It’s fairly well known that sexual reassignment surgery is associated with an increase in quality of life for transsexual people. Or, in other words, that transsexual people are happier after surgery than before surgery. OMH reviewed one such study specific to transsexual men. Studies so far have not examined another major component of medical transition: hormone therapy (HRT). Does HRT also improve quality of life? Finally, a study has been published which examines HRT and quality of life in transsexual people.
This new study looked at a group of pre-transition transsexual men and women. It compared their quality of life before and after starting HRT. They found that quality of life improved with HRT.
They also compared the quality of life of transsexual people with that of cissexual (i.e., not transsexual) people of the same age and sex. In that comparison they largely found that there was no difference in quality of life between transsexual and cissexual people… with two exceptions. Transsexual people had more problems than cissexual people with daily activities because of their physical health. On the other hand, cissexual people thought their health was poorer than transsexual people did.
One caveat, however: The results of this study may not be applicable to the entire transgender community. For example, this study specifically only looked at transsexual people who were over 18. HRT may or may not increase quality of life for transsexual people who are under the age of 18. This study also only included transsexual people who met the diagnostic criteria for Gender Identity Disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual IV-TR. It’s also worth noting that those criteria are changing with the DSM-V, and that there is a healthy debate over it. Additionally, this study was conducted in France. The results may be specific to France (or Europe, or the Western world). The experience of transsexual people from other areas may be different.
When I mentioned this study to a friend of mine, she looked at me and said, “Well…. duh.” She has a point — this research does seem obvious. Unfortunately we often stray when we base our decisions on anecdotal evidence. It’s always good to know that what seems like common sense really is sensical.
This study was published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine in volume 9, issue 2. The abstract is publicly available. Information on the measure of quality of life that was used is also publicly available.