Kentucky Clinic Refutes Andy Beshear’s Claim That Youth Gender Reassignment Surgeries ‘Don’t Happen’ in State

Dem governor has used claim to defend veto of bill that bans youth transgender surgeries

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear (Jon Cherry/Getty Images)
August 7, 2023

A University of Kentucky clinic is admitting it performed gender reassignment surgeries on minors before state lawmakers passed a ban on those procedures—legislation that Democratic governor Andy Beshear vetoed because he said the surgeries "don't happen in Kentucky."

In a March 2 letter obtained by the Washington Free Beacon, the university's Transform Health clinic said it has "in recent years performed a small number of non-genital gender reassignment surgeries on minors, such as mastectomies." Gender reassignment mastectomies, or so-called top surgeries, remove a biological female's healthy breast tissue to create "a more masculine-looking chest." The University of Kentucky confirmed the letter's accuracy, telling the Free Beacon that it has performed "non-genital gender reassignment surgeries" on patients as young as 16.

Beshear has faced intense criticism from Republicans over his veto of Senate Bill 150, which banned transgender surgeries and hormone therapies for minors after Kentucky's legislature on March 29 overrode the veto. Beshear has dismissed Republican claims that his veto shows he supports those surgeries. "I have never supported gender reassignment surgery for minors, and they don't happen in Kentucky," Beshear said in July.

The university's admission, however, shows that the surgeries did happen in the state before the bill's passage. The University of Kentucky's website divides "gender reassignment surgery" into two categories—"bottom surgery" and "top surgery." While the university says it has not performed "bottom surgery" on minors, it has performed "top surgery" on 16-year-olds in an attempt to help them "resemble their identified gender." Top surgery, the university says, "creates breasts for male-to-female transgender patients or removes breasts for female-to-male transgender patients."

Beshear's office did not return a request for comment on whether the governor was aware of the university's practices and whether he supports so-called top surgeries.

Senate Bill 150 did not ban youth gender reassignment mastectomies by name, but it did bar Kentucky health care providers from removing "any healthy or non-diseased body part or tissue" for the purpose of altering a minor's appearance or validating the minor's gender identity. The University of Kentucky confirmed that it is no longer performing what it calls "non-genital gender reassignment surgeries" on minors as a result of Senate Bill 150.

"UK HealthCare is fully compliant with the law, including SB 150," the university told the Free Beacon. "With the passage of SB 150, Transform Health no longer provides any services that support a gender transition in minors."

It's unclear when the university began performing gender reassignment surgeries on minors, though evidence suggests it offered the procedures as early as 2020.

In an online forum for transgender men, one commenter in March 2020 shared a list of surgeons in or near Kentucky "who operate on minors." The list included Dr. Kant Lin, who at the time served as Transform Health's plastic surgery partner. Lin in a 2018 video confirmed seeing "gender-affirming patients." Lin in May 2020 left Kentucky for the Medical College of Wisconsin, and his new online bio notes that he offers "gender affirming surgery" and that he sees adolescents.

While Beshear has worked to distance himself from transgender youth surgeries, he has endorsed puberty blockers and hormone therapy treatments for minors, calling them "basic medical decisions" that parents should "be able to make." Many experts say those treatments can cause long-term bone and fertility issues.