Yes, Kids Are Getting Gender Surgeries
Marketing the "miracle cure" of double mastectomy to kids on TikTok
“I just feel so foolish,” Grace said to me. We were sitting in a Greenwich Village diner, commiserating over how we’d both been duped, or allowed ourselves to be duped, by the gender culture wars. Grace appeared last year on the 60 Minutes segment on detransitioners—so far one of the only mainstream media pieces that has delved into this important subject, and, famously, the only 60 Minutes segment in history which was vociferously objected to before it aired.
If I’d been duped into believing, and reporting, that the science of gender-affirming care was settled, Grace had been duped into partaking of that care, and one thing she felt so foolish about was believing that a double mastectomy would alleviate her suffering. Instead, it increased it, and began her course-correction to detransition.
But why wouldn’t we believe it? After all, the AMA, the AAP and loads of other medical and psychological associations—not to mention the President—have endorsed these medical interventions for young people with gender dysphoria, despite the fact that multiple other countries have abandoned or pulled back on them in the past two years.
And perhaps we also believed what so many others who support gender affirming care for minors do: that children don’t get surgeries. This is the “fact” most often repeated/hurled at me on Twitter.
It’s not true. The World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) Standards of Care 7 (which are actually recommendations) suggested that “fully irreversible” surgeries not be performed on those under 18, except for “masculinizing surgery,” which could be performed as early as 16. More proof? This study on the effects of such surgeries for kids: the youngest participants are 13.
And today, Suzi Weiss published a piece in Common Sense with the stories of several girls who’d had mastectomies as teens and came to regret them. If that doesn’t sway you, try perusing the more than 42,000 GoFundMe campaigns* that mention top surgery.
Despite the growing number of young adults regretting the surgeries they had as teens, the draft of forthcoming SOC8 so far suggests lowering the ages for surgical interventions:
15 years and above for chest masculinization; unless there are significant, compelling reasons to take an individualized approach, considering the factors unique to the adolescent treatment frame.
16 years and above for breast augmentation, facial surgery (including rhinoplasty, tracheal shave, and genioplasty) as part of gender affirming treatment; unless there are significant, compelling reasons to take an individualized approach, considering the factors unique to the adolescent treatment frame.
17 and above for metoidioplasty, orchidectomy, vaginoplasty, and hysterectomy and fronto-orbital remodeling as part of gender affirming treatment unless there are significant, compelling reasons to take an individualized approach, considering the factors unique to the adolescent treatment frame.
18 years or above for phalloplasty, unless there are significant, compelling reasons to take an individualized approach, considering the factors unique to the adolescent treatment frame
Meanwhile, many are pushing the miracle cure of mastectomies like so much snake oil. One doctor in particular—Grace’s doctor, in fact—has been accused of aggressively pushing mastectomy surgeries to children on TikTok. Dr. Sidhbh Gallagher calls this invasive surgery “yeeting the teets,” and complains when she only has a couple of surgeries a week.
Rethink Identity Medicine Ethics, or ReIME, shared a summary of a complaint filed with the FTC by several organizations concerned that Gallagher has marketed her services “to a vulnerable and impressionable population of children and youth (demonstrably as young as 13 years old), experiencing distress with their gender identity and developing bodies, and convert them into her patients.” A complaint was also sent to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons but was returned when Gallagher’s representation that she was a member turned out to be false.
Another complaint, filed by attorney Kendra Parris, includes dozens of exhibits of marketing to kids, including celebrating double mastectomies for teens. “I do not believe the people following Dr. Gallagher’s social media pages are receiving completely accurate information about the risks and potential complications of the surgeries she’s advertising,” Parris wrote to me.
Yes, the kid looks happy, and I recognize that adults modify their bodies in ways all the time that might not make sense to other adults. I know women who’ve removed their breasts, or reduced them or augmented them, and felt better. A friend who teaches photography at a college told me his students are taking pictures of their mastectomy scars all the time; they’re proud of them, they make art out of them.
But this is a kid, and the picture above shows a young girl with cutting scars, a sign of mental distress—and this is just one of many chronicled in Parris’s complaint. So many young people, including Grace (who was over 18 at the time of her surgery), thought removing their breasts would alleviate that distress and found the opposite. Were these kids informed about stories like Grace’s? And do they know that we have no high-quality long-term research that shows these surgeries lead to improved mental health?
And is the general public, especially the left, informed? An editor once suggested to me that I be careful using the word “detransitioner” in stories because a doctor had noted it was fraught for trans people and detransition was rarely due to regret (though we haven’t nearly enough evidence to make such a claim), and almost none of the stories and op-eds I’ve pitched to mainstream outlets, trying to diversify the media narrative, have made it through. Unless lefties are reading independent journalists like Jesse Singal, Wesley Yang, Helen Joyce, Common Sense with Bari Weiss, Andrew Sullivan, Kathleen Stock, Debra Soh or Abigail Shrier (are there others? If so, please leave in comments, below), or are seeking information from groups like Genspect, SEGM or ReIME, they are only getting a tiny sliver of the story about the science of gender-affirming care for kids. If the left and center don’t know about detransitioners, and don’t know about kids getting surgeries—and the media’s not reporting it—we can’t have honest debate and discussion about how to treat the ever-increasing number of children and adolescents with gender dysphoria.
Please share this with your ill-informed lefty and liberal friends. Now they, too, will know.
*42,000 was what came up in a search at the time of writing. A few months later, the number was just over 12,670. These may not all be active or current campaigns, but may have been 42,000 over the course of the site’s history.
Another prominent Substacker who writes on this issue is Andrew Sullivan, who recently wrote about his concern that gay kids often end up declaring themselves trans and medicalizing, due to their confusion about their same-sex attraction and gender non-conformity. Another Substacker who writes very well on this topic is Eliza Mondgreen. I also just want to briefly mention that I don't think Suzy Weiss mentioned hysterectomies inher piece, which I read right before I read yours. Keep writing and pitching! There are some positive signs that some MSM outlets are starting to tell more of the full story. I was especially encouraged to read Corinna Cohn's piece in the WaPo a couple of weeks ago.
And don't leave out the boys....! :( https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28325535/ "Age Is Just a Number: WPATH-Affiliated Surgeons' Experiences and Attitudes Toward Vaginoplasty in Transgender Females Under 18 Years of Age in the United States "