Michael, 17, had been looking forward to this moment for a very long time. He was about to remove the bandages covering his newly flattened chest and view it for the first time. The waiting area at the cosmetic surgeon’s clinic in Miami was modern and white.
The adolescent was struck with emotion on that morning in December of last year since, for many years, he had been forced to wear compression undershirts to hide the appearance of his breasts. He was pleased to show his naked chest with the surgeon’s enormous following on social media, so he posed for photographs with his mother and Dr. Sidhbh Gallagher while wearing a shirt that was unbuttoned. The images were posted on social media.
Michael is a member of a very tiny but rising number of transgender teenagers who have had top surgery, often known as breast removal, in order to better match their body with their experience of gender. This procedure involves the removal of the breasts. The majority of these adolescents have additionally altered their name, pronouns, or dress style in addition to taking testosterone and doing so.
There are just a few subsets of young people who have attracted such widespread attention. An intensely personal medical decision has been turned into a political maelstrom, with significant repercussions for transgender adolescents and their families. This would turn an intensely personal medical decision into a political maelstrom.
In particular, procedures that are relevant to a person’s gender identity have been brought into the limelight. This year, the states of Arizona and Alabama enacted legislation that makes it unlawful for physicians to undertake gender-confirming surgery on transgender patients under the age of 18. The current targeting of children’s clinics that provide gender surgery by conservative bloggers with huge followings on social media has resulted in online abuse as well as bomb threats.
Surgeons said that genital operations on teenagers are an extremely unusual occurrence, although top procedures are on the rise in frequency. And despite the fact that prominent medical organisations have voiced their opposition to the prohibitions on gender-related treatment for teenagers, they have also acknowledged the difficulties that the procedures have posed.
Numerous studies have shown that adult transgender males, on average, get several benefits from top surgery, including the alleviation of body-related anguish, the enhancement of sexual pleasure, and the general improvement of quality of life. A few limited research on transgender teenagers imply that the same advantages may be seen in the immediate future.
But there are other physicians who believe that doctors should slow down before delivering irreversible operations because of the increased demand as well as the instability that is associated with the growth of adolescents. Some individuals end up regretting their procedures, despite the fact that medical professionals feel the risk of this happening is rather low.
The World Professional Association for Transgender Health, an international organisation of gender experts who write best practises for the field, had been planning for months to set new age minimums for most gender-related surgeries, including endorsing top surgery for adolescents age 15 and older. These new age minimums were going to take effect on January 1, 2018. Although the recommendations do not have the force of law, they do serve as a benchmark for medical professionals all around the globe. However, earlier this month, the organisation suddenly retracted the plans, a move that reflected both political constraints and a lack of unanimity among the medical community.
There are no official data available in the United States that detail the number of children who have complex surgical procedures each year. The New York Times conducted a poll at the nation’s premier paediatric gender clinicss and found the following: Eleven clinics stated that they performed a total of 203 treatments on children and teenagers in the year 2021, and several of them mentioned that there were lengthy waiting lists. Nine other clinics did not reply to the survey, and six of the clinics that did respond said that they directed patients to surgeons in private practise.
Dr. Gallagher, whose unconventional use of platforms like TikTok has made her one of the most public gender-affirming surgeons in the nation, said that she conducted 13 top operations on minors in the last year, which is an increase from the few that she did a few years ago. According to the findings of a recent study that was done by experts, one hospital, Kaiser Permanente Oakland, increased the number of top operations performed on adolescents aged 13 to 18 from five in 2013 to 70 in 2019.
According to the opinions of several experts, cosmetic top operations on adolescents are far less common than cosmetic breast procedures carried out on adolescents who are not transgender. According to polls taken by members of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, in the year 2020, about 3,200 young women between the ages of 13 and 19 will have cosmetic breast implants placed, and another 4,700 adolescents will have their breasts reduced.
A large increase in the number of persons who identify as transgender has been seen over the last decade, particularly among young people in the United States. According to the Williams Institute, a research centre at the University of California, Los Angeles, there will be around 700,000 persons under the age of 25 who identify as transgender in the year 2020. This number is almost twice the projection from 2017.
According to Dr. Gallagher, she performs top operations on around 40 people once every month, and approximately one or two of those patients are under the age of 18. She has operated on two younger patients, ages 13 and 14, both of whom had significant anguish over their chests, although the typical minimum age for younger patients is 15. She has, however, operated on one 13-year-old and one 14-year-old.