Access to care and awareness may have led to the uptick.
According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), the number of gender confirmation surgeries in the U.S. rose 20 percent between 2015 and 2016.
ASPS data revealed that more than 3,200 transfeminine and transmasculine surgeries—which help a person have an appearance that better matches the gender with which they identify—were performed in 2016. Those included a wide range of procedures, from facial and body contouring procedures, to vaginoplasties, which craft a vagina for transgender women, and phalloplasties, a procedure that creates a penis for transgender men.
The transgender community prefers the term “gender confirmation surgery” as opposed to what is sometimes called “sexual reassignment surgery” because the surgeries help transgender people have an outward appearance that matches how they feel inside.
What's behind the increase? According to the ASPS, access to care has increased the number of procedures performed for transgender patients. Under the Affordable Care Act, transgender patients are protected from discrimination in health care settings and nearly every insurance company can’t exclude transition-related care from their coverage, according to the National Center for Transgender Equality. As a result, transgender patients may have more access to care that was formerly prohibitively expensive. Doctors are also undergoing intense training to help meet the needs of transgender patients, the ASPS says.
There could also be an uptick in awareness about the procedure, due in part to celebrities like Laverne Cox and Caitlyn Jenner. Caitlyn recently wrote in her book that she had her "final surgery" in January of 2017, writing that it "was a success, and I feel not only wonderful but liberated."
Of course, surgery isn't required for transgender people—some may have certain procedures done, but not others, while others won't have plastic surgery at all. But it's good to know that more people have access to this option if they decide it's the right path for them.