Traveling for Surgery with The Gender Confirmation Center

Because it’s not possible for all folks in the transgender, non-binary, and gender-expansive community to find a local gender-affirming surgeon, our practice works with patients across the nation and around the world. If you’re an out-of-town patient considering surgery or other gender care needs, we’d be happy to help you plan a stay to visit us in the San Francisco Bay Area.

We want to ensure you have access to reasonably priced lodging while you’re in the Bay Area. In addition to affordable housing during your stay, it’s equally important to find trans and non-binary sensitive environments to ensure the most comfortable and holistic recovery. 

Below, you will find sections that outline the ideal travel timeline, how to book flights and arrange transportation, information about low-cost lodging accommodations, a pre-travel checklist, and a bonus section on how to turn your Bay Area surgery visit into a vacation.

Traveling Timeline

Most pre-operative steps can be completed virtually and all traveling patients will need to arrive in San Francisco 2-3 days in advance of their surgery. MTF/N breast augmentation and FTM/N chest reconstruction are outpatient procedures, which means you will need to have appropriate accommodations in place that same day. Facial feminization surgery patients usually stay in the surgery center overnight for one night after surgery, but will need accommodations for the rest of their visit. 

We ask that all top surgery and breast augmentation patients stay in town for 6 days after surgery so that we can effectively monitor their progress and address any side effects, complications, or concerns in person. So the total amount of time that a patient is likely to spend in the Bay Area around the time of surgery is 8-9 days.

For similar reasons, facial feminization patients will need to stay in town 7-10 days after surgery before they will be cleared to travel home, meaning that patients should expect to be in San Francisco for 12-15 days total.

Some airlines have special guidelines regarding patients who have recently undergone surgery. Our surgeons routinely provide a TSA letter so that you can get through security without any trouble with regard to arm position limitations.

Flying into the Bay Area for Surgery 

Booking Flights

When booking flights for surgery, search for flights on Southwest Airlines first if you have an airport nearby that they serve. They sometimes offer ‘getaway deals’, where flights are at a much lower rate than other commercial companies. Their flights won’t come up on Google search, so you’d need to visit their website independently to see what their rates are.

We also recommend the use of websites that compare the prices of different airlines. Examples of these websites include (but are not limited to) Kayak, Expedia, Travelocity, and Orbitz.

Airports

When you’re looking for flights, be sure to look at Oakland International Airport as well as San Francisco Airport. The prices for airplane tickets vary and sometimes you can get a better deal at one airport over the other.  The Bay Area Rapid Transport (BART) train runs from both airports and can drop you off at designated BART stations. Wherever your lodging will be (see “Lodging Accommodations” section below), ensuring that it’s near a BART station will cut down on your transportation costs while you’re in the area.

Transportation

Wherever you’re staying in the Bay Area, you can utilize the BART either to get to his office or St. Francis Hospital by getting off at the ‘Montgomery BART station’ in Downtown Union Square.  Prior to your arrival in the Bay Area, you’ll want to download a transportation app on your smartphone such as Lyft or Uber. You can utilize Lyft and Uber to get you to BART stations if you’re not staying within walking distance of one. It is recommended that folks take a Lyft or Uber with whomever is accompanying them after their surgery. This allows the caretaker to fully attend to the patient after surgery. Utilizing the BART and transportation apps will cut down your costs tremendously.

A note on Lyft and Uber: Lyft and Uber are “rideshare apps,” which means that drivers sign up with these companies and use their own cars to pick up passengers utilizing their services. For new users, the app will walk you through instructions for how to get set up and order a ride. To find the cheapest ride, it is recommended to download both apps, as they often have different prices for the same travel distance. Both apps also usually offer a promotion for new users. If you have never “ordered” a Lyft or Uber, search online for new user promotions to get the best deal while traveling for surgery.

Lodging Accommodations

We understand that surgery is a big expenditure both emotionally and financially. Below is an extensive list of affordable options to choose from. We realize all identities differ and so do your accommodation preferences. Due to the large queer, trans, and non-binary community in the Bay Area, there is a possibility that you will be able to find a place to stay in a shared community for free or discounted cost fairly close to The Gender Confirmation Center. The closer your accommodations are to a BART station, the cheaper your trip will be. The longest acceptable travel time to and from our office is 45 minutes to one hour. Please refer to our “Transportation” section above to map out the cheapest and/or most convenient route from your lodging to our offices. 

Community-Based Free/Low-Cost Options

Below are three Facebook groups you can use to find community-based accommodations. When using Facebook groups you will need to follow some simple steps. Your first step would be to request access to the group, which should be done about a few weeks before travel to ensure that you get accepted within enough time to make your accommodations. The second step would be to introduce yourself with your name, pronouns, and need. Example: “My name is Kai, I use he/him pronouns and I’m having Top Surgery in San Francisco on January 4th. I’m looking for a place to stay from January 2nd (when I fly in) until January 12th. If anyone is able to help out, please let me know. Thank you!” Make sure to check your post/request frequently and follow-up with any folks who might be open to hosting you. 

  • Bay Area Queer Exchange- The BAQE is a Facebook group that you will need to request access to prior to being able to use it. This forum is an incredibly diverse community, with folks of all different intersections, gender identities, sexual orientation, abilities, etc. This group isn’t used specifically for housing, but a lot of people in need have been able to get assistance for a variety of things.
  • Trans and Intersex Housing: SF Bay AreaThis is a Facebook group as well. It’s mostly used for trans and intersex folks to find permanent housing, but cross-posting is recommended here in addition to BAQE. 
  • QTPOC (Queer Trans Person of Color) Housing Bay Area CaliforniaThis group is a sanctioned safe space for queer and trans people of color. The other two online groups mentioned before this are also safe, but this is another alternative for you.

Low Cost

  • TransHeartline is a trans-led and operated post-op care/lodging facility. The space is small, so look into this option first.
  • AirBnB: AirBnB can be a great option for you as they have shared housing options in addition to entire places. The cheapest options on AirBnB are in Oakland, not San Francisco. Oakland is just across the Bay Bridge from San Francisco, and you can travel to and from San Francisco easily via BART. We’re starting a project to find trans and non-binary folks who have their places listed on AirBnB. You can usually find shared spaces with a private room as low as $40, and around $70 at the higher end. Listings for the “entire place” (meaning you won’t have to share space with strangers) will run more expensive than private rooms in a shared house. For the cheaper ones, be sure to look at the location, as they may be far away and require more transportation costs.
  • USA Hostels: This hostel is very near our office and the lowest rates start at around $34 a night. We can only recommend the location and price and haven’t had any feedback from anyone staying there.

Medium Cost, LGBTQ Friendly, All Located Within 3 Miles of GCC:

 Higher Cost, Also Within 1 Block of GCC:

  • Grand Hyatt San Francisco: Rates start at about $300 per night and the Grand Hyatt is conveniently located just a few blocks away from GCC. To learn more, visit their website at hyatt.com
  • Grand Marriott Union Square: Also just a few blocks down the street from our office, the Grand Marriott offers rooms that start under $300 per night. Learn more about booking on their website.
  • Sir Francis Drake: Located within a block of GCC, the Sir Francis Drake Hotel offers all of our patients special booking rates. To find out more, you can contact our office or visit their website.

Staying outside San Francisco: 

Often, staying outside San Francisco is cheaper than finding lodging with city limits. We recommend that patients traveling from out of town view the BART map to find an option that is close to a BART station to minimize spending on transportation. Again, anywhere within an hour journey from our offices is a suitable option for lodging. 

Options for staying outside San Francisco include but are not limited to:

  • San Bruno (south of San Francisco, the city nearest to the San Francisco Airport)
  • Millbrae (south of San Francisco)
  • Oakland (in the east bay)
  • Berkeley (in the east bay)

A Pre-Check List for Out-of-Town Patients

Learn more about surgery timelines for MTF/N breast augmentation and FTM/N chest reconstruction and facial feminization surgery. Here is a brief list of things you should do in advance of your procedure.

Ask questions – Our practice offers virtual consultations using a combination of phone calls or video conferencing and photographs. Before undertaking any additional planning, make sure that you feel comfortable with all of the details. We are happy to answer any questions you may have regarding your surgery.

Disclose all current medications – Certain prescriptions, over-the-counter medications and supplements will hinder healing and should be discontinued prior to surgery. Our staff will be able to determine which medications should be temporarily discontinued.

Complete all required preoperative evaluations, blood tests, and CT scans – Most patients do not need any lab tests before surgery. However, if you have medical conditions that warrant further evaluation, we will be in touch about which tests need to be done. In most cases, you should be able to complete these labs from a distance in your home city. Facial feminization surgery patients will need a CT scan of their face in their home city before surgery.

Book travel and accommodations – We have done our best to outline the best ways to book travel and accommodations for patients coming from outside the Bay Area for surgery. If you have further questions, see our contact information below.

Let’s Make A Vacation Out of It!

Our office is close to popular destinations if you’re traveling to San Francisco and would like to make a vacation out of this experience! Please see below for a list of popular destinations to check out while you’re here and how far they are from our office.  However, remember that after surgery you cannot walk faster than a slow stroll, and you can’t exert yourself with stair or hill climbing for 3 weeks after surgery:

  • Golden Gate Bridge: 6 miles
  • The Painted Ladies: 2 miles
  • Alcatraz Island: 1.5 miles
  • Union Square: Our office is IN Union Square
  • Chinatown: .5 miles
  • Palace of Fine Arts: 3 miles
  • The Castro: 4 miles

Contact Our Office for Additional Travel Details

A lot of planning and preparation go into surgical procedures. If you have additional questions, or if you are feeling overwhelmed with all the necessary planning details, our staff would be happy to assist you. Please feel free to contact our office at (415) 780-1515 or at info@genderconfirmation.com.