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Kelsy's story: One patient's journey with gender-affirming surgery

May 2, 2022 General Wellness

Comprehensive gender care program provides life-changing, inclusive health services

At birth, doctors pronounced Kelsy Landin a girl. But his brain was wired otherwise. As a toddler, Kelsy told his parents he wished to be a boy. Growing up, his sisters called him their little brother. And when puberty hit, Kelsy fell into a depression. He bound his chest, but his physical body did not match who he was inside.

"I didn't know what transgender was until much later. I just knew I was different," explains Kelsy, now age 31. "When I finally learned about trans people, it was so obviously me, and I was terrified. Meeting and talking with a fellow trans person and knowing I wasn't alone helped me fully accept it."

Thankfully, Kelsy's family was supportive. But he still faced significant challenges—not only from the public but from his health care providers. Kelsy felt disrespected and humiliated as he sought general and preventive medical care. It wasn't until he found Main Line Health LGBTQ Inclusive Care that he received the health and wellness services he needed.

Supportive primary care

Kelsy began working with Dane Menkin, CRNP, a nurse practitioner at Bryn Mawr Family Practice and divisional director of LGBTQ Services. Dane leads Main Line Health Inclusive Care, a program that provides LGBTQ medical services including gender-affirming hormone therapy and behavioral health services frequently accessed by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender/non-binary people.

Finally, Kelsy found a health care home where he felt understood and at ease. Not only did Kelsy access primary and preventive care services, he also began testosterone therapy.

"As my voice deepened and other changes occurred, I felt better," recalls Kelsy. "It prompted me to seek other services, including 'top' surgery."

Comprehensive gender services

Kelsy was referred to Main Line Health's new Comprehensive Gender Care Program, which partners with Main Line Health LGBTQ Inclusive Care in the care of gender-expansive patients. The multidisciplinary program, which began in 2021, offers streamlined gender-affirming care as well as general and specialty health care to transgender and gender-expansive people.

"The program is designed to reduce severe health inequalities and meet the health care needs of this drastically underserved population," explains Katherine Rose, MD, director of the Comprehensive Gender Care Program as well as a plastic and reconstructive surgeon who performs gender-affirming surgery. "Gender identity, or a person's intrinsic sense of self, is not a choice—it is biologically driven. When gender identity does not match with the sex assigned at birth, an intense psychological distress called gender dysphoria can result."

Patients work one-on-one with Sasha Golden, RN, gender services nurse navigator, who guides them through the program's services.

Services include:

"Patients can access as much or as little of our services as they choose. Every person's journey is unique," explains Dr. Rose. "By bringing together all health care services under one program, accessing inclusive care is so much easier for the patient. Health care is no longer fragmented."

Lifesaving surgery

Dr. Rose provides a wide range of gender-affirming surgeries—procedures that change a person's anatomy and body function to be more aligned with gender identity. This includes chest and genital surgery, facial feminization and body contouring.

"The psychological impact of gender-affirming surgery cannot be overstated. For many, it is literally lifesaving," says Dr. Rose. "This is not cosmetic surgery. It is medically necessary surgery with profound impacts on mental health and quality of life."

Kelsy met with Dr. Rose to discuss his surgery options. Right away, he knew he was in the right place.

"Dr. Rose addressed all my concerns and treated me with such respect. I knew I absolutely trusted this person," says Kelsy. "I was so relieved."

In December 2021, Kelsy underwent outpatient chest (top) surgery and nipple reconstruction with Dr. Rose at Bryn Mawr Hospital. He was amazed at the results.

"I was surprised at how truly happy I felt right away. I was so much more myself in my own skin. I took every chance I could get to look in the mirror," jokes Kelsy. "Just the simple act of putting a shirt on for the first time without anything constricting underneath was amazing. I just love it."

Living authentically

Kelsy healed quickly from surgery and went back to his work as a sculptor. Today, just a few months post-surgery, he's sharing his story in hope of helping others who are struggling to find respect in health care.

"The path I took may be different than others, but it's important to know that respectful health care is available," explains Kelsy. "I can't say enough about this program or Dr. Rose. They've helped me be myself."

Inclusive care at every stage of life

To learn more, visit Main Line Health Comprehensive Gender Care Program or call 484.337.5329 to schedule a consultation with a gender care specialist.