Lakewood New Jersey Mans Finds His Authentic Self With Gender-Affirming Care

Keith Peslak

June 08, 2022

Keith Peslak battled with gender dysphoria for most of his life. He didn’t feel aligned with his assigned gender at birth, which was female. This caused him a great deal of distress. His mental and psychological identity conflicted with society’s interaction not reflecting his true authentic self. 

Gender dysphoria isn't uncommon. Plastic and reconstructive surgeon Sean Herman, M.D., has seen countless cases throughout his career. His practice, which encompasses the full spectrum of adult reconstructive and aesthetic surgery, offers gender-affirming care.

“I want to help people who feel like outsiders and have a real discomfort with themselves,” Dr. Herman says. “I am interested in helping people within the community at large, a population that is potentially ostracized. I want to help them feel better about themselves and fit into whatever role they feel is their authentic self. I did my residency in the Bronx, and I saw an underserved population with these issues and how well they do after surgery. Gender dysphoria can be alleviated.”

Keith's Journey to Finding His Authentic Self

Ten years ago, Keith met Melinda, the love of his life and his fiancé today. Melinda recognized Keith was different. Together they researched the term genderqueer—a term that describes a person who doesn’t subscribe to conventional gender distinction but identifies with neither, both or a combination of male and female genders.

“We began attending transgender health conferences in Philadelphia. As I started to learn more about transgender individuals, I realized I struggled with internalized transphobia,” Keith says. “I attended group therapy and found social media to be helpful. It took me a long time to understand and accept I am transgender.”

One day while standing in line to get lunch, Keith had an epiphany. “I was feeling anxious and depressed, and struggling emotionally, when I saw a terribly sad older woman. I saw myself in her down the road. It was then I knew I had to take a leap of faith and live my life and embrace myself. I needed to make a change for happiness,” he says.

Keith sought support from the LGBTQ Center in Asbury, New Jersey, where he received information on hormone therapy. He then researched gender-affirmation surgery, which led him to Dr. Herman. 

“Admittedly, I have trust issues, but not this time. I arrived at Dr. Herman’s office and there was an LGBTQ ‘safe space’ flag in the window, which was reassuring and welcoming,” Keith says. “Dr. Herman made me feel comfortable and confident. What really made me trust him a lot was his thoroughness. I love Dr. Herman.” 

Making Patients Feel Comfortable and Welcome

A strict set of “Standards of Care” guidelines, created by the World Professional Association for Transgender Health, need to be met before undergoing gender-affirmation surgery. Dr. Herman discusses these guidelines with his patients during initial consultations. 

His practice uses a multidisciplinary team approach to gender-affirmation surgeries. Every patient has a primary care physician who prescribes and manages hormone therapy. Mental health professionals are involved, and patients who have comorbidities are managed prior to surgical procedures. 

Dr. Herman’s entire team has gone through sensitivity training. “My personal team of nurses, surgical schedulers and physician assistants all interact with a variety of gender-diverse individuals on a regular basis,” says Dr. Herman. “We know it takes a lot of courage to walk into the office, and we hope to have created a safe space for our patients, where they feel comfortable and respected. I am hopeful that my abilities, our team members and expertise help people in achieving their goals and fulfilling their vision of who they are and hopefully alleviate their gender dysphoria."

Fulfilling Keith's Vision

When Keith arrived for his surgery, he was met and comforted by Dr. Herman and the compassionate team.

“Keith was very eager to find a medical team that was good for him, for his family and his life. For any patient, I think it’s important to find someone who you think you have a good relationship with, someone who is going to understand your goals and whose team you work well with,” Dr. Herman says. “Know it’s your decision to make. There should be no pressure to do anything you don’t want to do. Be educated about who you are seeing, and have a realistic understanding of the possible results. The more comfortable and informed you can be in making your decision, the better.”

For Keith, he knows he made the best decision. After the surgery, Keith remembers sitting by the window with a cup of coffee and a pastry. “I really enjoy when the sun is setting. I was overwhelmed with joy at that moment in time,” he recalls. “I had an overwhelming sense of gratitude and joy. I am experiencing so much more clarity living in my truth. I feel whole. I feel complete. I feel happy. I feel more confident. I don’t have to judge myself any longer.” 

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The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care. 

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