The U.S. transgender population—historically, a difficult number to pin down—has garnered increasing attention in recent years, both in headlines and in research. According to a 2016 study by UCLA's Williams Institute, one of the most comprehensive attempts to measure this population to date, roughly 1.4 million Americans identify as transgender. That’s more than double the previous estimate found in 2011. Despite this increased visibility, confusion and misinformation about the nature of this community—and significant barriers to the health and well-being of its varied population—remain.

There is no "right" way to be transgender. Despite the prevalence of deeply ahistorical assumptions that trans and gender-nonconforming communities have emerged seemingly from nowhere over the past century, there's an enormous breadth of people, bodies and experiences that fall loosely under the umbrella term "trans."

Highlighting this diversity is important, not least because every trans person has different needs. Not all trans people seek hormone therapy or gender confirmation surgeries to alleviate their dysphoria.

But for those who do, these procedures are critically important—both the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics have affirmed the importance of access, particularly among trans youth, a demographic with an unusually high prevalence of suicidal ideation. Research indicates that gender-affirming care reduces suicide attempts among transgender individuals by as much as 40 percent. Unfortunately, those who do require these services face an uphill battle against a healthcare system that has proved inadequately equipped for that purpose.