How Common are Sexual Reassignment Surgeries (SRS)?

Lili Elbe, 1926

Lili Elbe, 1926

Last week, it was announced that English actor Eddie Redmayne will play Lili Elbe in an upcoming film. Elbe, a Dutch painter, was one of the first recipients of sexual reassignment surgery (SRS). Elbe was born Elnar Mogens Wegener in 1882 and started the surgery in 1930 in Germany. SRS was very experimental at the time, and she went through a series of five operations that spanned over two years.

Naturally, this made me wonder how common SRS surgeries (both male-to-female and female-to-male) are in the U.S.

In 2008, Dr. Mary Ann Horton published a paper on just that, where she examined all SRS surgeries performed within calendar year 2001.

She found that 1.1K+ overall SRS surgeries were performed, 740 being MTF and 430 being FTM.

The incidence of SRS followed an overall ratio to 1:240K. This broke down to 1:190 for MTF and 1:330 for FTM.

Unfortunately, it’s not clear how we can project these numbers to grow and/or change moving forward.


In any case, the development with Redmayne’s casting is significant is that cis-woman Nicole Kidman was initially cast in the role five years ago. Cis-man Redmayne’s casting might signal a shift in how Hollywood perceives depictions of tradespeople.


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