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Becoming Elijah

Finding Affirming Care as a Trans Man

When Elijah Wagner, 25, came out as a transgender man, he was ready to pursue care that would affirm his identity.

"After I came out, it was full steam ahead," he explains. He started his journey by going to therapy to get cleared for hormone replacement.

For trans and other gender diverse people, there is no "right" way to transition. Broadly speaking, transitioning means becoming more in tune with your gender identity, but that means different things to different people.

Since coming out as a trans man about five and a half years ago, Elijah continues to pursue trans-inclusive and affirming health care. Most recently, that path led him to the Northwestern Medicine Gender Pathways Program, where — after a few years on testosterone and a search for clinicians he could trust — he began considering surgery.

Practicing Patience

For the next part of his journey, Elijah turned to Marco F. Ellis, MD, a plastic surgeon at Northwestern Medicine with expertise in gender-affirming surgery.

"Seeking health care as a trans patient can be very scary because you want a team that is affirming of who you are," Elijah says. "But the staff at the Gender Pathways Program made me feel comfortable and safe. When I chose Dr. Ellis as my surgeon, I knew I didn't make a mistake."

From there, Elijah eagerly awaited his top surgeryhe continued hormone therapy. Because of the comparatively limited number of specialists in gender-affirming care, long wait times are common.

Getting Surgery

Less than a year passed from Elijah's first consultation to the top surgery procedure, but the wait was the most difficult part of the preparation, he says. So, when the time came and Dr. Ellis performed the surgery, Elijah felt a joy he had not experienced before.

"When I got surgery, it was the highlight of my life," he says. "I felt so much freedom."

Following surgery, Elijah entered recovery and has been on a positive healing journey since.

For Dr. Ellis, providing affirming care to Elijah and others remains a point of joy.

"We're happy to help support Elijah's transition," he says. "Within the Gender Pathways Program, we continue to work diligently to meet patient needs and to speed up consultations and surgery scheduling."

Offering Advice

Elijah has found another sense of belonging on social media, where he says there is a large community of trans people documenting their stories of affirmation and healing. Through this community, he found the passion to share his own process and healing. Just one month after his procedure, he was posting dancing videos and showing pride in his new chest.

Today, he hopes to help inspire other gender diverse people who are coming out and seeking care.

"Do not let anyone make you feel like you're making a mistake with your life," he says. "If you weren't sure about this, you wouldn't be on this path."

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Marco F. Ellis, MD
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