In humans, sex determination is the process that determines the biological sex of an offspring and, as a result, the sexual characteristics that they will develop. Humans typically develop as either male or female, primarily depending on the combination of sex chromosomes that they inherit from their parents. The human sex chromosomes, called X and Y, are structures in human cells made up of tightly bound deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA, and proteins. Those are molecules that contain the instructions for the development and functioning of all life forms, including the development of physical traits and body parts that correspond with each biological sex. Humans who inherit two X chromosomes typically develop as females, while humans with one X and one Y chromosome typically develop as males. Sex determination is the beginning of the development of many characteristics that influence how a human looks and functions as well as the societal expectations that other humans have for each other.

Phalloplasty is a type of surgery that takes existing skin, tissue, and nerves from surrounding areas on a patient’s body to repair or form a neophallus, or a new penis structure. In 1946, Harold Gillies, a plastic surgeon who practiced in England, performed one of the first modern phalloplasties that entailed creating an entire neophallus for a transsexual, called transgender as of 2022, man in London, England. The reconstructive need for phalloplasties started as a result of treating blast wounds during World War I and World War II. The techniques from that time allowed Gillies to perform a phalloplasty with urethral lengthening. Lengthening the urethra allows the patient to use the neophallus to urinate, for a transgender person as a means of affirming their gender identity. Phalloplasty procedures improve the quality of life for people who have congenital conditions, physical trauma, or are seeking gender affirmation surgery.

In the United States, most people are assigned both a biological sex and gender at birth based on their chromosomes and reproductive organs. However, there is an important distinction between biological sex and gender. Biological sex, such as male, female, or intersex, commonly refers to physical characteristics. Gender refers to the socially constructed roles, behaviors, and actions people take on, usually in relation to expectations of masculinity or femininity. As of 2022, there is disagreement over the relation between sex and gender. People’s biological sex and gender greatly influence the way they understand themselves, as well as how others treat them and how they interact with society. Moreover, some people’s gender differs from what they were assigned at birth, and they face discrimination, harassment, and violence. Evolving understandings of gender and sex in the US have created more ways for people to live and express their gender identities.

Harold Delf Gillies performed one of the first sexual reassignment surgeries, termed gender affirmation surgeries as of 2022, on record in 1946 in London, England. He also practiced modern plastic surgery and helped distinguish it as a new branch of medicine in London, England, starting in the early 1900s. Gillies’s work focused initially on facial reconstructive surgery, particularly during both World War I and World War II. Gillies created newer and more efficient techniques that later became standard procedures for reconstructive and cosmetic surgeries. Gillies, along with two members in his practice, standardized over 11,000 techniques, and beginning in 1946, he performed one of the first successful phalloplasties on a transgender man, where he formed a new penis from the patient’s existing skin and tissue.

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