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Gender dysphoria: the importance of surgery

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Gender identity is what a person feels to be, since gender is a social construct. Gender dysphoria occurs when a person suffers due to the fact their gender identity does not match their sex assigned at birth. Mauro Barone, specialist in plastic and reconstructive surgery, and researcher of biomedical sciences and bioethics from the Campus Bio-Medico University Hospital in Rome, offers an in-depth look at the work and attention that goes into transition surgery, tied to gender dysphoria.

The fragility of not recognising oneself

«I mainly manage aesthetic surgery and research – explains Barone -. Specifically, I work on face transition surgery. Patients who suffer from gender dysphoria come to me to complete their journey and realise their vision of what they should look like».

Dr. Mauro Barone, specialist in plastic and reconstructive surgery, and researcher of biomedical sciences and bioethics from the Campus Bio-Medico University Hospital in Rome

Gender dysphoria is a complex condition in which a person’s identity does not match their sex

assigned at birth. «It’s a real pathology in which a person is forced to live in a body which doesn’t match their gender identity – confirms Barone -. This condition leads to physical, psychological and relationship discomfort. Therefore, we can define people with gender dysphoria as a fragile individuals».

One of the main issues is a lack of understanding and education within our society. «People aren’t educated on the subject and, therefore, have trouble accepting those who suffer from gender dysphoria – Barone says -. Many times people who suffer from this condition are overlooked and pushed to the side. It’s tied to the culture around us and it should be spoken about more often».

Gender dysphoria: the journey to transitioning

The journey towards transitioning requires various steps, starting with a psychological approach. «The first thing to do is look for people who specialise in gender dysphoria. Once a psychological wellbeing is achieved, then a hormonal and surgical approach can begin», the doctor continues. Even the legal aspect is important: «A person who decides to transition has to be legally recognised as a gender they identify in».

Despite bureaucratic issues in Italy, there are multidisciplinary paths that involve different professional figures. «The approach must be multidisciplinary – Barone underlines -. Beyond the plastic surgeon, there are therapists, endocrinologists, psychiatrists, aesthetic doctors, urologists and gynaecologists».

Plastic surgery plays a crucial role in transitioning. «Plastic surgeons are the only people who can lead to a true transformation. When talking about transition, we can adopt the term ‘transformation’ because it effectively conveys the transition from one gender to the other», confirms Barone.

It’s important to not create unrealistic expectation for patients. «People need to be aware of their own body and surgical possibilities. This is especially important for those who transition, because they often arrive with great awareness of their own bodies».

Recognising themselves in the mirror

The biggest satisfaction comes from completing the transition with facial surgery. «When patients become comfortable with their bodies, reaching a psycho-physical balance that we should all feel – underscores the doctor -. Feeling good with oneself is the best way to live a good life».

Barone emphasises the importance of not judging other people’s bodies, giving everyone the freedom of living as their authentic selves, and concludes by saying: «Each body is unique and valid. The choice to undergo aesthetic surgery comes down to each person’s wishes and should not be judged. The most important thing is to educate people not to be so negative about their own bodies and not to judge those of other people, especially when talking about gender dysphoria».


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