New Data Shows Gender Confirmation Surgeries Are on the Rise

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Plastic surgery stats come out each year—they reveal the most popular surgeries and of-the-moment trends—and they usually look pretty similar, but this year, a new stat caught our eye. For the first time ever, the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) tracked the number of gender confirmation surgeries in the U.S., and findings show they’re on the rise.

According to ASPS data, more than 3,200 transfeminine and transmasculine surgeries were performed in 2016, which is a 19 percent increase from 2015. From facial procedures to body contouring, surgeries to bridge the gap between how a person feels and their anatomic characteristics, are growing rapidly. Here’s what you need to know.

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“When it comes to procedures for the face, men and women have different goals,” says Beverly Hills, CA, plastic surgeon Kimberly Lee, MD. “When the goal is to masculinize the face, it’s about angles; when the goal is to feminize the face, it’s about achieving a softer, heart-shaped face.”

For body procedures, Westchester, NY, plastic surgeon Michael Suzman, MD, says the most common gender confirmation surgery is breast surgery in female-to-male (FTM) patients. “This is a highly successful procedure with a very high degree of patient satisfaction—most people are thrilled with the results. Many of these patients have identified as male for years and have used wraps or other binders to keep a flat chest, and after surgery, they can wear clothes normally and participate in activities like work and sports without restriction. These are some happy patients!” 

“Male-to-female surgeries can be more challenging,” adds Dr. Suzman. “Breast surgery has the potential for nice results with implants. Some adventurous patients seek jaw or neck surgery to appear less masculine, though results vary and recovery can be taxing.” 

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The transformation with these types of procedures may take longer, with the need for more than one consultation, when compared to standard surgeries. “The challenge sometimes with patients looking for gender surgery is that we want to make sure they are emotionally prepared for this process,” says Dr. Lee. “In general, we always want patients to be prepared for any procedure, but when it comes to gender-changing procedures for the face, we want them to be fully ready for the dramatic changes they will see in the mirror.” Dr. Suzman adds, “Hopefully the patient has support of family or loved ones, and often the recommendation of a physician or mental health professional who knows the patient well, is required to be sure the patient is ready for surgery.”

The patient also typically looks to a team of other experts (including hormone therapy doctors), not just their plastic surgeon, to complete their gender change. “To achieve the best results, a team-based approach is best to ensure the patient gets a well-rounded group of experts to assist them throughout the process,” explains Dr. Lee.

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