Experiences of and barriers to transition-related healthcare among Korean transgender adults: focus on gender identity disorder diagnosis, hormone therapy, and sex reassignment surgery

Hyemin Lee, Jooyoung Park, Bokyoung Choi, Horim Yi, Seung-Sup Kim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

4 Citations (Scopus)


OBJECTIVES: Transgender people may encounter barriers to transition-related healthcare services. This study aimed to investigate the experiences of transition-related healthcare and barriers to those procedures among transgender adults in Korea.

METHODS: In 2017, we conducted a nationwide cross-sectional survey of 278 transgender adults, which named Rainbow Connection Project II, in Korea. We assessed the prevalence of transition-related healthcare, including gender identity disorder (GID) diagnosis, hormone therapy, and sex reassignment surgery. To understand the barriers to those procedures, we also asked participants for their reasons for not receiving each procedure. Further, this study examined their experiences of and the reasons for using non-prescribed hormone medications.

RESULTS: Of transgender people participated in the survey, 91.0% (n=253/278) were diagnosed with GID, 88.0% (n=243/276) received hormone therapy, and 42.4% (n=115/271) have had any kind of sex reassignment surgery. Cost was the most common barrier to transition-related healthcare among Korean transgender adults. Other common barriers were identified as follows: negative experiences in healthcare settings, lack of specialized healthcare professionals and facilities, and social stigma against transgender people. Among those who had taken hormone medications, 25.1% (n=61/243) reported that they had ever purchased them without a prescription.

CONCLUSIONS: Our findings suggest that barriers to transition-related healthcare exist in Korea and constrain transgender individuals' safe access to the needed healthcare. Institutional interventions are strongly recommended to improve access to transition-related healthcare. These interventions include provision of programs to train Korean healthcare professionals and expansion of national health insurance to include these procedures.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e2018005
JournalEpidemiology and health
Publication statusPublished - 2018 Jan 1



  • Gender identity
  • Health services for transgender persons
  • Republic of Korea
  • Sex reassignment surgery
  • Sexual and gender minorities
  • Transgender persons

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)

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