Waiting for surgery puts transgender people in Denmark under extreme pressure

A study reveals men who want to become women have to wait an average of eight years for sex reassignment surgery

A study published in the scientific magazine Journal of Sexual Medicine has revealed Danish transgender people have to wait many years before they are allowed to have a sex reassignment surgery, reports magazine Videnskab.

Male transgenders who want to become female have to wait an average of eight years, while female transgender people who wish to become male have to wait almost six years before they get permission to undergo a genital corrective operation.

Tobias Raun, an associate professor at Roskilde University, says transgender people in Denmark are exposed to “extreme psychological pressure having to bear so many years of uncertainty before they are allowed to undergo surgeries”.

The study is based on a review of the medical records of 104 of the 106 individuals (56 were man to woman, 48 woman to man) who underwent sex reassignment surgeries in Denmark in the period from 1978 to 2008.

Criticised by Amnesty International
In 2014, Amnesty International criticised the “long-standing and humiliating clinical investigations at Rigshospitalet Sexology Clinic”, which is the only place in Denmark that can refer people to a genital corrective operation.

Rikke Kildevæld Simonsen, a psychologist at the Sexology Clinic, explained the evaluation process for sex reassignment surgeries has undergone major changes over the past 30 years. The currently recommended duration is between one-and-a-half to two years.

Simonsen added that transgender people have to undergo numerous psychiatric, psychological and gynecological examinations before they are allowed to have their genitals changed.

Some drop out 
“Some people are referred to the clinic to have an operation, but drop out of the treatment, perhaps because they are having doubts. It then might be several years before they are referred to us again,” Simonsen, who contributed to the study, told Videnskab.

Linda Thor Pedersen, who is a spokesperson on transgender issues at LGBT Denmark, confirmed that some transgender people referred to the Sexology Clinic at Rigshospitalet “are so worn down by all the interviews that they cannot take it anymore”, so they drop out and try again later.

Have mental disorders
Raun noted the psychological consequences of the long waiting times are not really discussed, and a recent report from the National Institute of Public Health at the University of Southern Denmark has indicated some transgender people are getting their sex reassignment surgeries abroad because they are dissatisfied with the long waiting periods in Denmark.

Meanwhile, an article in the Nordic Journal of Psychiatry points out that 25 percent of those who received a gender corrective surgery in Denmark suffer from a mental disorder – primarily anxiety and depression.

In Denmark, as in many other countries, being transgender remains a psychiatric diagnosis – classified as a so-called ‘gender identity disorder’ – while homosexuality was removed from the list of mental illnesses in 1981.

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