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Study shows gender confirmation surgery improves most transgender women’s quality of life

Transgender pride flag
. Photo: Associated Press

A new study has confirmed what others before it have found: Gender confirmation surgery improves the quality of life of most who choose to undergo it.

A team at the University hospital in Essen, Germany, led by Dr. Jochen Hess, followed 156 patients for a median of more than 6 years after surgery and are out with their new findings.

The researchers claimed “until now there only existed information on general aspects of health related quality of life (QoL) and non-validated questionnaires about improvement of QoL.” Those studies also found an improvement in quality of life following gender confirmation surgery.

The study led by Hess found that that 80% of male-to-female patients perceived themselves as women post-surgery. It also found a high satisfaction rate with the surgery, and saw the quality of life for those who underwent surgery significantly increase.

That said, it also found the overall quality of life for transgender people, even those who have had gender confirmation surgery, remains below the general population.

This is not surprising, considering the damaging effects of minority stress, and the increased rates of violence and discrimination faced by the community as a result.

“The good news is that we found that around three-quarters of patients showed a better quality of life after surgery. 80% perceived themselves to be women, and another 16% felt that they were ‘rather female.’ 3 women in 4 were able to have orgasms after reassignment surgery,” said Hess.

“It’s very important that we have good data on Quality of Life in transgender people. They generally suffer from a worse QoL than non-transgender population, with higher rates of stress and mental illness, so it’s good that surgery can change this, but also that we can now show that it has a positive effect. Until now we have been using general methods to understand quality of life in transgender individuals, but this new method means that we can address well-being in greater depth.”

The team did note there were limitations to the study, a high dropout rate as well as the fact that the results are from a single center, however the findings are still significant, as, “we now have the first specific validated tool for measuring QoL in transgender patients, we hope that this means that we can go forward to gather better information to help us improve treatment.”

“As patients develop a better understanding and higher acceptance of transgender surgery, more will seek gender confirming surgery,” noted Professor Piet Hoebeke, of Ghent University Hospital, Belgium, who was not involved in the study.

“Despite this observation many doctors are still not convinced that this is a medical condition for which surgery can be offered as a valuable treatment. We need studies like this one to convince the medical world that these patients can get a better QOL with treatment.”

In another recent study, scientists were able to identify 30 genetic variants believed to play a role in gender identity. It marks the first time a panel of genes, including DNA, that could help explain why someone might experience their gender as different from what they were assigned at birth has been discovered.

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