Some people get very awestruck about the Day of their Operation, as if they were being reborn. Some refer to it, perfectly seriously, as their 'real birthday'. I don't share this way of looking at it. For me, it's just a big event in a long, long process of changing from one state to another. It's worth celebration, but it's not the only irrevocable event that one might commemorate. The act of coming out affects one's public life more: definitely no going back after that! And (in the UK) getting a Gender Recognition Certificate is an official acknowledgement of gender that has far-reaching and permanent significance.
The Op is of course a major procedure, not quickly recovered from. The body undergoes a trauma that lasts three hours at least, and even at its simplest, the Op is a minor miracle of surgery. And not just the physical transformation it effects. The psychological impact is huge. Anyone anticipating they will leave the Old Self behind will not be disappointed. There is no way you can ever feel the same as you once did. Because you look very different indeed with your clothes off.
Just keep in mind that most of the time you will keep your clothes firmly on, and that people don't have X-ray eyes. A new genital area won't make your face look different, won't make your voice sound different, won't make you shorter, and won't alter your ingrained attitudes and dodgy clothes sense. So if these things still need sorting out, there will be ongoing work to do.
I would however (from my own experience) say that the Op will affect the way you can walk and move about: I noticed a freedom and a gracefulness that wasn't really there before. Or perhaps it was simply that I was, in my post-op mind, constantly walking on air.
I don't buy the assertion that a genital op somehow converts a male-type body into a female one. It simply imparts a massive feminising makeover. But the makeover lasts, it endures, it's permanent, and will always look adequately convincing. Not least, it provides vital confirmation of one's self-image. No matter what detractors and sneerers may say, this new physicality is important. And it can't be taken away. It will most certainly help you (if MTF) become a credible female presence, and if you have that, then you will acquire a woman's status in society. Whether that's a great thing to acquire is another matter. Some natal women I know think that a man still has the best of it. If that's true, then you'll know or find out what it means to feel like an underdog. But that's not (so far) my own experience.
I actually went back to the Nuffield Hospital in Brighton this morning to visit the latest of my friends to undergo her Op. It was J---, who is a friend from the North that Shirley Anne (of Minkyweasel World) and I both share. J--- was doing fine.
As I drove away, it was hard not to reflect on how it was for me two years previously. Cue a few photos. Here I am, very early in the morning on 1 March 2011, being really very flippant about what was to come within the hour (actually I was as nervous as hell):
But it was needless nervousness. Later that morning, I woke up all fixed, and was snapping away at myself with the little Leica:
Five days later, the patient was getting restless. Fortunately they let me lay it down with my air guitar:
All good things come to an end. I was sorry to leave, but glad to get home. Here I am, ensconced in my best reclining chair, exhausted but well fed, with three weeks of the same before me:
On 21 March 2011, I felt ready to get proper clothes on:
And the rest is history. If I can lose 15kg, I'll look like that again. I'm working on it. Trust me.