HARRY BENJAMIN INTERNATIONAL GENDER DYSPHORIA ASSOCIATION'S
THE STANDARDS OF CARE FOR GENDER IDENTITY DISORDERS 1
(As printed in the International Journal of Transgender Volume II, Number 2, April - Jun 1998)
By Stephen B. Levine (Chairperson), George Brown, Eli Coleman, Peggy Cohen-Kettenis, J. Joris
Hage, Judy Van Maasdam, Maxine Petersen, Friedemann Pfaefflin, Leah C. Schaefer.
Consultants: Dallas Denny MA, Domineco DiCeglie MD, Wolf Eicher MD, Jamison Green, Richard Green MD, Louis
Gooren MD, Donald Laub MD, Anne Lawrence MD, Walter Meyer III MD, C. Christine Wheeler Ph.D
Citation: Levine Stephen B. (Chairperson), Brown George , Coleman Eli, Cohen-Kettenis Peggy, J. Joris Hage, Van
Maasdam Judy, Petersen Maxine, Pfafflin Friedemann, Schaefer Leah C (1998) THE STANDARDS OF CARE FOR
GENDER IDENTITY DISORDERS. IJT II,2, http://www.symposion.com/ijt/ijtc0405.htm
TABLE OF CONTENTS
PART ONE - Introductory Concepts
PART TWO - Brief Reference Guide to the Standards of Care
PART THREE - The Full Text of the Standards of Care
III.The Mental Health Professional
IV.The Treatment of Children
V.The Treatment of Adolescents
VI.Psychotherapy with Adults
VII.The Real Life Experience
VIII.Requirements for Hormone Therapy for Adults
IX.Hormone Therapy for Adults
X.Requirements for Genital Reconstructive and Breast Surgery
PART ONE - Introductory Concepts
The Purpose of the Standards of Care.
The Overarching Treatment Goal.
The Standards of Care Are Clinical Guidelines.
The Clinical Threshold.
Two Primary Populations with GID Exist--Biological Males and Biological Females.
The Purpose of the Standards of Care. The major purpose of the Standards of Care (SOC) is to
articulate this international organization's professional consensus about the psychiatric,
psychologic, medical, and surgical management of gender identity disorders. Professionals may
use this document to understand the parameters within which they may offer assistance to
those with these problems. Persons with gender identity disorders, their families, and social
institutions may use the SOC as a means to understand the current thinking of professionals.
All readers should be aware of the limitations of knowledge in this area and of the hope that
some of the clinical uncertainties will be resolved in the future through scientific investigation.
The Overarching Treatment Goal. The general goal of the specific psychotherapeutic,
endocrine, or surgical therapies for people with gender identity disorders is lasting personal
comfort with the gendered self in order to maximize overall psychological well-being and
The Standards of Care Are Clinical Guidelines. The SOC are intended to provide flexible
directions for the treatment of gender identity disorders. When eligibility requirements are
stated they are meant to be minimum requirements. Individual professionals and organized
programs may raise them. Clinical departures from these guidelines may come about because of
a patient's unique anatomic, social, or psychological situation, an experienced professional's
evolving method of handling a common situation, or a research protocol. These departures
should be recognized as such, explained to the patient, documented both for legal protection
and so that the short and long term results can be retrieved to help the field to evolve.
The Clinical Threshold. A clinical threshold is passed when concerns, uncertainties, and
questions about gender identity persist in development, become so intense as to seem to be the
most important aspect of a person's life, or prevent the establishment of a relatively unconflicted
gender identity. The person's struggles are then variously informally referred to as a gender
identity problem, gender dysphoria, a gender problem, a gender concern, gender distress, or
transsexualism. Such struggles are known to be manifested from the preschool years to old age
and have many alternate forms. These forms come about by various degrees of personal
dissatisfaction with sexual anatomy, gender demarcating body characteristics, gender roles,
gender identity, perceptions of others. When dissatisfied individuals meet specified criteria in
one of two official nomenclatures--the International Classification of Diseases-10 (ICD-10) or the
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders--Fourth Edition (DSM-IV)--they are
formally designated as suffering from a gender identity disorder (GID). Some persons with GID
exceed another threshold--they persistently possess a wish for surgical transformation of their
Two Primary Populations with GID Exist--Biological Males and Biological Females. The sex of
a patient always is a significant factor in the management of GID. Clinicians need to separately
consider the biological, social, psychological, and economic dilemmas of each sex. For example,
when first requesting professional assistance, the typical biological female seems to be further
along in consolidating a male gender identity than does the typical biological male in his quest
for a comfortable female gender identity. This often enables the sequences of therapy to
proceed more rapidly for male-identified persons. All patients, however, must follow the SOC.
PART TWO - A Brief Reference Guide to the Standards of Care
CAVEATIt is recommended that no one use this guide without consulting the full text of the
SOC (Part Three) which provides an explication of these concepts.
I.Professional involvement with patients with gender identity disorders involves any of
II.The Roles of the Mental Health Professional with the Gender Patient.
III.The Training of Mental Health Professionals
IV.The Differences between Eligibility and Readiness Criteria for Hormones or Surgery
V.The Mental Health Professional's Documentation Letters for Hormones or Surgery
Should Succinctly Specify
VI.Two Letters are Usually Required for either Hormones or Surgery
VII.Children with gender Identity Disorders
VIII.Treatment of Adolescents
IX.Psychtherapy with Adults
X.The Real-Life Experience
XI.Eligibility and Readness Criteria for Hormone Therapy adults
XII.Requirements for Genital Reconstructive and Breast Surgery
I. Professional involvement with patients with gender identity disorders involves any of the
C.Real life experience
II. The Roles of the Mental Health Professional with the Gender Patient. Mental health
professionals (MHP) who work with individuals with gender identity disorders may be regularly
called upon to carry out many of these responsibilities:
A.To accurately diagnose the individual's gender disorder according to either the DSM-IV
or ICD-10 nomenclature
B.To accurately diagnose any co-morbid psychiatric conditions and see to their
C.To counsel the individual about the range of treatment options and their implications
D.To engage in psychotherapy
E.To ascertain eligibility and readiness for hormone and surgical therapy
F.To make formal recommendations to medical and surgical colleagues
G.To document their patient's relevant history in a letter of recommendation
H.To be a colleague on a team of professionals with interest in the gender identity
I.To educate family members, employers, and institutions about gender identity disorders
J.To be available for follow-up of previously seen gender patients.
III. The Training of Mental Health Professionals
1.basic clinical competence in diagnosis and treatment of mental or emotional
2.the basic clinical training may occur within any formally credentialing
discipline--for example, psychology, psychiatry, social work, counseling, or
3.recommended minimal credentials for special competence with the gender
a.master's degree or its equivalent in a clinical behavioral science field
granted by an institution accredited by a recognized national or regional
b.specialized training and competence in the assessment of the
DSM-IV/ICD-10 Sexual Disorders (not simply gender identity disorders)
c.documented supervised training and competence in psychotherapy
d.continuing education in the treatment of gender identity disorders
B. The Child-Specialist
1.training in childhood and adolescent developmental psychopathology.
2.competence in diagnosing and treating the ordinary problems of children and
IV. The Differences between Eligibility and Readiness Criteria for Hormones or Surgery.
A.Eligibility--the specified criteria that must be documented before moving to a next step
in a triadic therapeutic sequence (real life experience, hormones, and surgery)
B.Readiness--the specified criteria that rest upon the clinician's judgment prior to taking
the next step in a triadic therapeutic sequence
V. The Mental Health Professional's Documentation Letters for Hormones or Surgery Should
A.The patient's general identifying characteristics
B.The initial and evolving gender, sexual, and other psychiatric diagnoses
C.The duration of their professional relationship including the type of psychotherapy or
evaluation that the patient underwent
D.The eligibility criteria that have been met and the MHP's rationale for hormones or
E.The patient's ability to follow the Standards of Care to date and the likelihood of future
F.Whether the author of the report is part of a gender team or is working without benefit of
an organized team approach
G.The offer of receiving a phone call to verify that the documentation letter is authentic
VI. One-Letter is Required for Instituting Hormone Treatment; Two-Letters are Required for
A.Two separate letters of recommendation from mental health professionals who work
alone without colleagues experienced with gender identity disorders are required for
1.If the first letter is from a person with a master's degree, the second letter should
be from a psychiatrist or a clinical psychologist--those who can be expected to
adequately evaluate co-morbid psychiatric conditions.
2.If the first letter is from the patient's psychotherapist, the second letter should be
from a person who has only played an evaluative role for the patient. Each letter
writer, however, is expected to cover the same seven elements
B.One letter with two signatures is acceptable if the mental health professionals conduct
their tasks and periodically report on these processes to a team of other mental health
professionals and nonpsychiatric physicians.
VII. Children with Gender Identity Disorders
A.The initial task of the child-specialist mental health professional is to provide careful
diagnostic assessments of gender-disturbed children.
1.the child's gender identity and gender role behaviors, family dynamics, past
traumatic experiences, and general psychological health are separately assessed.
Gender-disturbed children differ significantly along these parameters.
2.hormonal and surgical therapies should never be undertaken with this age group.
3.treatment over time may involve family therapy, marital therapy, parent guidance,
individual therapy of the child, or various combinations.
4.treatment should be extended to all forms of psychopathology, not simply the
VIII. Treatment of Adolescents
A.In typical cases the treatment is conservative because gender identity development can
rapidly and unexpectedly evolve. Teenagers should be followed, provided
psychotherapeutic support, educated about gender options, and encouraged to pay
attention to other aspects of their social, intellectual, vocational, and interpersonal
B.They may be eligible for beginning triadic therapy as early as age 18, preferably with
1.Parental consent presumes a good working relationship between the mental
health professional and the parents, so that they, too, fully understand the
nature of the GID.
2.In many European countries sixteen to eighteen-year-olds are legal adults for
medical decision making, and do not require parental consent. In the United
States, age 18 is legal adulthood.
C. Hormonal Therapy for Adolescents. Hormonal treatment should be conducted in two
phases only after puberty is well established.
1.in the initial phase biological males should be administered an antiandrogen
(which neutralize testosterone effects only) or an LHRH agonist (which stops the
production of testosterone only)
2.biological females should be administered sufficient androgens, progestins, or
LHRH agonists (which stops the production of estradiol, estrone, and
progesterone) to stop menstruation.
3.second phase treatments--after these changes have occurred and the
adolescent's mental health remains stable
a.biologic males may be given estrogenic agents
b.biologic females may be given higher masculinizing doses of androgens
c.second phase medications produce irreversible changes
D. Prior to Age 18.In selected cases, the real life experience can begin at age 16,
with or without first phase hormones. The administration of hormones to
adolescents younger than age 18 should rarely be done.
1.first phase therapies to delay the somatic changes of puberty are best carried out
in specialized treatment centers under supervision of, or in consultation with, an
endocrinologist, and preferably, a pediatric endocrinologist, who is part of an
2.two goals justify this intervention
a.to gain time to further explore the gender and other developmental issues
b.to make passing easier if the adolescent continues to pursue gender
3.in order to provide puberty delaying hormones to a person less than age 18, the
following criteria must be met
a.throughout childhood they have demonstrated an intense pattern of
cross-gender identity and aversion to expected gender role behaviors
b.gender discomfort has significantly increased with the onset of puberty
c.social, intellectual, psychological, and interpersonal development are
limited as a consequence of their GID
d.serious psychopathology, except as a consequence of the GID, is absent
e.the family consents and participates in the triadic therapy
E. Prior to Age 16. Second phase hormones, those which induce opposite sex
characteristics should not be given prior to age 16 years.
F. Mental Health Professional Involvement is an Eligibility Requirement for
Triadic Therapy During Adolescence.
1.To be eligible for the implementation of the real life experience or hormone
therapy, the mental health professional should be involved with the patient and
family for a minimum of six months.
2.To be eligible for the recommendation of genital reconstructive surgery or
mastectomy, the mental health professional should be integrally involved with
the adolescent and the family for at least eighteen months.
3.School-aged adolescents with gender identity disorders often are so
uncomfortable due to negative peer interactions and a felt incapacity to
participate in the roles of their biologic sex that they refuse to attend school.
a.Mental health professionals should be prepared to work collaboratively
with school personnel to find ways to continue the educational and
social development of their patients.
IX. Psychotherapy with Adults
A.Many adults with gender identity disorder find comfortable, effective ways of
identifying themselves without the triadic treatment sequence, with or without
B.Psychotherapy is not an absolute requirement for triadic therapy.
1.Individual programs vary to the extent that they perceive the need for
2.When the mental health professional's initial assessment leads to a
recommendation for psychotherapy, the clinician should specify the goals of
treatment, estimate its frequency and duration.
3.The SOC committee is wary of insistence on some minimum number of
psychotherapy sessions prior to the real life experience, hormones, or surgery
but expects individual programs to set these
4.If psychotherapy is not done by members of a gender team, the psychotherapist
should be informed that a letter describing the patient's therapy may be
requested so the patient can move on to the next phase of rehabilitation.
C.Psychotherapy often provides education about a range of options not previously
seriously considered by the patient. Its goals are:
1.to be realistic about work and relationships
2.to define and alleviate the patient's conflicts that may have undermined a stable
lifestyle and to attempt to create a long term stable life style
3.to find a comfortable way to live within a gender role and body
D.Even when the initial goals are attained, mental health professionals should discuss the
likelihood that no educational, psychotherapeutic, medical, or surgical therapy can
permanently eradicate all psychological vestiges of the person's original sex assignment
X. The Real-Life Experience
A.Since changing one's gender role has immediate profound personal and social
consequences, the decision to do so should be preceded by an awareness of what these
familial, vocational, interpersonal, educational, economic, and legal consequences are
likely to be.
B.When clinicians assess the quality of a person's real-life experience in the new gender
role, the following abilities are reviewed
1.to maintain full or part-time employment
2.to function as a student
3.to function in community-based volunteer activity
4.to undertake some combination of items 1-3
5.to acquire a new (legal) first or last name
6.to provide documentation that persons other than the therapist know that the
patient functions in the new gender role.
11. Eligibility and Readiness Criteria for Hormone Therapy for Adults
1.Three eligibility criteria exist.
1.age 18 years
2.demonstrable knowledge of what hormones medically can and cannot do
and their social benefits and risks
3.Either a documented real life experience should be undertaken for at least
three months prior to the administration of hormones Or
4.a period of psychotherapy of a duration specified by the mental health
professional after the initial evaluation (usually a minimum of three
months) should be undertaken
5.under no circumstances should an person be provided hormones who
has neither fulfilled criteria #3 or #4.
2.Three readiness criteria exist:
1.the patient has had further consolidation of gender identity during the
real-life experience or psychotherapy
2.the patient has made some progress in mastering other identified
problems leading to improving or continuing stable mental health
3.hormones are likely to be taken in a responsible manner
3.Hormones can be given for those who do not initially want surgery or a real life
experience. They must be appropriately diagnosed, however, and meet the
criteria stated above for hormone administration.
12. Requirements for Genital Reconstructive and Breast Surgery
1.Six eligibility criteria for various surgeries exist and equally apply to biological
males and biological females
1.legal age of majority in the patient's nation
2.12 months of continuous hormonal therapy for those without a medical
3.12 months of successful continuous full time real-life experience. Periods
of returning to the original gender may indicate ambivalence about
proceeding and should not be used to fulfill this criterion
4.while psychotherapy is not an absolute requirement for surgery for
adults, regular sessions may be required by the mental health
professional throughout the real life experience at a minimum frequency
determined by the mental health professional.
5.knowledge of the cost, required lengths of hospitalizations, likely
complications, and post surgical rehabilitation requirements of various
6.awareness of different competent surgeons
2.Two readiness criteria exist
1.demonstrable progress in consolidating the new gender identity
2.demonstrable progress in dealing with work, family, and interpersonal
issues resulting in a significantly better or at least a stable state of mental
1.Genital, Breast, and Other Surgery for the Male to Female Patient
1.Surgical procedures may include orchiectomy, penectomy, vaginoplasty,
augmentation mammaplasty, and vocal cord surgery.
2.Vaginoplasty requires both skilled surgery and postoperative treatment.
Three techniques are: penile skin inversion, pedicled rectosigmoid
transplant, or free skin graft to line the neovagina
3.Augmentation mammaplasty may be performed prior to vaginoplasty if
the physician prescribing hormones and the surgeon have documented
that breast enlargement after undergoing hormonal treatment for two
years is not sufficient for comfort in the social gender role. Other
surgeries that may be performed to assist feminization include: reduction
thyroid chondroplasty, liposuction of the waist, rhinoplasty, facial bone
reduction, face-lift, and blephoroplasty.
2.Genital and Breast Surgery for the Female to Male Patient.
1.Surgical procedures may include mastectomy, hysterectomy,
salpingo-oophorectomy, vaginectomy metoidioplasty, scrotoplasty,
urethroplasty, and phalloplasty.
2.Current operative techniques for phalloplasty are varied. The choice of
techniques may be restricted by anatomical or surgical considerations. If
the objectives of phalloplasty are a neophallus of good appearance,
standing micturition, and/or coital ability, the patient should be clearly
informed that there are both several separate stages of surgery and
frequent technical difficulties which require additional operations.
3.Reduction mammaplasty may be necessary as an early procedure for
some large breasted individuals to make the real life experience feasible.
4.Liposuction may be necessary for final body contouring
3.Postsurgical Follow-up by Professionals.
1.Long term postoperative follow-up is one of the factors associated with a
good psychosocial outcome.
2.Follow-up is essential to the patient's subsequent anatomic and medical
health and to the surgeon's knowledge about the benefits and limitations
1.Postoperative patients may incorrectly exclude themselves from
follow-up with the physician prescribing hormones as well as their
surgeon and mental health professional.
2.These clinicians are best able to prevent, diagnose and treat
possible long term medical conditions that are unique to the
hormonally and surgically treated.
3.Surgeons who are operating on patients who are coming from
long distances should include personal follow-up in their care
4.Continuing long term follow-up has to be affordable and available
in the patient's geographic region.
5.Postoperative patients also have general health concerns and
should undergo regular medical screening according to
3.The need for follow-up extends beyond the endocrinologist and surgeon,
however, to the mental health professional, who having spent a longer
period of time with the patient than any other professional, is in an
excellent position to assist in any post-operative adjustment difficulties.
PART THREE - The Full Text of the Standards of Care
Introduction. This section provides an in depth understanding of the Standards of Care. It
supplies comprehensive information about the matters either not contained in The Brief
Reference Guide or listed there only in an abbreviated fashion. This explication of the SOC is
intended for all readers--professionals, patients, family members, and institutional personnel
who have to make decisions about those with gender identity disorders.
PART THREE - The Full Text of the Standards of Care
I. Epidemiological Considerations
Prevalence. When the gender identity disorders first came to professional attention, clinical
perspectives were largely focused on how to identify candidates for sex reassignment surgery.
As the field matured, professionals recognized that some persons with bona fide gender identity
disorders neither desired nor were candidates for sex reassignment surgery. The earliest
estimates of prevalence for adults were stated as 1 in 37,000 males and 1 in 107,000 females. The
most recent information of the transsexual end of the gender identity disorder spectrum from
Holland is 1 in 11,900 males and 1 in 30,400 females. Four observations, not yet firmly supported
by systematic study, increase the likelihood of a higher prevalence: 1) unrecognized gender
problems are occasionally diagnosed when patients are seen with anxiety, depression, conduct
disorder, substance abuse, dissociative identity disorders, borderline personality disorder, other
sexual disorders and intersexed conditions; 2) some nonpatient male transvestites, female
impersonators, and male and female homosexuals may have a form of gender identity disorder;
3) the intensity of some persons' gender identity disorders fluctuates below and above a clinical
threshold; 4) gender variant behavior among female-bodied individuals tends to relatively
invisible to the culture, particularly to mental health professionals and scientists.
Natural History of Gender Identity Disorders. In the past, so much attention had been paid to
the therapeutic sequence of cross-gender living, administration of cross-sex hormones, and
genital (and other) surgeries that some made the erroneous assumption that a diagnosis of GID
inevitably should lead to this sequence. A diagnosis of GID actually only creates a serious
consideration of an array of complex options, only one of which is medical support for this
triadic therapeutic sequence. Ideally, prospective data about the natural history of gender
identity struggles would inform all treatment decisions. These are lacking except for the
demonstration that most boys with gender identity disorder outgrow their wish to become a girl
without therapy. Five less firmly scientifically established factors prevent clinicians from
prescribing the triadic therapeutic sequence based on diagnosis alone: 1) some carefully
diagnosed persons spontaneously change their aspirations; 2) others make more comfortable
accommodations to their gender identities without medical interventions; 3) others give up their
wish to follow the triadic sequence during psychotherapy; 4) some gender identity clinics have
an unexplained high drop out rate; and 5) the percentage of persons who are not benefitted from
the triadic sequence varies significantly from study to study.
Cultural Differences in Gender Identity Disorders Throughout the World. Even if
epidemiologic studies established that a similar base rate of gender identity disorders existed all
over the world, it is likely that cultural differences from one country to another would alter the
behavioral expressions of the disorder. Moreover, access to treatment, cost of treatment, the
therapies offered and the social attitudes towards the afflicted and the professionals who deliver
care differ broadly from place to place. While in most countries, crossing gender boundaries
more reliably generates moral outrage rather than compassion, there are striking examples in
certain cultures how the cross-gendered behaviors of spiritual leaders are not stigmatized.
II. Diagnostic Nomenclatures
The Five Elements of Clinical Work. Professional involvement with patients with gender
identity disorders involves any of the following: diagnostic assessment, psychotherapy, real life
experience, hormonal therapy, and surgical therapy. This section provides a background on the
first stage--diagnostic assessment.
The Development of a Nomenclature. The term 'transsexual' emerged into professional and
public usage in the 1950s as a means of designating a person who aspired to or actually lived in
the anatomically contrary gender role, whether or not hormones had been administered or
surgery had been performed. During the 1960s and 1970s, clinicians used the term "true
transsexual." The true transsexual was thought to be a person with a characteristic path of
atypical gender identity development that predicted an improved life from a treatment sequence
that culminated in genital surgery. They were thought to have: 1) cross-gender identifications
that were consistently expressed behaviorally in childhood, adolescence, and adulthood; 2)
minimal or no sexual arousal to cross-dressing; and no heterosexual interest (relative to their
anatomic sex). True transsexuals could be of either sex. "True transsexual" males were
distinguished from males who arrived at the desire to change their gender via a reasonably
masculine behavioral developmental pathway. Belief in the true transsexual concept for males
dissipated when it was realized that: 1) such patients were rarely encountered; 2) those who
requested genital reconstructive surgery more commonly had adolescent histories of fetishistic
cross-dressing or autogynephilic fantasies without cross-dressing; 3) some of the original true
transsexuals had falsified their histories to make their stories match the earliest theories about
the disorder. The concept of "true transsexual" females never created diagnostic uncertainties,
largely because patient histories were relatively consistent and gender variant behaviors, such
as, female cross-dressing, remained unseen by clinicians. The term 'gender dysphoria syndrome'
was then adopted to designate the presence of a gender problem in either sex until psychiatry
developed an official nomenclature.
The diagnosis of Transsexualism was introduced in the DSM-III in 1980 for gender dysphoric
individuals who demonstrated at least two years of continuous interest in removing their sexual
anatomy and transforming their bodies and social roles. Others with gender dysphoria could be
either diagnosed as Gender Identity Disorder of Adolescence or Adulthood Nontranssexual
Type or Gender Identity Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (GIDNOS). These diagnostic terms
were ignored by the media who used the term transsexual for any person who wanted to change
or had changed sex.
THE DSM-IV. In 1994, the DSM-IV committee replaced the diagnosis of Transsexualism with
Gender Identity Disorder. Depending on their age, those with a strong and persistent
cross-gender identification and a persistent discomfort with his or her sex or a sense of
inappropriateness in the gender role of that sex were to be diagnosed as Gender Identity
Disorder of Childhood (302.6), Adolescence, or Adulthood (302.85). For persons who did not
meet the criteria, Gender Identity Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (GIDNOS)(302.6) was to be
used. This category included a variety of individuals--those who desire only castration or
penectomy without a concomitant desire to develop breasts; those with a congenital intersex
condition; those with transient stress-related cross-dressing; those with considerable
ambivalence about giving up their gender roles. Patients with GID and GIDNOS were to be
subclassified according to the sex of attraction: attracted to males; attracted to females;
attracted to both; attracted to neither. This subclassification on the basis of orientation was
intended to assist in determining over time whether individuals of one orientation or another
fared better in particular approaches; it was not intended to guide treatment decisions.
Between the publication of DSM-III and DSM-IV, the term "transgendered" began to be used in
various ways. Some employ it to refer to those with unusual gender identities in a value free
mannerthat is, without a connotation of psychopathology. Some professionals informally use
the term to refer to any person with any type of gender problem. Transgendered is not a
diagnosis, but professionals find it easier to informally use than GIDNOS, which is.
ICD-10. The ICD-10 now provides five diagnoses for the gender identity disorders (F64):
Transsexualism (F64.0) has three criteria:
1. The desire to live and be accepted as a member of the opposite sex, usually accompanied by
the wish to make his or her body as congruent as possible with the preferred sex through
surgery and hormone treatment
2. The transsexual identity has been present persistently for at least two years
3. The disorder is not a symptom of another mental disorder or a chromosomal abnormality
Dual-role Transvestism (F64.1) has three criteria:
1. The individual wears clothes of the opposite sex in order to experience temporary membership
in the opposite sex
2. There is no sexual motivation for the cross-dressing
3. The individual has no desire for a permanent change to the opposite sex
Gender Identity Disorder of Childhood (64.2) has separate criteria for girls and for boys. For
1. The individual shows persistent and intense distress about being a girl, and has a stated
desire to be a boy (not merely a desire for any perceived cultural advantages to being a boy) or
insists that she is a boy.
2. Either of the following must be present:
a. persistent marked aversion to normative feminine clothing and insistence on wearing
stereotypical masculine clothing
b. persistent repudiation of female anatomical structures, as evidenced by at least one of the
(1. an assertion that she has, or will grow, a penis
(2. rejection of urination in a sitting position
(3. assertion that she does not want to grow breasts or menstruate
3. The girl has not yet reached puberty
4. The disorder must have been present for at least 6 months
1. The individual shows persistent and intense distress about being a boy, and has a desire to
be a girl, or, more rarely, insists that he is a girl
2. Either of the following must be present:
a. preoccupation with stereotypic female activities, as shown by a preference for either
cross-dressing or simulating female attire, or by an intense desire to participate in the games and
pastimes of girls and rejection of stereotypical male toys, games, and activities
b. persistent repudiation of male anatomical structures, as evidenced by at least one of the
following repeated assertions:
(1. that he will grow up to become a woman (not merely in the role)
(2. that his penis or testes are disgusting or will disappear
(3. that it would be better not to have a penis or testes
3. The boy has not yet reached puberty
4. The disorder must have been present for at least 6 months
Other Gender Identity Disorders (F64.8) has no specific criteria
Gender Identity Disorder, Unspecified has no specific criteria.
Either of the previous two diagnoses could be used for those with an intersexed condition.
The purpose of the DSM-IV and ICD-10 is to organize and guide treatment and research. These
nomenclatures were created at different times and driven by different professional groups
through a consensus process. There is an expectation that the differences between the systems
will be eliminated by the year 2000. At this point, the specific diagnoses are based to a larger
extent on clinical reasoning than on scientific investigation. It has not been sufficiently studied,
for instance, whether sexual attraction patterns predict whether or not a patient will be a
mentally healthier person in five years with or without the triadic sequence.
The Gender Identity Disorders are Mental Disorders. To qualify as a mental disorder, any
behavioral pattern must result in a significant adaptive disadvantage to the person and cause
personal mental suffering. The DSM-IV and ICD-10 have defined hundreds of mental illnesses
which vary in onset, duration, pathogenesis, functional disability, and treatability. The
designation of Gender Identity Disorders as mental disorders is not a license for stigmatization
or for the deprivation of gender patients' civil rights. The use of a formal diagnosis is an
important step in offering relief, providing health insurance coverage, and generating research
to provide more effective future treatments.
III. The Mental Health Professional
The Ten Tasks of the Mental Health Professional. Mental health professionals (MHP) who
work with individuals with gender identity disorders may be regularly called upon to carry out
many of these responsibilities:
1. to accurately diagnose the individual's gender disorder;
2. to accurately diagnose any co-morbid psychiatric conditions and see to their
3. to counsel the individual about the range of treatment options and their
4. to engage in psychotherapy
5. to ascertain eligibility and readiness for hormone and surgical therapy;
6. to make formal recommendations to medical and surgical colleagues;
7. to document their patient's relevant history in a letter of recommendation;
8. to be a colleague on a team of professionals with interest in the gender identity
9. to educate family members, employers, and institutions about gender identity
10. to be available for follow-up of previously seen gender patients.
The Training of Mental Health Professionals.
The Adult-Specialist. The education of the mental health professional who specializes in adult
gender identity disorders rests upon basic general clinical competence in diagnosis and
treatment of mental or emotional disorders. The basic clinical training may occur within any
formally credentialing discipline--for example, psychology, psychiatry, social work, counseling,
or nursing. The following are the recommended minimal credentials for special competence with
the gender identity disorders:
1. A master's degree or its equivalent in a clinical behavioral science field. This or a more
advanced degree should be granted by an institution accredited by a recognized national or
regional accrediting board. The mental health professional should have written credentials from
a proper training facility and a licensing board.
2. Specialized training and competence in the assessment of the DSM-IV/ICD-10 Sexual
Disorders (not simply gender identity disorders).
3. Documented supervised training and competence in psychotherapy.
4. Continuing education in the treatment of gender identity disorders which may include
attendance at professional meetings, workshops, or seminars or participating in research related
to gender identity issues.
The Child-Specialist. The professional who evaluates and offers therapy for a child or early
adolescent with GID should have been trained in childhood and adolescent developmental
psychopathology. The professional should be competent in diagnosing and treating the
ordinary problems of children and adolescents.
The Differences between Eligibility and Readiness. The SOC provides eligibility requirements
for hormones and surgery. Without first meeting eligibility requirements, the patient and the
therapist should not request hormones or surgery. An example of an eligibility requirement is: a
person must live full time in the preferred gender for twelve months prior to genital
reconstructive surgery. To meet this criterion, the professional needs to document that the real
life experience has occurred for this duration. Meeting readiness criteria--further consolidation
of the evolving gender identity or improving mental health in the new or confirmed gender
role--is more complicated because it rests upon the clinician's judgment. The clinician might
think that the person is not yet ready because his behavior frequently contradicts his stated
needs and goals.
The Mental Health Professional's Relationship to the Endocrinologist and Surgeon. Mental
health professionals who recommend hormonal and surgical therapy share the legal and ethical
responsibility for that decision with the physician who undertakes the treatment. Hormonal
treatment can often alleviate anxiety and depression in people without the use of additional
psychotropic medications. Some individuals, however, need psychotropic medication prior to,
or concurrent with, taking hormones or having surgery. The mental health professional is
expected to make these decisions and see to it that the appropriate psychotropic medications
are offered to the patient. The presence of psychiatric co-morbidities does not necessarily
preclude hormonal or surgical treatment, but some diagnoses pose difficult treatment dilemmas
and may delay or preclude the use of either treatment.
The Mental Health Professional's Documentation Letters for Hormones or Surgery Should
1.The patient's general identifying characteristics
2.The initial and evolving gender, sexual, and other psychiatric diagnoses
3.The duration of their professional relationship including the type of psychotherapy or
evaluation that the patient underwent
4.The eligibility criteria that have been met and the MHP's rationale for hormones or
5.The patient's ability to follow the Standards of Care to date and the likelihood of future
6.Whether the author of the report is part of a gender team or is working without benefit of
an organized team approach
7.That the sender welcomes a phone call to verify the fact that the mental health
professional actually wrote the letter as described in this document.
The organization and completeness of these letters provide the hormone-prescribing physician
and the surgeon an important degree of assurance that mental health professional is
knowledgeable about gender issues and is competent in conducting the roles of the mental
One Letter is Required for Instituing Hormone Therapy. One letter from a mental health
professional, including the above seven points, written to the medical professional who will be
responsible for the patient´s endocrine treatment is sufficient.
Two-Letters are Generally Required for Surgery. It is ideal if mental health professionals
conduct their tasks and periodically report on these processes to a team of other mental health
professionals and nonpsychiatric physicians. Letters of recommendation to physicians or
surgeons written after discussion with a gender team then reflect the influence of the entire
team. One letter to the physician prescribing hormones or performing surgery will generally
suffice as long as it is signed by two mental health professionals.
More commonly, however, letters of recommendation are from mental health professionals who
work alone without colleagues experienced with gender identity disorders. Because
professionals working independently may not have the benefit of ongoing professional
consultation on gender cases, two letters of recommendation are required prior to endorsing
surgery. If the first letter is from a person with a master's degree, the second letter should be
from a psychiatrist or a clinical psychologist--those with doctoral degrees who can be expected
to adequately evaluate co-morbid psychiatric conditions. If the first letter is from the patient's
psychotherapist, the second letter should be from a person who has only played an evaluative
role for the patient. Each letter writer, however, is expected to cover the same topics. At least
one of the letters should be an extensive report. The second letter writer, having read the first
letter, may choose to offer a briefer summary and an agreement with the recommendation.
IV. The Treatment of Children
The initial task of the child-specialist mental health professional is to provide careful diagnostic
assessments of gender-disturbed children. This means that the individual child's gender identity
and gender role behaviors, family dynamics, past traumatic experiences, and general
psychological health are separately assessed. Gender-disturbed children differ significantly
along these parameters. Since many gender-disturbed children do not meet formal criteria for
GID of Childhood and many that do will not continue to do so later in childhood, hormonal and
surgical therapies should never be undertaken with this age group. Treatment for these children,
however, should be offered based on the clinician's assessment. Over time, this may involve
family therapy, marital therapy, parent guidance, individual therapy of the child, or various
combinations. Treatment should be extended to all forms of psychopathology, not simply the
gender disturbance. Effort should be made, even with mild forms of gender identity struggles, to
follow the family. This allows the child and the family to benefit from continuing services as the
gender identity problem evolves and allows the clinician to rethink the validity of the initial
V. The Treatment of Adolescents
Adolescents should be dealt with conservatively because gender identity development can
rapidly and unexpectedly evolve. They should be followed, provided psychotherapeutic
support, educated about gender options, and encouraged to pay attention to other aspects of
their social, intellectual, vocational, and interpersonal development. Because an adolescent shift
toward gender conformity can occur primarily to please the family, it may not persist or reflect a
permanent change in gender identity. Clinical follow-up is encouraged.
Adolescents may be eligible for beginning triadic therapy as early as age 18, preferably with
parental consent. Parental consent presumes a good working relationship between the mental
health professional and the parents, so that they, too, fully understand the nature of the GID. In
many European countries 16 to18 year-olds are legal adults for medical decision making, and do
not require parental consent.
The age at which adolescents who consistently maintain an unwavering desire to live
permanently in the opposite gender role should be permitted to begin the real life experience or
hormonal therapy is 18 years.
Hormonal Therapy for Adolescents. Hormonal treatment should be conducted in two phases
only after puberty is well established. In the initial phase biological males should be provided an
antiandrogen (which neutralize testosterone effects only) or an LHRH agonist (which stops the
production of testosterone only), and biological females should be administered sufficient
androgens, progestins, or LHRH agonists (which stops the production of estradiol, estrone, and
progesterone) to stop menstruation. After these changes have occurred and the adolescent's
mental health remains stable, biologic males may be given estrogenic agents and biologic
females may be given higher masculinizing doses of androgens. Medications used in the second
phase, estrogenic agents for biologic males and high dose androgens for biologic females,
produce irreversible changes.
Prior to Age 18. In selected cases, the real life experience can begin at age 16, with or without
first phase hormones.
The administration of hormones to adolescents younger than age 18 should rarely be done.
These first phase therapies to delay the somatic changes of puberty are best carried out in
specialized treatment centers under supervision of, or in consultation with, an endocrinologist,
and preferably, a pediatric endocrinologist, who is part of an interdisciplinary team. Two goals
justify this intervention: a) to gain time to further explore the gender and other developmental
issues in psychotherapy; b) make passing easier if the adolescent continues to pursue gender
change. In order to provide puberty delaying hormones to a person less than age 18, the
following criteria must be met:
(1) throughout childhood they have demonstrated an intense
pattern of cross-gender identity and aversion to expected gender
(2) gender discomfort has significantly increased with the onset of
(3) their social, intellectual, psychological, and interpersonal
development are limited as a consequence of their GID;
(4) serious psychopathology, except as a consequence of the
GID, is absent;
(5) the family consents and participates in the triadic therapy.
Prior to Age 16. Second phase hormonesthose which induce opposite sex body should not be
given prior to age 16 years.
Mental Health Professional Involvement is an Eligibility Requirement for Triadic Therapy
During Adolescence. To be eligible for the implementation of the real life experience or hormone
therapy, the mental health professional should be involved with the patient and family for a
minimum of six months. To be eligible for the recommendation of genital reconstructive surgery
or mastectomy, the mental health professional should be integrally involved with the adolescent
and the family for at least eighteen months. While the number of sessions during these six and
eighteen month periods rests upon the clinician's judgment, the intent is that hormones and
surgery be thoughtfully and recurrently considered over time.
School-aged persons with gender identity disorders often are so uncomfortable due to negative
peer interactions and a felt incapacity to participate in the roles of their biologic sex that they
refuse to attend school. Mental health professionals should be prepared to work collaboratively
with school personnel to find ways to continue the educational and social development of their
VI. Psychotherapy with Adults
A Basic Observation. Many adults with gender identity disorder find comfortable, effective
ways of identifying themselves that do not involve all the components of the triadic treatment
sequence. While some individuals manage to do this on their own, psychotherapy can be very
helpful in bringing about the discovery and maturational processes that enable self-comfort.
Psychotherapy is Not an Absolute Requirement for Triadic Therapy. Every adult gender
patient does not require psychotherapy in order to precede with the real life experience,
hormones, or surgery. Individual programs vary to the extent that they perceive the need for
psychotherapy. When the mental health professional's initial assessment leads to a
recommendation for psychotherapy, the clinician should specify the goals of treatment, estimate
its frequency and duration. The SOC committee is wary of insistence on some minimum number
of psychotherapy sessions prior to the real life experience, hormones, or surgery for three
reasons: 1. patients differ widely in their abilities to attain similar goals in a specified time; 2.
minimum number of sessions tend to be construed as a hurdle which tends to be devoid of the
genuine opportunity for personal growth; 3. the committee would like to encourage the use of
the mental health professional as an important support to the patient throughout all phases of
gender transition. Individual programs may set eligibility criteria to some minimum number of
sessions or months of psychotherapy.
The mental health professional who conducts the initial evaluation need not be the
psychotherapist. If psychotherapy is not done by members of a gender team, the
psychotherapist should be informed that a letter describing the patient's therapy may be
requested so the patient can proceed with the next phase of rehabilitation.
Goals of Psychotherapy. Psychotherapy often provides education about a range of options not
previously seriously considered by the patient. It emphasizes the need to set realistic life goals
for work and relationships. And it seeks to define and alleviate the patient's conflicts that may
have undermined a stable lifestyle.
The Therapeutic Relationship. The establishment of a reliable trusting relationship with the
patient is the first step toward successful work as a mental health professional. This is usually
accomplished by competent nonjudgmental exploration of the gender issue with the patient
during the initial diagnostic evaluation. Other issues may be better dealt with later, after the
person feels that the clinician is interested in and understands the gender problem. Ideally, the
clinician's work is with the whole of the person's complexity, not merely a narrow definition of
gender. The goal of therapy, to help the person to live more comfortably with in a gender role
and body, also means to deal effectively with nongender issues. The clinician often attempts to
facilitate the capacity to work and to establish or maintain supportive relationships. The
clinician understands a broader definition of gender--an aspect of identity that is inextricably
related to all aspects of living. Even when these initial goals are attained, mental health
professionals should discuss the likelihood that no educational, psychotherapeutic, medical, or
surgical therapy can permanently eradicate all vestiges of the person's original sex assignment.
Processes of Psychotherapy. Psychotherapy is a series of highly refined interactive
communications between a person who is knowledgeable about how people emotionally suffer
and how this may be alleviated and one who is experiencing gender distress. The
psychotherapy sessions initiate a developmental process. They enable the person's: history to
be appreciated, current dilemmas to be understood, and unrealistic ideas and maladaptive
behaviors to be identified. Psychotherapy is not a specific technology, informed by a specific
ideology, delivered to the patient to cure the gender identity disorder. Its usual goal is a long
term stable life style with realistic chances for success in relationships, education, work, and
gender identity and role. Gender distress often intensifies relationship, work, and educational
dilemmas. Typically, psychotherapy consists regularly held 50-minute sessions.
The therapist should make clear that it is the patient's right to choose among many options. The
patient can experiment over time with alternative approaches. Since most patients have tried
unsuccessfully to suppress their cross-gender aspirations prior to seeing the psychotherapist,
this recommendation is not realistic.
Ideally, psychotherapy is a collaborative effort. The therapist must be certain that the patient
understands the concepts of eligibility and readiness because they must cooperate in defining
the patient's problems and in assessing progress in dealing with them. Collaboration prevents
stalemates between a therapist who seems needlessly withholding of a recommendation and a
patient who seems too profoundly distrusting to freely share thoughts, feelings, events, and
Benefit from psychotherapy may be attained at every stage of gender evolution. This includes
the post-surgical period when the anatomic obstacles to gender comfort have been removed and
the person continues to feel a lack of genuine comfort and skill in living in the new gender role.
Options for Gender Adaptation. The activities and processes that are listed below have, in
various combinations, helped people to find more personal ease. These adaptations may evolve
spontaneously and during psychotherapy. Finding a new adequate gender adaptation does not
mean that the person may not in the future elect to pursue the real life experience, hormones,
and genital reconstruction. These activities and processes are focused on matters other than
real life experience, hormones, and surgery.
1. cross-dressing: unobstrusively with undergarments;
unisexually; or in a feminine fashion
2. changing the body through: hair removal through electrolysis
or body waxing; minor plastic cosmetic surgical procedures
3. increasing grooming, wardrobe, and vocal expression skills
1.cross-dressing: unobstrusively with undergarments, unisexually, or in a
2.changing the body through breast binding, weight lifting, applying
theatrical facial hair
3.padding underpants or wearing a penile prosthesis
1. learning about transgender phenomena from: support groups
and gender networks; communication with peers via the Internet;
studying these Standards of Care; relevant lay and professional
literatures about legal rights pertaining to work, relationships, and
2.involvement in recreational activities of the desired gender
3.episodic cross-gender living
1. acceptance of personal homosexual or bisexual fantasies and behaviors
(orientation) as distinct from gender role aspirations
2. acceptance of the need to maintain a job, provide for the emotional needs of
children, honor a spousal commitment, or not to distress a family member as
currently having a higher priority than the personal wish for constant
3. integration of male and female gender awareness into daily living
4. identification of the triggers for increased cross-gender yearnings and
effectively attend to them; for instance, develop better self-protective,
self-assertive, and vocational skills to advance at work and resolve interpersonal
struggles to strengthen key relationships
5. seeking spiritual comfort
VII. The Real Life Experience
The act of fully adopting a new or evolving gender role for the events and processes of
everyday life is known as the real-life experience. The real-life experience is essential to the
transition process to the gender role that confirms with personal gender identity. Since
changing one's gender role has immediate profound personal and social consequences, the
decision to do so should be preceded by an awareness of what the familial, vocational,
interpersonal, educational, economic, and legal consequences are likely to be. Professionals
have a responsibility to discuss these predictable consequences. These represent external
reality issues that must be confronted for success in the new gender role. This may be quite
different from the personal happiness in the new gender role that was imagined prior to the real
Parameters of the Real Life Experience. When clinicians assess the quality of a person's
real-life experience in the new gender role, the following abilities are reviewed:
1. to maintain full or part-time employment
2. to function as a student;
3. to function in community-based volunteer activity;
4. to undertake some combination of items 1-3
5. to acquire a new (legal) first or last name
6. to provide documentation that persons other than the therapist know that the patient
functions in the new gender role.
Real-Life Experience versus Real Life Test. Although professionals may recommend living in
the desired gender as a step toward surgical assistance, the decision as to when and how to
begin the real-life experience remains the person's responsibility. Some begin the real-life
experience and decide that this often imagined life direction is not in their best interest.
Professionals sometimes construe the real-life experience as the real life test of the ultimate
diagnosis. If patients prospered in the aspired-to gender, they were confirmed as "transsexual,"
if they decided against continuing, they "must not have been." This reasoning is a confusion of
the forces that enable successful adaptation with the presence of a gender identity disorder.
The real-life experience tests the person's resolve, capacity to function in the aspired to gender,
and the alignment of social, economic, and psychological supports. It assists both the patient
and the mental health professional in their judgments how to proceed. Diagnosis, although
always open for reconsideration, precedes a recommendation for patients to embark on the real
life experience. When the patient is successful in the real life experience, both the MHP and the
patient gain confidence in the original decision to embark on the path to the irreversible further
Beard Removal for the Male to Female Patient. Beard density is a genetically determined
secondary sex characteristic whose growth is not significantly slowed by cross-sex hormone
administration. Facial hair removal via electrolysis is a generally safe, time-consuming process
that often facilitates the real life experience for biologic males. Side effects are often discomfort
during and immediately after the procedure, and , less frequently, hypo-or hyper pigmentation,
scarring, and folliculitis. Formal medical approval for hair removal is not necessary; electrolysis
may be begun whenever the patient deems it prudent. It is usually recommended prior to
commencing the real life experience because the beard must be grown out to visible lengths so
that it can be most easily removed. Many patients will require two years of regular treatments to
effectively eradicate their facial hair. Hair removal by laser is a new alternative approach, but
experience with it is limited.
VIII. Requirements for Hormone Therapy for Adults
Eligibility Criteria The administration of hormones is not to be lightly undertaken because of
their medical and social dangers. Three criteria exist.
1. age 18 years
2. demonstrable knowledge of what hormones medically can and cannot do and
their social benefits and risks;
3. Either a documented real life experience should be undertaken for at least three
months prior to the administration of hormones Or
4. A period of psychotherapy of a duration specified by the mental health
professional after the initial evaluation (usually a minimum of three months)
should be undertaken
5. Under no circumstances should a person be provided hormones who has
neither fulfilled criteria #3 or #4.
Readiness Criteria. Three criteria exist:
1. the patient has had further consolidation of gender identity during the real-life
experience or psychotherapy;
2. the patient has made some progress in mastering other identified problems
leading to improving or continuing stable mental health (this implies an absence
of problems such as sociopathy, substance abuse, psychosis, suicidality, for
3. hormones are likely to be taken in a responsible manner.
Can Hormones Be Given For Those Who Do Not Initially Want Surgery or a Real Life
Experience? Yes, but after diagnosis and psychotherapy with a qualified mental health
professional following minimal standards listed above. These cases often are deeply
controversial and require particular caution.
IX. Hormone Therapy for Adults
Reasons for Hormone Therapy. Cross-sex hormonal treatments play an important role in the
anatomical and psychological gender transition process for properly selected adults with gender
identity disorders. These hormones are medically necessary for rehabilitation in the new gender.
They improve the quality of life and limit psychiatric co-morbidity which often accompanies lack
of treatment. When physicians administer androgens to biologic females and estrogens,
progesterone, and/or testosterone-blocking agents to biologic males, patients feel and appear
more like members of their aspired-to sex.
The Desired Effects of Hormones. Biologic males treated with cross-sex hormones can
realistically expect treatment to result in: breast growth, some redistribution of body fat to
approximate a female body habitus, decreased upper body strength, softening of skin, decrease
in body hair, slowing or stopping the loss of scalp hair, decreased fertility and testicular size,
and less frequent, less firm erections. Most of these changes are reversible, although breast
enlargement will not completely reverse after discontinuation of treatment.
Biologic females treated with cross-sex hormones can expect: a permanent deepening of the
voice, permanent clitoral enlargement, mild breast atrophy, increased upper body strength,
weight gain, facial and body hair growth, male-pattern baldness, increased social and sexual
interest and arousability, and decreased hip fat.
The degree of desired effects actually attained varies from patient to patient. The maximum
physical effects of hormones may not be evident until two years of continuous treatment.
Heredity limits the tissue response to hormones and cannot be overcome by increasing dosage.
Medical Side Effects. Side effects in biologic males treated with estrogens may include
increased propensity to blood clotting (venous thrombosis with a risk of fatal pulmonary
embolism), development of benign pituitary prolactinomas, infertility, weight gain, emotional
lability and liver disease. Side effects in biologic females treated with testosterone may include
infertility, acne, emotional lability (including the potential for major depression), increases in
sexual desire, shift of lipid profiles to male patterns which increase the risk of cardiovascular
disease, and the potential to develop benign and malignant liver tumors and hepatic
dysfunction. Patients with medical problems or otherwise at risk for cardiovascular disease may
be more likely to experience serious or fatal consequences of cross-sex hormonal treatments. For
example, cigarette smoking, obesity, advanced age, heart disease, hypertension, clotting
abnormalities, malignancy, and some endocrine abnormalities are relative contraindications for
the use of hormonal treatment. Therefore, some patients may not be able to tolerate cross-sex
hormones. However, risk-benefit ratios should be considered collaboratively between the
patient and prescribing physician.
Social Side Effects. There are often important social effects from taking hormones which the
patient must consider. These include relationship changes with family members, friends, and
employers. Hormone use may be an important factor in job discrimination, loss of employment,
divorce and marriage decisions, and the restriction or loss of visitation rights for children. The
social effects of hormones, however, can be positive as well.
The Prescribing Physician's Responsibilities. Hormones are to be prescribed by a physician.
Hormones are not to be administered simply because patients demand them. Adequate
psychological and medical assessment are required before and during treatment. Patients who
do not understand the eligibility and readiness requirements and who are unaware of the SOC
should be informed of them. This may be a good indication for a referral to a mental health
professional experienced with gender identity disorders.
The physician providing hormonal treatment and medical monitoring need not be a specialist in
endocrinology, but should become well-versed in the relevant medical and psychological
aspects of treating persons with gender identity disorders.
After a thorough medical history, physical examination, and laboratory examination, the
physician should again review the likely effects and side effects of this treatment, including the
potential for serious, life-threatening consequences. The patient must have the cognitive
capacity to appreciate the risks and benefits of treatment, have his/her questions answered, and
agree to medical monitoring of treatment. The medical record must contain a written informed
consent document reflecting a discussion of the risks and benefits of hormone therapy.
Physicians have a wide latitude in what hormone preparations they may prescribe and what
routes of administration they may select for individual patients. As therapeutic options rapidly
evolve, it is the responsibility of the prescribing physician to make these decisions. Viable
options include oral, injectable, and transdermal delivery systems. Topically applied hormonal
creams have not been shown to produce adequate cross-sex effects. The use of transdermal
estrogen patches should be considered for males over 40 years of age or those with clotting
abnormalities or a history of venous thrombosis.
In the absence of any other medical, surgical, or psychiatric conditions, basic medical
monitoring should include: serial physical examinations relevant to treatment effects and side
effects, vital sign measurements before and during treatment, weight measurements, and
laboratory assessment. For those receiving estrogens, the minimum laboratory assessment
should consist of a pretreatment free testosterone level, fasting glucose, liver function tests,
and complete blood count with reassessment at 6 and 12 months and annually thereafter. A
pretreatment prolactin level should be obtained and repeated at 1, 2, and 3 years. If
hyperprolactemia does not occur during this time, no further measurements are necessary.
For those receiving androgens, the minimum laboratory assessment should consist of
pretreatment liver function tests and complete blood count with reassessment at 6 months, 12
months, and yearly thereafter. Yearly palpation of the liver should be considered. Patients
should be screened for glucose intolerance and gall bladder disease.
Biological males undergoing estrogen treatment should be monitored for breast cancer and
encourage in engage in routine self-examination. As they age, they should be monitored for
prostatic cancer. Females who have undergone mastectomies who have a a family history of
breast cancer should be monitored for the disease. Gender patients, whether on hormones or
not, should be screened for pelvic malignancies as are other persons.
Physicians should provide their patients with a brief written statement indicating that this
person is under medical supervision which includes cross-sex hormone therapy. During the
early phases of hormone treatment, the patient should be encouraged to carry this statement at
all times to help prevent difficulties with the police.
Reductions in Hormone Doses After Gonadectomy. Estrogen doses in post-orchiectomy
patients can often be reduced by 1/3 to ½ and still maintain feminization. Reductions in
testosterone doses post-oophorectomy should be considered, taking into account the risks of
osteoporosis. Lifelong maintenance treatment is usually required in both sexes.
The Misuse of Hormones. Some individuals obtain hormones from nonmedical sources, such as
friends, family members, and pharmacies in other countries. These treatments are often
excessive in dose, produce more side effects, are medically unmonitored, and expose the person
to greater medical risk. Persons taking medically monitored hormones have been known to take
additional doses of illicitly obtained hormones without their physician's knowledge. Mental
health professionals and prescribing physicians should inquire whether their patients have
doses and make a reasonable effort to enhance compliance in order to limit medical and
psychiatric morbidity from treatment. It is ethical for physicians to discontinue taking medical
and legal responsibility for patients who place themselves at higher risk by noncompliance with
the prescribed hormonal regimen. Patient pressure is not a sufficient reason to deliver
substandard medical care.
Other Potential Benefits of Hormones. Hormonal treatment, when medically tolerated, should
precede any genital surgical interventions. Satisfaction with the hormone's effects consolidates
the person's identity as a member of the aspired-to gender and further adds to the conviction to
proceed. Dissatisfaction with hormonal effects may signal ambivalence about proceeding to
surgical interventions. Hormones alone often generate adequate breast development, precluding
the need for augmentation mammaplasty. Some patients who receive hormonal treatment will not
desire surgical interventions.
The Use of Antiandrogens and Sequential Therapy. Antiandrogens can be used as adjunctive
treatments in biologic males receiving estrogens, even though they are not always necessary to
achieve feminization. In some patients, antiandrogens may offer assistance by more profoundly
suppressing the production of testosterone and enabling a lower dose of estrogen to be used
when adverse estrogen side effects are anticipated.
Feminization does not require sequential therapy. Attempts to mimic the menstrual cycle by
prescribing interrupted estrogen therapy or substituting progesterone for estrogen during part
of the month are not necessary to achieve feminization.
Informed Consent. Hormonal treatments should be provided only to those who are legally able
to provide informed consent. This includes persons who have been declared by a court to be
emancipated minors and incarcerated persons who are considered competent to participate in
medical decisions. For adolescents, informed consent needs to include the minor patient's
assent and the written informed consent of a parent or legal guardian. Informed consent implies
that the patient understands that hormone administration limits fertility and the removal of
sexual organs prevents the capacity to reproduce.
Hormonal Treatment of Prisoners. Patients who are receiving hormonal treatments as part of a
medically monitored program of gender transition should continue to receive such treatment
while incarcerated to prevent emotional lability, reversibility of physical effects, and the sense of
desperation that may include depression and suicidality.
X. Requirements for Genital Reconstructive and Breast Surgery
Eligibility Criteria. These minimum eligibility criteria for various surgeries equally apply to
biological males seeking genital reconstruction and biological females seeking mastectomy and
phalloplasty. They are:
1. legal age of majority in the patient's nation
2. 12 months of continuous hormonal therapy for those without a medical
3. 12 months of successful continuous full time real-life experience. Periods of
returning to the original gender may indicate ambivalence about proceeding and
should not be used to fulfill this criterion
4. if required by the mental health professional, regular responsible participation
in a psychotherapy throughout the real life experience at a frequency determined
by the mental health professional. Psychotherapy, per se, is not an absolute
eligibility criterion for surgery.
5. demonstrable knowledge of the cost, required lengths of hospitalizations,
likely complications, and post surgical rehabilitation requirements of various
6. awareness of different competent surgeons
Readiness Criteria. The readiness criteria include:
1. demonstrable progress in consolidating the evolving gender identity
2. demonstrable progress in dealing with work, family, and interpersonal issues
resulting in a significantly better state of mental health (this implies an absence
of problems such as sociopathy, substance abuse, psychosis, suicidality, for
Can Surgery Be Provided Without Hormones and the Real Life Experience? Individuals who
"just" want mastectomy, penectomy, or genital reconstructive therapy without meeting the
eligibility criteria can not be provided bodily alterations because they are "special cases." Organ
removal or remodeling is a surgical treatment for a gender disorder. The surgery occurs after
many careful steps. Such surgery is not a patient right that once demanded has to be granted.
The SOC contains provisions for an individual approach for every patient, but this does not
mean that the general guidelines for the sequence of psychiatric evaluation, possible
psychotherapy, hormones, and real life experience can be ignored because a person desires just
one surgical procedure.
If a person has lived convincingly as a member of the opposite sex for a long period of time and
is assessed to be a psychologically healthy person after a requisite period of psychotherapy,
there is no inherent reason that he or she must take hormones prior to having a desired breast or
Conditions under which Surgery May Occur. Surgical treatment for a person with a gender
identity disorder is not merely another elective procedure. Typical elective procedures only
involve a private mutually consenting contract between a suffering person and a technically
competent surgeon. Surgeries for GID are to be undertaken only after a comprehensive
evaluation by a qualified mental health professional. Surgery may be performed once written
documentation testifies that a comprehensive evaluation has occurred and that the person has
met the eligibility and readiness criteria. By following this procedure, the mental health
professional, the physician prescribing hormones, the surgeon and the patient share in the
responsibility of the decision to make irreversible changes to the body. The patient who has
decided to undergo genital or breast operations, however, tends to view the surgery as the most
important and effective treatment to correct the underlying problem.
Requirements for the Surgeon Performing Genital Reconstruction. The surgeon should be a
urologist, gynecologist, plastic surgeon or general surgeon, and Board-Certified as such by a
nationally known and reputable association. The surgeon should have specialized competence
in genital reconstructive techniques as indicated by documented supervised training with a
more experienced surgeon. Even experienced surgeons in this field must be willing to have their
therapeutic skills reviewed by their peers. Willingness and cooperation with peer review are
essential. This includes attendance at professional meetings where new ideas about techniques
Ideally, the surgeon should be knowledgeable about more than one of the surgical techniques
for genital reconstruction so that the surgeon will be able to choose the ideal technique for the
individual patient's anatomy and medical history. When surgeons are skilled in a single
technique, they should so inform their patients and refer those who do not want or are
unsuitable for this procedure to another surgeon.
Prior to performing any surgical procedures, the surgeon should have all medical conditions
appropriately monitored and the effects of the hormonal treatment upon the liver and other
organ systems investigated. This can be done alone or in conjunction with medical colleagues.
Since pre-existing conditions may complicate genital reconstructive surgeries, surgeons must
also be competent in urological diagnosis. The medical record should contain written informed
consent for the particular surgery to be performed.
How to Deal with the Ethical Question Concerning Sex Reassignment (Gender Confirming)
Surgeries. Many persons, including medical professionals, object on ethical grounds to
surgery for GID. In ordinary surgical practice, pathological tissues are removed in order to
restore disturbed functions or corrections are made to disfiguring body features to improve the
patient's self image. These specific conditions are not present when surgery is performed for
gender identity disorders. In order to understand how surgery is able to alleviate the
psychological discomfort of the patient with a gender identity disorder, professionals who are
inexperienced with severe gender identity disorders need to listen to these patients discuss their
symptoms, dilemmas, and life histories. It is important that the professionals dealing with gender
patients feel comfortable about altering anatomically normal structures.
The resistance against performing surgery on the ethical bases of "above all do no harm"
should be respected, discussed, and met with the opportunity to learn about the psychological
distress of having a gender identity disorder from the patients themselves.
Genital, Breast, and Other Surgery for the Male to Female Patient. Surgical procedures may
include orchiectomy, penectomy, vaginoplasty and augmentation mammaplasty. Vaginoplasty
requires both skilled surgery and postoperative treatment. The three techniques are: penile skin
inversion, pedicled rectosigmoid transplant, or free skin graft to line the neovagina.
Augmentation mammaplasty may be performed prior to vaginoplasty if the physician
prescribing hormones and the surgeon have documented that breast enlargement after
undergoing hormonal treatment for two years is not sufficient for comfort in the social gender
role. Other surgeries that may be performed to assist feminization include: reduction thyroid
chondroplasty, suction-assisted lipoplasty of the waist, rhinoplasty, facial bone reduction,
face-lift, and blephoroplasty. These do not require letters of recommendation from mental health
professionals as does genital reconstruction therapy. The committee is concerned about the
safety and effectiveness of voice modification surgery and urges more follow-up research prior
to widespread use of this procedure. Patients who elect this procedure should do so after all
other surgeries requiring general anesthesia with intubation are completed to protect their vocal
Breast and Genital Surgery for the Female to Male Patient. Surgical procedures may include
mastectomy(chest reconstruction), hysterectomy, salpingo-oophorectomy, vaginectomy,
metoidioplasty, scrotoplasty, urethroplasty, and phalloplasty. Current operative techniques for
phalloplasty are varied. The choice of techniques may be restricted by anatomical or surgical
considerations. If the objectives of phalloplasty are a neophallus of good appearance, standing
micturition, sexual sensation, and/or coital ability, the patient should be clearly informed that
there are both several separate stages of surgery and frequent technical difficulties which
require additional operations. Even the metoidioplasty technique, which in theory is a one-stage
procedure for construction of a microphallus, often requires more than one surgery. The
plethora of techniques for penis construction indicate that further technical development is
necessary. Patients may undergo hysterectomy and salpingo-oophorectomy prior to
The mastectomy procedure is usually the first surgery performed for ease in passing in the
preferred gender role, but for some patients it is the only surgery undertaken. When the amount
of breast tissue removed requires skin removal, a scar will result and the patient is informed.
Genital surgeries often combine more than one of the above operations, but typically genital
surgery requires several separate operative procedures.
The Surgeon's Relationship with the Physician Prescribing Hormones and Mental Health
Professional. The surgeon is not merely an interchangeable technician hired to perform a
procedure. The surgeon is part of the team of clinicians participating in a long rehabilitation
process. The patient often feels an immense positive regard for (transference) and trusting bond
to the surgeon, which ideally will enable long term follow-up care. Because of the significance of
the surgeon to the patient, these physicians are responsible for awareness of the diagnosis that
has led to the recommendation for genital reconstruction. Surgeons should have a chance to
speak at length with their patients to satisfy themselves that the patient is likely to benefit from
the procedures apart from the letters recommending surgery. Ideally, the surgeon should have a
close working relationship with the other professionals who have been actively involved in the
patient's psychological and endocrinological care. This is usually best accomplished by
belonging to an interdisciplinary team of professionals who specialize in gender identity
disorders. Such gender teams do not exist everywhere, however. At the very least, the surgeon
needs to be reassured that the mental health professional and physician prescribing hormones
are reputable professionals with specialized experience with the gender identity disorders. This
is often reflected in the quality of the documentation letters. Since factitious and falsified letters
have occasionally been presented, surgeons should personally communicate with at least one
of the mental health professionals to verify the authenticity of their letters.
Surgery for Persons with Psychotic Conditions and Other Serious Mental Illnesses. Surgical
therapies are undertaken only for the treatment of the patient's gender identity disorder. When
severe psychiatric disorders with impaired reality testing--such as, schizophrenia, dissociative
identity disorder, borderline personality disorder, are present as well, a significant effort must be
made to improve these conditions with state-of-the-art psychiatric treatments before hormones
and surgery are contemplated. A reevaluation by a Ph.D clinical psychologist or psychiatrist
should be conducted within two weeks of surgery describing the patient's mental status and
readiness for surgery. It is preferable if the clinician has previously evaluated the patient. No
surgery should be performed while the patient is actively psychotic.
Postsurgical Follow-up by Professionals. In general, long-term postoperative follow-up is
encouraging in that it is one of the factors associated with a good psychosocial outcome.
Follow-up is also essential to the patient's subsequent anatomic and medical health and to the
surgeon's knowledge about the benefits and limitations of surgery.
Long-term follow-up with the surgeon is recommended in all patients to ensure an optimal
surgical outcome. Surgeons who are operating on patients who are coming from long distances
should include personal follow-up in their care plan and then ensure affordable, local, long-term
aftercare in the patient's geographic region. Postoperative patients may also incorrectly exclude
themselves from follow-up with the physician prescribing hormones, not recognizing that these
physicians are best able to prevent, diagnose and treat possible long term medical conditions
that are unique to the hormonally and surgically treated. Postoperative patients also have
general health concerns and should undergo regular medical screening according to
The need for follow-up extends beyond the endocrinologist and surgeon, however, to the
mental health professional, who having spent a longer period of time with the patient than any
other professional, is in an excellent position to assist in any post-operative adjustment