Analysis finds strong consensus on effectiveness of gender transition treatment

A new analysis conducted by researchers at the What We Know Project (WWKP), an initiative of Cornell University’s Center for the Study of Inequality (CSI), reviewed more than 25 years of scholarship on transgender mental health and found a strong consensus that undergoing gender transition can improve the well-being of transgender people.

The year-long review screened more than 4,000 studies and identified 56 that assessed whether gender transition improves the mental well-being of transgender individuals. The analysis concluded that 93 percent of the studies found positive effects from gender transition, indicating “a robust international consensus in the peer-reviewed literature that gender transition, including medical treatments such as hormone therapy and surgeries, improves the overall well-being of transgender individuals.”

The findings could play a role in a renewed debate about the fitness and health of transgender service members. The Pentagon has moved recently to reinstitute a transgender service ban based on claims of “uncertainty” about the science of treatment for gender dysphoria.

“Among researchers who have studied gender transition, there is little doubt that it improves the well-being of transgender people, often markedly,” said Nathaniel Frank, director of the What We Know Project, and co-lead, with researcher Kellan Baker, of the online study. “A consensus like this is rare in social science.” Their analysis confirms earlier findings that reflect near unanimity of opinion by experts on treatment of gender dysphoria, Frank said. “Just like anyone else,” he said, “with access to adequate health care, transgender people can excel at life and at work.”

Among the findings of the analysis are the following:

  • Of 56 peer-reviewed studies, 52 (93 percent) found that gender transition improves the overall well-being of transgender people. The other 7 percent reported mixed or null findings. None of the reviewed studies showed that gender transition harms well-being.
  • The positive outcomes of gender transition and related medical treatments include improved quality of life, greater relationship satisfaction, higher self-esteem and confidence, and reductions in anxiety, depression, suicidal tendencies and substance use.
  • The positive impact of gender transition has grown considerably in recent years, as surgical techniques and social support have improved.
  • Regrets following gender transition are extremely rare and have become increasingly rarer.

WWKP aggregates and summarizes scholarly research on topics relating to social, economic and political inequality. Kim Weeden, chair of the Department of Sociology in the College of Arts and Sciences, serves as faculty director, as well as director of CSI, a research center that supports nonpartisan academic research on the patterns, causes and consequences of social and economic inequality.

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