The Number Of Sex-Change Surgeries Is Going Up, And One Doctor Is Calling It A ‘Health Emergency’


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Grace Carr Reporter
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The number of transgender persons getting gender affirmation surgeries is going up, and one doctor is calling the phenomenon a public health emergency.

“Honestly, I almost think it’s a public health emergency right now [in] transgender health,” Dr. Jonathan Keith told Health Line Thursday. “A lot of these patients are ignored or marginalized or people just don’t know how to take care of them.”

Keith is an assistant professor in the Division of Plastic Surgery at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School and the co-founder of the Rutgers Center For Transgender Health.

The rising number of requests for gender affirmation surgeries has encouraged more doctors to train so they are able to perform the procedures, benefiting transgender individuals seeking medical sex changes. A New Jersey woman who identifies as a man received the first penis operation in New Jersey in February, according to

Keith and a team of seven other doctors performed the 14-hour surgery, which was paid for by the state’s Medicaid program. Keith said the surgery wasn’t easy, but he is happy with the results. “There’s no textbook written on this,” Keith said. (RELATED: Woman Who Got New Jersey’s First Penis Surgery Tells All)

There were 3,200 gender affirmation surgeries in the U.S. in 2016, the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPC) reported in May 2017. The procedures can include anything from breast reduction or augmentation, facial feminization procedures, body contouring and genital reassignment surgeries. For female-to-male genital reassignment operations, doctors can use tissue from a patient’s forearm, thigh or back, according to Heath Line on Thursday. Conversely, male-to-female surgery mainly uses genital tissue that’s already available.

Transgender surgeries rose roughly 20 percent between 2015 and 2016, an ASPS survey of 703 doctors also shows. Less than 0.5 percent of those surgeries were genital, according to the survey released in May, NBC News reported. The 2016 survey included reports from 3,256 transgender surgeries, with the percentage of men transitioning to women and vice versa split roughly down the middle.

California has two medical training centers where doctors who want to learn how to perform sex-reassignment surgery for transgender individuals can go to receive training.

The Pentagon paid for the first U.S. soldier to get a sex-change operation on Nov. 15, 2017.

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