As rates of sex change surgeries skyrocket, one of the world’s leading genital reconstruction surgeons is speaking out about an issue not being addressed: gender change regret.
In an interview with The Telegraph of London this week, professor Miroslav Djordjevic lamented the lack of research on transgender people changing their minds and undergoing surgery reversal.
Djordjevic, an acclaimed surgeon and researcher who performs about 100 sex change surgeries every year, recounted in the interview a discussion he had with U.K. graduate student James Caspian in 2014.
Djordjevic told Caspian he was seeing a growing number of patients who were expressing regret about their gender reassignment surgeries and wanted to “detransition.” Caspian decided to research the trend of sex change surgery regret for his master’s degree at Bath Spa University in Bath, England. But after preliminary research, the university rejected his proposal. Officials told him they were afraid of online criticism about a “politically incorrect” topic. Caspian submitted a complaint to the university and is awaiting a decision.
Djordjevic, who splits his time between New York’s Mount Sinai Hospital and his clinic in Belgrade, Serbia, told The Telegraph he was baffled by Bath Spa’s refusal.
“Definitely reversal surgery and regret in transgender persons is one of the very hot topics,” he said. “Generally, we have to support all research in this field.”
Djordjevic said he was first contacted by a patient wanting a reversal about five years ago. The number of reversal patients has continued to grow. Currently, he has two patients completing reversals and another six prospective patients. According to Djordjevic, some patients report crippling depression and suicidal ideation after their reassignment surgery. So far, all his reversal patients have been adult transgender people who want to restore their male genitalia.
Djordjevic said he fears one major problem is some clinics are just out for financial gain.
“I have heard stories of people visiting [clinics] who only checked if they had the money to pay,” he said. “We have to stop this.”
Another problem, according to Djordjevic, is growing pressure to treat patients at younger ages. In the last 20 years, the average age of his patients has dropped from 45 to 21. He does not do surgery on anyone younger than 18, but fears the World Professional Association for Transgender Health will soon reduce their guidelines for gender reassignment surgeries to include minors.
The rates of minors seeking treatment for gender dysphoria continue to rise.
In April, the only clinic in England that sees minors for gender identity development services reported that it saw 2,016 referrals in the previous 12 months, a 42 percent increase from the year before, on top of a 104 percent increase from the year before that. The number of children being treated for gender identity disorder at Scotland’s Sandyford Clinic in Glasgow quadrupled in the past three years, according to an article published this week in the Glasgow newspaper The Herald, from under 50 in 2013 to more than 200 cases last year.
Walt Heyer, a former transgender person who says his life was “devastated by gender transition” and has been writing about the increasing problem of gender change regret for 10 years, praised Djordjevic for speaking out: “The well-respected surgeon Dr. Miroslav Djordjevic and the psychotherapist James Caspian are discovering what I have known all along: regret and detransitions are on the rise because too many ‘gender affirming’ surgeries are performed on people who don’t need them.”