Transgender Surgeries Surged During Pandemic as All Other Health Care Fell Dramatically

Leon Weiler, of Cambridge, Mass., top, holds a flag while standing with other protesters in support of transgender rights beside the "Free Speech Bus," painted with the words "boys are boys" and "girls are girls," in the Harvard Square neighborhood of Cambridge, Thursday, March 30, 2017. A spokesman for the …
Steven Senne/AP Photo

The American Society of Plastic Surgery (ASPS) released its first report outlining statistics for “gender confirmation surgeries,” one that reveals a double-digit increase in transgender surgeries in 2020, even as all other healthcare services dropped dramatically because of the coronavirus pandemic’s restrictions.

“Despite the pandemic and its accompanying difficulties, the report shows a double-digit increase of 12 percent in [transgender] procedures performed from 2019 to 2020,” ASPS noted in a report published at the end of July on surgeries performed by its member surgeons in 2020.

Elective mastectomies for “trans male patients,” i.e., biological women who identify as men, saw a 15 percent increase from 2019 to 2020, and “trans female” facial and breast surgeries similarly jumped 14 percent.

ASPS member Loren Schechter, M.D., said it should not be surprising to see double-digit increases in elective double mastectomies and other transgender surgeries during a pandemic.

“I think the trend line over the last eight to 10 years has been an increase in the number of individuals seeking surgery – across most types of procedures,” Schechter said, suggesting that COVID-19 presented a “confounding” issue, with various restrictions on surgeries.

“Some of the more complex surgeries, which required longer inpatient stays, like the male bottom surgeries, were down – not necessarily because of interest, but practical issues related to COVID-19,” Schechter added.

UCLA plastic surgeon and ASPS member, Justine Lee, M.D., confirmed, “I think most of us will agree on this: We’re currently busier than we’ve ever been.”

“I’m booking now for 2023,” she added.

According to ASPS, overall, “trans female patients surged 13 percent in 2020, while trans male patients rose 11 percent, with nearly 32,000 gender affirmation procedures total performed.”

Twitter user EZ (@ZaneEmma), a mother and healthcare economist concerned about rapid onset of gender dysphoria in teen girls, advises, “Follow the money.”

She posted the following charts in a Twitter thread:

EZ noted especially that, overall, “health services dropped by 1% in 2019.”

“Non-COVID related services dropped by far more,” she added. “But not mastectomies for gender dysphoria. These ‘life-saving’ procedures for self-loathing young women climbed by 15%, despite the pandemic.”

“There is a lot of money being made on the distress of young people,” EZ continued. “And the pandemic is not stopping anyone. Least of all, the surgeons, who have a lot to gain when Medicaid & commercial insurers, convinced by bad data that these procedures are medically necessary, pay for it.”

In fact, in April, President Joe Biden’s Department of Health and Human Services Assistant Secretary Rachel Levine, born Richard Levine, criticized efforts in some states to ban young people from obtaining transgender drugs and surgeries, asserting such bans constitute a “health equity issue.”

Transgender Levine told NPR bills banning young people from accessing drugs, such as puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones, as well as transgender surgeries, such as elective double mastectomies, are “really challenging to see.”

“I don’t see it as a political issue at all,” Levine said. “I view this as a health equity issue. This is about fairness and equality and about specifically health equity, which is part of my portfolio. So, I don’t see any risk in terms of politicization of this issue.”

Citing EZ’s tweet thread, Jeremy Carl, a former Trump-era deputy assistant secretary of the Department of the Interior and now a senior fellow at the Claremont Institute, observed the following irony:

Levine told NPR that appearances by a top transgender health official will help to educate Americans about the importance of transgender Americans accessing the drugs and surgeries viewed as necessary for “health equity.”

“I like to quote that sage Yoda from Star Wars,” Levine said. “You know, ‘Fear is the path that leads to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.’ I think that people fear what they don’t understand.”

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