Plastic surgeons performed more than 3,250 operations to help people physically confirm their genders in 2016 — a 19% increase compared to the previous year in the US.
Such operations included everything from changing the shape of a transgender person’s face or body to sex reassignment.
“There is no one-size-fits-all approach to gender confirmation,” Dr. Loren Schechter, a Chicago-based plastic surgeon, said in a press release. “There’s a wide spectrum of surgeries that someone may choose to treat gender dysphoria, which is a disconnect between how an individual feels and what that person’s anatomic characteristics are.”
The American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), of which Schechter is a member, released the statistics on Monday, along with data on 1.78 million cosmetic surgeries performed in 2016.
The organisation says its report is the first of its kind for the US — a country where conversations about transgender issues are rapidly evolving with the help of grassroots activists and prominent celebrities, such as Laverne Cox (of “Orange is the New Black”) and Caitlyn Jenner (an Olympic gold medalist).
Sarah McBride, a press secretary for the Human Rights Campaign agreed the data is novel and important, adding that “there’s been a real dearth” of statistics about the transgender community until recently.
“I think it’s not surprising that we’re seeing an increase, for a couple of reasons,” McBride told Business Insider. “We’re seeing more and more people get access to transgender-inclusive healthcare and the medically necessary surgeries it covers. We’re also seeing more people come out and needing transgender-related care.”
But McBride says that, while the new numbers highlight progress — an increasing number of medical organisations and insurers consider gender-related surgeries medically necessary — they also show a canyon of disparity in access to care: An estimated 1.4 million transgender people live in the US, yet many don’t have affordable access to gender transition surgeries.
“Roughly a third of trans folks have undergone some gender-transition related surgery,” McBride wrote in an email to Business Insider. “14 per cent of trans women and 21 per cent of trans men say they are never interested in having surgery, but its difficult to say exactly where the remaining sixty-ish per cent are in terms of desire for surgery.”
Gender confirmation surgeries cost about $US20,000 to $US30,000, and that’s out-of-pocket, since McBride says many insurance plans “categorically exclude” transgender people from receiving the same treatments that others enjoy access to. In fact, a perfect storm of necessity, expense, and discrimination is a big reason that many transgender people in the US seek treatment outside of the country.
McBride added that because no medical procedure is without risk and not every transgender person is a candidate for confirmation surgeries, seeking out the advice of medical experts is a must.
Still, she says, the value of such operations for many is clear.
“This is care that many of these people need to live and to thrive,” McBride says. “It allows them to live full and authentic and healthy lives.”
Correction: Business Insider was sent survey data on some surgeries related to gender reassignment that turned out not to meet statistical significance. We have removed this data from the chart included in this story.
More from Dave Mosher:
- Gender transition surgeries jumped nearly 20% in a year — but the new data highlight a worrisome problem
- Americans spent $US8 billion on plastic surgery in 2016 — here’s the work they got done
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