I used to spend a lot of time at Charing Cross Gender Clinic in London in my early days out in public around 2010-2013, not as a patient but simply meeting friends there and generally chatting to people in the waiting room to see how transition was for them. It was research I felt I needed to do as my gender dysphoria ratcheted up to new levels. Then in 2013 I accompanied a friend there for her surgery. And that went horribly wrong, as this post explained http://suerichmond.blogspot.com/2013/08/when-surgery-goes-wrong.html
I assumed this was a one-off problem. But since then, everyone I know who has been for surgery in Britain has had serious complications.
Gender reassignment surgery, or whatever you want to call it, is certainly not touted by the professionals as an easy or straightforward procedure and it takes a lot of genuine effort on all sides to get to the point when surgery is offered. I have always felt that surgery promoters in the trans community can be very irresponsible in the way they suggest it is a solution to dysphoria and a panacea for lots of other life problems that trans people experience. This surgery is a serious deal. But the number of times it goes wrong is disturbing me. I no longer believe that I have unlucky friends but that there is a fundamental problem with the surgery itself.
So my friend in 2013 had her vaginal lining come out in a long strip that hung between her legs. It was horrifying. So was the infection that followed. The next girl had to have surgical adjustments made, also developed an abdominal infection and her hormone dose needed to be so finely balanced or she would be either prostrated with depression or suffer other health problems. Another had further surgery to try to correct a serious flaw in the first and that didn't work either so she is now unable to make love to men as she would like to do. This last year, one friend has had major problems with granulation that only a lot of persistence on her part saw treated properly, a process that took nearly 12 months. Another friend got shingles within a few weeks of her surgery, predomonantly and persistently in her new vagina where the nerves are trying to knit together. The pain and discomfort not ony of the surgery but of the illness are understandably awful. Whilst it is bad luck that this has happened in her case, she complains that it took a lot of effort to get the doctors to take it seriously and the lack of a swifter intervention has made it a long-term problem. I could give other examples where surgery did not go right. As I said, everyone I happen to know seems to have major difficulties.
Obviously, I can only report from their perspective and what I have seen myself. The procedure is complicated, certainly, but the trouble seems to be caused by a low first-time success rate and, above all, the poor aftercare. I'm not sure if going private (if you are lucky enough to be able to afford it) or going abroad (to Thailand, say) is a solution but it's hard not to come to an assessment that gender surgery and care in the UK is not, from what I have seen, good enough.
None of the girls above regretted transition and they are all glad to be undeniably true to their gender now. But they have all been very upset at the things that were allowed to go wrong. Be aware of this if you go for gender surgery in the UK.