After transitioning in private, some transgender people are preparing to return to the workplace at a time when gender identity itself is a politically divisive issue.
The era of remote work during the pandemic provided an opportunity to take the next steps in their transitions, according to interviews with more than 30 transgender people, their doctors and advocates.
Data on medical transitions during the pandemic remains hard to come by, although anecdotal evidence from the interviews suggests an increase in surgeries compared with previous years. No database tracks the total number of people in the United States who undergo medical transitions each year, but seven regional and local health care providers reported stronger demand for transition operations in 2021, compared with 2020, when many surgeries were paused because of the pandemic. Demand was also higher in 2021 compared with 2019.
While some of the increase can be attributed to operations that were postponed while hospitals were overwhelmed by Covid patients, doctors in the field also offered other explanations.
They note that more employers are covering transgender health care in insurance plans, that surgical techniques are becoming safer and resulting in better cosmetic outcomes, and that more hospitals are offering these services to patients.
Even as access to transgender medical care has increased, the subject is a political and cultural flashpoint in the United States, with tensions sometimes playing out in the workplace despite efforts at greater inclusion by some employers.
Deke Wilson, who underwent five transition surgeries while working remotely, said he was somewhat nervous about going back to the office, but also thrilled about feeling comfortable in his own body.
“I’m a little excited for people to see the changes,” he said.