Is it common for transgender people to regret gender-affirmation surgery?
Research suggests that very few transgender people who undergo gender-affirmation surgery regret their decision.
Gender-affirmation surgery is one approach to help individuals with gender dysphoria transition from their sex assigned at birth to the gender they identify with.
For example, a person undergoing transmasculine surgery (female-to-male) may have breasts removed and male genitalia created. (Learn more: What is phalloplasty?)
During transfeminine surgery (male to female), female characteristics and genitalia are created.
Usually, gender-affirmation surgery is a process over time. Not all procedures are completed at once, nor do all people choose to undergo all procedures.
Before surgery, transgender individuals often live as their desired gender and undergo cross-sex hormone therapy to develop characteristics of their desired gender (such as breasts or facial hair).
Experts estimate that about 1% of transgender individuals regret having gender-affirmation surgery.
In 2021, the journal Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery – Global Open published a review of 27 studies concerning regret after gender-affirmation surgery. Overall, the studies included 7,928 transgender participants who had undergone any type of gender-affirmation surgery. About a third of the study subjects underwent transmasculine surgeries; the remaining two-thirds had transfeminine procedures.
In the transmasculine group, less than 1% regretted their decision. In the transfeminine group, the rate was 1%.
Some people who regretted their decision had difficulty living as their desired gender or being accepted in their new role. Others were dissatisfied with the results of their surgery. Their bodily appearance or physical sensations were not what they expected, or they had trouble adapting psychologically.
Research also suggests that transgender individuals have positive mental health outcomes after having gender-affirmation surgery.
In a 2021 JAMA Surgery study, researchers discussed results of the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey, which included over 27,000 transgender participants. Among these respondents, 3,559 people said they had had at least one type of gender-affirming surgery within 2 years of completing the survey. Their answers were compared to those of another subgroup who wanted to have surgery, but had not yet done so.
The research team found that people who had had at least 1 gender-affirming procedure were less likely to report psychological distress during the previous month. They were also less likely to smoke or consider suicide during the previous year.
Learn more about transgender health: