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People are more likely to regret having children than gender-affirming surgery: study

transgender symbol gender affirming surgery concept
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Other operations, "while associated with higher rates of post-operative regret, are not as restricted and policed like gender-affirming surgery," a new study found.

People are significantly more likely to regret elective plastic surgery, tattoos, and even having children than they are to regret having gender-affirming surgery.

A new report, published in The American Journal of Surgery, reviewed 55 studies involving regret rates for common plastic surgery operations and major life events. Gender-affirming surgery, which encompasses mastectomies, breast augmentation, facial, vocal chord, and genital surgeries, has a rate of regret of less than 1 percent, making it "extremely low," according to the study.

Patients who received elective common plastic surgery procedures reported rates of regret of up to 47.1 percent for breast reconstruction, up to 9.1 percent for breast augmentation, and up to 33.3 percent in body contouring. Patients also showed higher rates of regret in other surgical subspecialties, with 30 percent reporting regret after a prostatectomy, and 19.5 percent expressing regret after bariatric surgery.

When it came to major life events, 16.2 percent regretted getting a tattoo, and 7 percent regretted having children — still exponentially lower than the rate of regret for gender-affirming surgery.

More than 550 anti-LGBTQ+ bills were introduced across the U.S. in 2023, and 80 were passed into law. In 2024, 487 anti-LGBTQ+ bills have been introduced and 21 have passed into law, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. The majority of the bills target transgender minors, banning even reversible non-surgical options such as puberty blockers and hormone therapy for those under 18. Some states have also pushed restrictions on gender-affirming care for trans adults.

The American Medical Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, the World Medical Association, and the World Health Organization all agree that gender-affirming care is evidence-based and medically necessary not just for adults but minors as well.

The report's authors noted that those seeking "to limit access to gender-affirming services, most vehemently gender-affirming surgery, and use postoperative regret as reason that care should be denied to all patients."

“This over-reaching approach erases patient autonomy and does not honor the careful consideration and multidisciplinary approach that goes into making the decision to pursue gender-affirming surgery," they wrote. "[Other] operations, while associated with higher rates of post-operative regret, are not as restricted and policed like gender-affirming surgery.”

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Ryan Adamczeski

Ryan is a staff writer at The Advocate, and a graduate of New York University Tisch's Department of Dramatic Writing, with a focus in television writing and comedy. She first became a published author at the age of 15 with her YA novel "Someone Else's Stars," and is now a member of GALECA, the LGBTQ+ society of entertainment critics. In her free time, Ryan likes watching New York Rangers hockey, listening to the Beach Boys, and practicing witchcraft.
Ryan is a staff writer at The Advocate, and a graduate of New York University Tisch's Department of Dramatic Writing, with a focus in television writing and comedy. She first became a published author at the age of 15 with her YA novel "Someone Else's Stars," and is now a member of GALECA, the LGBTQ+ society of entertainment critics. In her free time, Ryan likes watching New York Rangers hockey, listening to the Beach Boys, and practicing witchcraft.