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Demand for Sex Reassignment Surgery Expected to Soar Out to 2027, With More and More Children Transitioning

Published: August 4, 2022
Rainbow flags, a symbol of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) and queer pride and LGBT social movements, are seen outside the Stonewall Monument in New York City on June 7, 2022. As more and more minors identify as transgender experts are raising the alarm over the rush to provide minors with permenant medical interventions that many later regret having. (Image: ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images)

According to a report, published by Grand View Research (GVR), an India and U.S. based market research and consulting company, demand for sex reassignment surgery, increasingly being dubbed “gender affirming” surgery, in the United States, is expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate of 14.4 percent from 2020 to 2027. 

The authors of the report state that “the rising incidences of gender dysphoria and the increasing number of people deciding for gender confirmation surgeries are expected to boost market growth over the forecasted period.”

“Gender dysphoria” refers to people who feel like they are born as the wrong sex.

Sex reassignment surgeries can include facial feminization surgery, transfeminine bottom surgery, transfeminine top surgery, transmasculine top surgery, facial masculinization surgery and transmasculine bottom surgery. 

According to GVR, in 2019 around 11,000 sex reassignment surgeries were performed in the U.S., which was between 10 and 15 percent higher than the year prior. 

In the U.S. ,these surgeries are exclusively performed by plastic surgeons at medical institutions including Mount Sinai, the Transgender Surgery Institute of Southern California, Cedars Sinai and the Boston Medical Center, among others. 

The market was valued at $304.8 million in 2020 and is expected to balloon to $781.8 million by 2027. 

Women seeking to become men dominate the market, “The female to male segment dominated the market in 2019 and accounted for 55.2% share of the overall revenue,” the report reads. 

According to the report, “Even though most people in the female to male category opt for other procedures, such as chest contouring, bilateral mastectomy (breast removal), and hysterectomy, the number of people opting for sex reassignment surgery is increasing.”

Murky evidence supporting transgender surgeries for minors

In previous years, these surgeries were predominantly performed on adults, however more and more minors are receiving them, raising ethical questions and prompting some state governments to step in and limit or outright ban this type of surgery, and other medical interventions, on minors due to the murky medical evidence these procedures are based on. 

While proponents of the procedures argue that the surgeries are essential healthcare for treating gender dysmorphia, a disorder they argue threatens youth’s mental health, the effectiveness of the “treatments” have come under fire.    

In a report, published in June 2022 by Florida state Governor Ron DeSantism the governor argues that “Available medical literature provides insufficient evidence that sex reassignment through medical intervention is a safe and effective treatment for gender dysphoria,” further stating that “studies presenting the benefits to mental health, including those claiming that the services prevent suicide, are either low or very low quality and rely on unreliable methods such as surveys and retrospective analyses, both of which are cross-sectional and highly biased.”

According to the governor’s report, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DOH), has explicitly stated that “Social gender transition should not be a treatment option for children or adolescents,” and that “anyone under 18 should not be prescribed puberty blockers or hormone therapy,” and that, “Children and adolescents should be provided social support by peers and family and seek counseling from a licensed provider.”

The guidance was issued in April 2022 by the DOH for the treatment of gender dysphoria, however despite this guidance, gender affirming surgeries are still performed on, and recommended for, minors across the nation.

The continued practice has prompted DeSantis to go on the offensive. On Aug. 3, DeSantis called for doctors to be sued for providing medical interventions for children diagnosed with gender dysphoria. 

At a press conference on Aug. 3 DeSantis said, ”Talk about these very young kids getting gender affirming care; they don’t tell you what that is, is they are actually giving very young girls double mastectomies, they want to castrate these young  boys, that’s wrong … 80 percent of it resolves anyways by the time they get older, so why would you be doing this? I think these doctors need to get sued for what’s happening,” to which the room erupted in applause. 

DeSantis took it a step further on Aug. 4, suspending state attorney Andrew Warren who vowed to not enforce the state’s prohibitions on gender affirming surgery on minors or restrictions on abortions. 

Detransitioning teens regret changing genders

In June, the NY Post published an article detailing the struggles of an American teenager, “Chloe” who underwent a series of gender affirming medical procedures at a very young age, and who shortly after receiving the procedures regretted her decision.

“I was failed by the system, I literally lost organs,” she told the NY Post. 

When she was just 12-years-old Chloe decided she was transgender and came out to her parents at the age of 13. She was promptly placed on puberty blockers and prescribed testosterone. At the tender age of 15, she underwent a double mastectomy however, less than a year later, before she turned 16, she realized she had made a mistake.

Now, at 17-years-old Chloe is speaking up, “I can’t stay quiet. I need to do something about this and to share my own cautionary tale,” she told the NY Post. 

While the exact number of how many minors in the United States have received such intervention is unavailable, it is generally agreed that children experiencing gender dysphoria in the West has skyrocketed. 

In the United Kingdom, children being referred for transitioning treatment increased by 1,000 percent among biological males and by a staggering 4,400 percent among biological females and in the U.S. the number of people identifying as transgender has almost doubled since 2017, according to a report by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention.

Dr. Lisa Littman, a former professor of Behavioral and Social Sciences at Brown University believes that the surge in people identifying as transgender may be due to peer influence on social media, particularly for adolescent girls, the NY Post reported. 

Helena Kerschner, who was born a biological female and began to experience gender dysphoria at the age of 14, told the NY Post that Tumblr sites filled with transgender activist content was the catalyst for her transition.

“There was a lot of negativity around being a cis, heterosexual, white girl, and I took those messages really, really personally,” she told the news outlet. 

She said she felt political pressure to transition, too. “The community was very social justice-y,” she said. 

A 17-year-old student from California, Chloe Cole, had a similar experience when she joined Instagram at 11 years of age. “I started being exposed to a lot of LGTB content and activism” she told the NY Post adding that, “I saw how trans people online got an overwhelming amount of support, and the amount of praise they were getting really spoke to me because, at the time, I didn’t really have a lot of friends of my own.”

Experts raise the alarm

Experts are now concerned that many young people are transitioning without a proper mental-health evaluation. 

Dr. Erica Anderson, a clinical psychologist specializing in gender, sexuality and identity told the NY Post, “I’m concerned that the rise of detransitioners is reflective of some young people who have progressed through their gender journey very, very quickly.”

“When other issues important to a child are not fully addressed, then medical professionals are failing children,” she said. 

According to an online survey, conducted by Dr. Lisa Littman last year, 40 percent of respondents said their gender dysphoria was caused by a mental-health condition and 62 percent felt “medical professionals did not investigate whether trauma was a factor in their transition,” the NY Post reported. 

Kerschner told the NY Post, “My dysphoria collided with my general depression issues and body image issues. I just came to the conclusion that I was born in the wrong body and that all my problems in life would be solved if I transitioned.”

In 2019, Marcus Evans resigned from his role as the Clinical Director of Adult and Adolescent Services at the Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust in the UK  over what he said was the unnecessary medicalization of dysphoric adolescents. 

“I saw children being fast-tracked onto medical solutions for psychological problems, and when kids get on the medical conveyor belt, they don’t get off,” Evans told the NY Post. “But the politicization of the issue was shutting down proper clinical rigor. That meant quite vulnerable kids were in danger of being put on a medical path for treatment that they may well regret,” he said.

Governor DeSantis’ claim that 80 percent of dysphoric children experience “desistance” — or accepting their biological identity without transitioning, is backed up by a variety of studies.

The studies are what led Evans to think it is wise to hold off on potentially irreversible medical intervention on children for as long as possible. “I’m not against transition. I just don’t think kids can give informed consent,” he said.