age; however the behaviour exhibited, such as a child refusing to wear typical boys’ or girls’ clothes is a phase many children go through, but in cases of gender dysphoria, it persists into later childhood and through to adulthood.  Those with the lifelong conviction that they’re trapped in the wrong body are referred to as transsexuals.

In the UK an estimated 1 in 4,000 people are recieving medical help for gender dysphoria. . On average, men are diagnosed with gender dysphoria five times more often than women.

Treatment for gender dysphoria varies from person to person, as it is fully dependent on what the individual wants to do. Some may choose to dress and live as their preferred gender, whereas some may take hormones that alter their physical appearance. The majority of transsexuals choose to permanently change their biological sex, however a series of steps must be completed before they are able to do this, and they must be over 18. First the person must live as a member of the opposite sex, full time, for at least a year. After this, they would take either male or female hormones (depending on whether they wanted to become male or female) for at least a year – sometimes longer. After this, they could have surgery to become a man or a woman permanently: a ‘sex change operation’.

 The number of people with gender dysphoria is steadily increasing as awareness of the condition  heightens, however many still feel it is something they can not admit to as prejudice and intolerance towards transsexuals is not uncommon.

If you are interested in gender dysphoria, a new documentary on Channel 4 has just begun called “My Transsexual Summer”, tune in Tuesdays at 10pm.

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Children’s Craniofacial Surgery

A programme called ‘Children’s Craniofacial Surgery’ aired on BBC2 a couple of weeks ago. Upon watching it, I became extraordinarily interested in the concept of “what is normal?” – a quote taken from one of the Doctors in the show himself.

This is a programme which follows the surgeons of the Children’s Hospital Oxford and the young patients there who have disfiguring conditions. Surgeons, transforming both their quality of life and their appearance, can amend the children’s disfigurements. There were a huge variety of disfigurements in the programme and I was extremely intrigued as to how the surgeons went about the surgery in the ways in which for some cases, they would have to take huge risks in order to increase the benefits of the procedures.

A key factor, which made this programme quite upsetting and somewhat uncomfortable to watch, was how the parents had to deal with their children’s condition. Ultimately, a large majority of the surgeries the children must have are necessary for their survival but they also result in a potential radical change of their children’s features. Of course they know the procedure must be done in order for the survival of their child, but seeing the dramatic changes done to their beautiful child can be difficult to deal with.

Something else which greatly interested me from this programme, is that having a deformity can be life threatening, however other deformities simply have strong impacts on the visual appearance of the person. One of the patients, Harry, has Moebius syndrome, resulting in paralysis of the facial muscles preventing him from being able to smile. He decided to undergo ‘smile surgery’ to allow him to be able to smile. However, in cases such as Harry’s, he could survive without the surgery. This is a very fascinating topic as people often critisise those who have surgery for cosmetic reasons. However, people who have cosmetic surgery may feel the same way as Harry – uncomfortable with their appearance and therefore lacking confidence. Of course one could say that Harry was in more need of the surgery if you were to look at him and then at someone who for example wanted breast enlargements. On this note I think people need to consider the more psychological reasoning behind the surgery and not be so quick to judge. Surely if people are unhappy with how they look they should not be critisised for the number of times they go under the knife “irrelevantly”… Or should they?

Harry before the surgery:

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