This woman just shattered one of the biggest myths about transgender women’s bodies

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Christine Burns, MBE, is a long-time transgender activist. Her work within the organization Press for Change revolutionized transgender rights in the UK in the 1990s and beyond, and she worked hard on the creation of the Gender Recognition Act. Today, she serves as a health advisor.

The latter talents were on display as she took to Twitter to speak out about one of the many common myths on transgender bodies: the notion that transgender surgery leaves a “wound” that will heal itself and that requires constant care to prevent its eventual closure.

Related: Transgender men’s ovaries continue to function for up to a year after starting testosterone 

Genital Reassignment Surgery (GRS), goes under many names, including the dated term Sexual Reassignment Surgery (SRS), has been practiced for decades, and takes slightly different forms for both trans women and transgender men — and not all transgender people opt to have surgery.

Unlike common beliefs, surgeons do not cut off the penis during surgery on transgender women. It is, rather, changed to a slightly different form, with material from the penis and scrotum reused to line the vaginal canal and form a clitoris. Much of the material that was present is reused.

The area that makes up the vaginal canal, too, is already present. This is that space where a cisgender male’s testicles descend from. This is just one of many structures that men and women share, in slightly altered forms.

Surgery on transgender men can be a bit more complex, with a phallus created from tissue collected from other parts of the body to create a neo-phallus, a procedure known as phalloplasty, or surgery to free up the clitoris, known as a metoidioplasty. Many trans men with a phalloplasty may also use a stiffener to form an erection, and additional cosmetic procedures to form a scrotum are also not uncommon for those who opt for surgery. 

For most trans women, the neo-vagina acts the same as the vagina of those born with one. There’s little difference after a couple years with a neo-vagina, with even the microbial bacteria present in either being fairly close in nature.

The dilators Burns refers to are like super unsexy dildos: plain, hard plastic medical devices that help to expand the neo-vaginal canal after surgery — but as Burns’ mentioned, regular sexual activity replaces the use of these by and large after a period of time for transgender women.

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