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Age restriction lifted for gender-affirming surgery in new international guidelines

'Will result in the need for parental consent before doctors would likely perform surgeries'

  • Expert can speak to transgender peoples’ right to bodily autonomy, how guidelines affect insurance coverage, how the U.S. gender regulations compare to other countries, more

CHICAGO --- The World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) today today announced its updated Standards of Care and Ethical Guidelines for health professionals. Among the updates is a new suggestion to lift the age restriction for youth seeking gender-affirming surgical treatment, in comparison to previous suggestion of surgery at 17 or older. 

Alithia Zamantakis (she/her), a member of the Institute of Sexual & Gender Minority Health at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, is available to speak to media about the new guidelines. Contact Kristin Samuelson at to schedule an interview.

“Lifting the age restriction will greatly increase access to care for transgender adolescents, but will also result in the need for parental consent for surgeries before doctors would likely perform them,” said Zamantakis, a postdoctoral fellow at Northwestern, who has researched trans youth and resilience. “Additionally, changes in age restriction are not likely to change much in practice in states like Alabama, Arkansas, Texas and Arizona, where gender-affirming care for youth is currently banned.”

Zamantakis also can speak about transgender peoples’ right to bodily autonomy, how guidelines affect insurance coverage and how U.S. gender regulations compare to other countries.

Guidelines are thorough but WPATH ‘still has work to do’

“The systematic reviews conducted as part of the development of the standards of care are fantastic syntheses of the literature on gender-affirming care that should inform doctors' work,” Zamantakis said. “They are used by numerous providers and insurance companies to determine who gets access to care and who does not.

“However, WPATH still has work to do to ensure its standards of care are representative of the needs and experiences of all non-cisgender people and that the standards of care are used to ensure that individuals receive adequate care rather than to gatekeep who gets access to care. WPATH largely has been run by white and/or cisgender individuals. It has only had three transgender presidents thus far, with Marci Bower soon to be the second trans woman president.

“Future iterations of the standards of care must include more stakeholders per committee, greater representation of transgender experts and stakeholders of color, and greater representation of experts and stakeholders outside the U.S.”

Transgender individuals’ right to bodily autonomy

“WPATH does not recommend prior hormone replacement therapy or ‘presenting’ as one's gender for a certain period of time for surgery for nonbinary people, yet it still does for transgender women and men,” Zamantakis said. “The reality is that neither should be requirements for accessing care for people of any gender.

“The recommendation of requiring documentation of persistent gender incongruence is meant to prevent regret. However, it's important to ask who ultimately has the authority to determine whether individuals have the right to make decisions about their bodily autonomy that they may or may not regret? Cisgender women undergo breast augmentation regularly, which is not an entirely reversible procedure, yet they are not required to have proof of documented incongruence. It is assumed that if they regret the surgery, they will learn to cope with the regret or will have an additional surgery. Transgender individuals also deserve the right to bodily autonomy and ultimately to regret the decisions they make if they later do not align with how they experience themselves.”