Gender reassignment surgery and transitioning

Gender reassignment is any medical procedure that helps transgender people match their physical sex to their gender. If you want to change your gender, you will need to find a specialist doctor who can help you. Learn about transitioning, hormone therapy and gender reassignment surgery.

hands of doctor and patient
Photo: iStock/Cecilie Arcurs

Trans people can get services everywhere, not just with transgender specialists. For basic services, like stomach pain or a broken arm, any doctor or hospital can treat you. A hospital or doctor might send you to a specialist if you want to transition and are interested in gender reassignment surgery or other reassignment treatments.


Transitioning is when a trans person starts changing to match their gender. It is different for everyone. You can change your name, ID and pronouns (he or she). You can change your appearance, clothes, or makeup. You can have medical treatment and hormones. It can be a long or short process. It is never too late to transition, and everyone can make their own choices about gender reassignment.

Medically transitioning is when a trans person gets medical treatments so that their sex characteristics (genitals, body, voice) match their gender identity. You can learn more about transitioning.

Hormone therapy

Hormone therapy is when trans people take hormone medication every day. It is not surgery. It changes your appearance, how you grow hair, your voice, and more. It can feel like puberty, which is when your body goes through changes when you are a teenager. This is helpful for trans people who are not recognized for their gender.

Hormone therapy for transitioning to become female

When transitioning to become a female, a man takes estrogen. Estrogen can cause the skin to become thinner and produce less oil. Body fat moves to different areas of the body, such as the breasts and hips. Body hair will generally become thinner and less noticeable.

Hormone therapy for transitioning to become male

When transitioning to become a male, a woman takes testosterone. Testosterone can cause the skin to become thicker and more oily. Some people develop acne on their face and body. Breasts may become smaller and your body will develop more muscle. Testosterone will cause your voice to become lower and more hair to grow on your body.  

Side effects of hormone therapy

Many people can experience unpleasant side effects. Some people might have problems with their skin or may gain weight. Others may feel tired or might have stomach problems. Some have mental side effects like depression or mood swings. Remember that negative side effects are normal. Many people who are transitioning ask for help from their doctor or a mental health professional.

Length of hormone treatment

Hormone therapy is different for everyone. Your age, health, and mental state change how many hormones you will take and for how long. Some people choose to take hormones forever. For most people, it takes 1 to 2 years to see major changes in their body.

It is important to go to your doctor regularly when taking hormones for gender reassignment. Read more about hormone therapy for women and hormone therapy for men.

Gender reassignment surgery

Gender reassignment surgery (sometimes called gender-affirming surgery) is for trans people who want to change their body. Different surgeries can change body parts, like adding or taking off breasts or testicles. Trans men may choose to have their internal reproductive organs removed. These surgeries are expensive and may not be covered by insurance. Many of these surgeries are risky and cannot all be done at one time.

Some people choose to have facial surgery. Males transitioning to female might choose to have their trachea shaved. The trachea is the bump on the front of the neck that is bigger in men. Other surgeries for men include heightening the eyebrows and lowering the hairline. Women transitioning to male might want to get a chin implant. Others get jaw implants or nose surgery. There is no standard way to transition. What you want to look like is your choice.

How do I find gender reassignment resources?

Medical experts agree that gender reassignment is important for trans people. Transition-related care is covered by some public insurance and is offered free in some clinics. You can find LGBT resources on FindHello. Enter your address or location. Then choose “Healthcare and Mental Health.” When a list of resources appear, you can select “Type.” Choose LGBTQI.