More Trans People Are Pursuing Gender-Confirming Surgeries Than Ever Before

Four times as many Americans opted for surgical transition between 2000 and 2014.

A new study finds that that gender-affirming surgery is becoming a much more common option for transgender people in the United States. Researchers from Johns Hopkins Medicine and Harvard University examined more than a decade’s worth of inpatient hospital records and found such procedures increased 400% between 2000 to 2014.

“Early on, we recognized there’s been a lot of work on health disparities having to do with age, race, and so on that get collected in health care settings,” Researcher Brandyn Lau told The Washington Post. “One of the things we need to know is whether [lesbian, gay, and transgender] patients are getting the same care.”

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Lau and his team found more than 4,100 gender-affirming surgeries conducted over that 14-year period, an uptick they attribute to increased coverage by insurance companies: Between 2000 and 2011, most surgeries weren’t covered by major insurers. But that trend reversed between 2012 and 2014—and coincided with Medicare dropping its 33-year ban on covering gender-confirming surgeries. “As coverage for these procedures increases, likely so will demand for qualified surgeons to perform them,” the team wrote in a report published in JAMA Surgery.

For trans people who opt for surgical transition, inclusive health-care coverage is key. But while the Affordable Care Act bars health care companies from discriminating on the basis of gender identity, it’s under constant siege by the Trump administration.

“There is concern in the community and among providers that many of the gains already made are in jeopardy,” said Dr. Loren Schechter, who specializes in gender-confirming surgeries.

In July, a Republican lawmaker tried to nix transition-related coverage for trans service members. And earlier this year, the White House announced a new division of the Department of Health and Human Services that would protect medical providers with “moral objections” to treating transgender patients.

“[This] announcement shows us, once again, that the administration is doubling down on licensing discrimination against women and LGBT people, all in the name of religion,” said the ACLU’s Louise Melling. “There’s every reason to think that this administration is going to place religious objections over the health and lives of rights of individuals.”

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