Cody Harman, a 31-year-old trans man who has thoroughly documented his transition on YouTube, recently posted an update explaining how his arm is healing following a skin graft for his phalloplasty, a procedure that creates a penis for trans men. It’s fascinating because it reveals insights into a procedure that most people don’t know much about.
Harman began transitioning in 2014 after divorcing the military man he had married in 2008 to please his religious family. After undergoing a mastectomy (breast removal, sometimes called “top surgery” by trans men), he underwent a hysterectomy and, in June 2017, a phalloplasty.
Although phalloplasty procedures vary between surgeons, trans men will often get a hysterectomy and/or a vaginectomy first to remove a majority of the reproductive system before having the procedure. The actual phalloplasty involves removing skin, veins and nerves from the underside of the patient’s non-dominant forearm and replacing the removed skin with skin from the thigh or buttocks.
Doctors give the penis physical sensation through a nerve graft and either create the head of the penis (the glans) and the scrotum at the same time, or in separate procedures. Barring any functional difficulties, a final procedure can install implants to help the penis become erect for sex.
In his latest video, Harman says he can’t feel any sensation in his left thumb and is a little afraid that he might accidentally cut or burn his thumb while cooking and not notice it. There’s also some nerve damage: When he touches the nerve running down the left side of his left arm, he feels a tingling sensation radiating throughout his hand. He’s hoping his doctor might graft some additional fat onto his arm to reduce the sensation.
Here’s a video in which Cody Harman discusses healing from his phalloplasty:
Furthermore, as the scars on his arm heal, Harman says the tissue is tugging skin away from his hand, giving it a tight, slightly painful feeling on his thumb and wrist and whitening the skin from stretching (not exactly a desired effect).
He’s also thinking about getting his forearm tattooed because he’s tired of being asked about it and lying. He has also said in the past that he finds his penis as “cis-passing” in locker room and urinal situations, but adds that it wouldn’t be cis-passing if a gay man saw an up-close picture of it.
If you’re curious about his entire phalloplasty, check out the videos on Harman’s YouTube page.