Transgender people have a gender identity that differs from the sex assigned at birth and sometimes choose to undergo hormone therapy and/or surgery to align their physical appearance and gender identity. Often, transgender individuals face social and institutional discrimination and stigmatization that affect their quality of life, including experiences with the health system and access to care. Clinicians should be aware of these issues and ensure a welcoming environment that allows for patients to provide the necessary information to address their health needs. Transgender patients present with the same spectrum of health problems and needs as cisgender patients, and the majority of presentations will be unrelated to gender identity. Hormone therapy and surgery are typically overseen by specialist centers; however, some patients may subsequently present to their primary care physician or local hospital with treatment side effects and complications, including long-term changes to physiology (e.g., secondary to gonadectomy and gender-affirming hormone therapy) that can increase the risk of certain diseases. Transgender people also face unique challenges in managing fertility, contraception, and pregnancy.
- Transgender: the identification with a gender that differs from the sex assigned at birth
Gender-affirming care refers to:
- Ensuring respectful and appropriate medical care for individuals of all gender identities
- A set of interventions that individuals may choose to undergo with the objective of aligning external characteristics with gender identity, such as:
Approach to the clinical evaluation
Systemic barriers and health risks disproportionately affecting transgender patients 
Transgender people often face structural barriers in society that can result in health inequities (including increased risks for specific medical conditions) and affect their quality of life and life expectancy. Consider screening for and addressing these barriers and conditions in at-risk patients if they are pertinent to the reason the patient is seeking care (see “Preventive health care”).
Societal and structural factors (see also “Social determinants of health”)
- Discrimination on the basis of gender identity or intersectional identities, e.g., gender and race.
- Social exclusion
- Increased risk of experiencing physical violence, sexual violence, and intimate partner violence
- Barriers to accessing health care
- Precarious and/or unsafe working conditions 
- Increased risk of homelessness
Specific medical conditions (May arise from structural and societal factors)
- Trauma: e.g., sequelae of inflicted injuries or self-harm
- Infections: e.g., sexually transmitted infections, skin and soft tissue infections, and bloodborne infectious diseases 
- Mental health conditions: e.g., depression, anxiety, PTSD, suicidal ideation, substance use disorders, eating disorders
Avoid assuming a direct link between any medical or social risk and gender identity, as individual patient experiences vary. Unwarranted assumptions can damage the patient-provider relationship and decrease the likelihood that patients will feel comfortable divulging sensitive health information or returning to seek care. 
Factors affecting health care encounters 
Health care environments can be the source of stress, frustration, humiliation, and fear for transgender patients if systemic barriers and inappropriate health-provider behavior, biases, and incompetencies are left unaddressed. The following have been reported as factors that erode patients' trust in health care systems and personnel, and may prevent them from seeking care as a result:
- Systemic barriers
Provider-related barriers: training gaps, biases, and unprofessional behavior
- Insufficient knowledge surrounding transgender health and social issues
- Inappropriate questioning
- Use of culturally insensitive terminology
- Accidental or intentional misgendering (i.e., failure and/or refusal to acknowledge transgender identity or use preferred pronouns) or outing the patient
- Counseling that invalidates or devalues transgender experiences
- Transphobic and disrespectful behavior of staff
Optimizing the patient experience
Best practices during health care visits
- Respecting patient preferences
- Other recommendations 
Focused history-taking 
This information should only be solicited if it is pertinent to the reason for seeking care and in a manner appropriate to the patient's gender identity.
History of gender transition
- Ask about any previous gender-affirming interventions and plans to undergo future ones.
- Be aware of potential problems, changes, and mistakes in the patient's medical records and identification documents.
- Gynecological history: Ask about previous pregnancies, menstruation, and the most recent gynecological cancer screening.
- Sexual history: Obtain a detailed sexual history, including information on the number and gender(s) of sexual partners and any high-risk sexual behavior.
Others: The rest of the clinical history should not differ from the one used for cisgender patients.
- Family history: Ask especially about hormone-related cancers and cardiovascular disease.
- Mental health: Screen for depression and suicidal ideation, and ask about any issues impacting quality of life.
- Social support: Ask about the patient's financial and work situation and relationship with friends and family.
Only address aspects of gender identity that are clinically relevant. The focus should be on the reason for the patient's visit. Inappropriate questioning can erode the patient's trust in the health care system, contributing to poorer health outcomes in an already marginalized population.
- Clinicians should be aware that secondary sex characteristics might be present, partially present, or not present at all, depending on whether the patient has had gender-affirming surgery and/or hormonal therapy.
- Ask the patient if they would like to have a chaperone inthe examination room with them (this may be a person who came with the patient or a member of staff).
- Discuss all steps of the physical examination beforehand.
- Remind the patient to state if, at any time, they feel uncomfortable during the physical examination.
- Gender-affirming care may include treatment with hormone therapy and/or surgery.
- Most transgender people taking hormone therapy report an improved quality of life; however, medications can cause side effects that clinicians should be aware of. 
- Transgender people facing barriers to health care sometimes access hormone therapy without a formal prescription and these individuals may be at additional risk of side effects. 
- Nonbinary transgender patients may also elect to take hormone therapy for masculinization or feminization, or at partial doses to reflect their gender identity. 
Gender-affirming hormone therapy
|Overview of hormone therapy for transgender patients |
|Masculinizing medical therapy|
|Hormone type||Effects||Common formulations||Common adverse effects|
|Feminizing medical therapy|
|Hormone type||Effects||Common formulations||Common adverse effects|
|Estrogen (preferred preparation: estradiol)|| |
|Antiandrogens|| || |
| || |
| || |
| || |
Puberty suppression 
- Children and adolescents may be taking puberty inhibitors to prevent the unwanted development of secondary sex characteristics of the sex assigned at birth.
- May be taken alongside masculinizing and feminizing hormone therapy
Gender-affirming surgery may include genital surgery, chest surgery, and additional procedures such as facial feminization or masculinization. Up to half of transgender individuals undergo a gender-affirming surgical procedure, and demand is increasing. Several procedures are often required to achieve the desired outcome. 
Transgender individuals may choose to undergo several or none of these procedures.
Surgical procedures for transgender women
- Resection: orchidectomy and penectomy 
- Reconstruction: vaginoplasty and vulvoplasty
- Neovagina: often formed out of a tissue graft and/or penile skin (penile inversion vaginoplasty) but may also be constructed from a segment of the small or large intestine (intestinal vaginoplasty) 
- Neoclitoris: typically formed out of the glans penis while preserving the neurovascular bundle
- Labia majora and minora: typically constructed from the scrotum and penile skin 
- Chest surgery: breast augmentation, typically with silicone implants 
Surgical procedures for transgender men
- Chest surgery: bilateral subcutaneous mastectomy and construction of masculinized features 
Additional procedures 
- Facial feminization or masculinization, e.g., rhinoplasty or lip augmentation
- Body contouring, e.g., liposuction or gluteal augmentation
- Voice modification surgery
- Increased risk of perioperative VTE and pulmonary embolism in transgender women receiving estrogen 
- Necrosis of the nipples in patients who have had chest surgery
- Urinary tract infections following any genital surgery
Complications of male-to-female genital surgery
- Wound dehiscence 
- Necrosis of vagina and labiae
- Rectovaginal and urethrovaginal fistulae
- Urethral stenosis and urinary retention 
- Constricted introitus and insufficient vaginal depth
- Additional complications due to the use of a bowel segment in intestinal vaginoplasty
Complications of female-to-male genital surgery
- Urethral stenosis and fistulae 
- Necrosis of neophallus
- Persistent discharge, fistulae, and abscesses in patients with incomplete vaginectomy 
Gender-affirming treatments such as hormone medication or surgery may have a permanent impact on patients' fertility, and counseling on future family planning should be offered prior to starting treatment. Because fertility may still be possible despite treatment, clinicians should ensure that patients are fully aware of their contraceptive options.
Fertility preservation rates in transgender individuals are low despite a high expressed desire for children; possible explanations are insufficient knowledge on the part of health care providers, high cost, and individual concerns about the invasiveness of the treatment. 
|Effect of hormone therapy on fertility|
|Impact of hormone therapy ||Fertility preservation options |
|Transgender women|| |
Patients who retain their gonads may still become pregnant or impregnate a sexual partner and should, therefore, be offered counseling on contraception. Counseling is particularly important for transgender men, as testosterone therapy is teratogenic.
- Transgender women: condoms or vasectomy
- Transgender men
Pregnancy and lactation 
Considerations during pregnancy
- Testosterone should be stopped because of its teratogenic effects.
- Preferred anatomical terminology should be established with the patient.
- When possible, transabdominal ultrasound should be offered rather than transvaginal ultrasound.
- Gender dysphoria may worsen during pregnancy and delivery.
Considerations during lactation
- Chestfeeding may be possible following pregnancy, or it may be induced in both transgender men and women without prior gestation via hormone administration. 
- The decision to continue GAHT during lactation should be made in collaboration with the patient.
- Infant latch may be difficult if chest surgery has been performed.
Preventive health care
Most principles of preventive health care are the same for transgender and cisgender patients. Patients should be offered appropriate age-based screening and general preventive health advice (e.g., healthy eating, exercise, smoking cessation).
Risks for certain diseases can vary between transgender and cisgender persons. Risks can be influenced by whether or not individuals have undergone gender-affirming surgery or are taking hormones and at which age gender-affirming treatment was performed or started.
|Altered disease risk and screening options in transgender persons|
|Transgender men||Transgender women|
|Cardiovascular system |
|Endocrine system |
|Renal system || |
|Hepatobiliary system |
|Bone health || |
|Sexually transmitted infections || |
- Do not make assumptions about what reproductive body parts patients may have or what screening should be offered.
- Clarify the person's gender identity, sex assigned at birth, and previous gender-affirming procedures, and offer screening that is appropriate to their bodies (see also “Approach to the clinical evaluation”).
- Bear in mind that patients may be uncomfortable with the screening of body parts that are incongruent with their gender identity.
|Cancer screening for transgender persons|
|Transgender men||Transgender women|
|Breast cancer |
|Gynecological cancer || || |
|Prostate cancer || |