Gender surgeons on TikTok, Instagram: Appropriate or not?


A woman wearing purple surgical scrubs stares into a camera, looking frustrated, but doesn’t speak. Superimposed over her head is the text “just realized I only get to Yeet 4 Teets next week,” and a crying emoji. Rain appears to drip down over her while “Stan” by Eminem plays in the background.

That October 2020 TikTok by Sidhbh Gallagher, MD, a Miami-based plastic surgeon known as @gendersurgeon, had almost 10,000 likes and was tagged #topsurgery, #masculoplasty, #ftm, and #transman, among other hashtags.

“What health check do I have to get in preparation for teetus deletus?” is the question in another Dr. Gallagher TikTok. Dr. Gallagher is a prolific user of social media with over 268K TikTok followers and over 44K Instagram followers. Another Dr. Gallagher TikTok account, @thevagicianmd, has some 7K followers.

Another cosmetic surgeon, Tony Mangubat, MD, known as @Tikdoctony to his more than 200K followers, uses similar hashtags – like #teetusdeleetus – in his TikToks.

Clearly not medical terms, hashtags like #yeettheteet and #teetusdeletus are often used by the transgender community. The posts by Dr. Gallagher and Dr. Mangubat are part of an ever-growing wave of social media activity by medical professionals.

Plastic surgeons have never been shy about advertising their work – and many have taken to social media to do so, including showing before and after photos. A 2020 study published in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery found that the majority of such surgeons, especially those in private practice, use social media.

But the use of TikTok, Instagram, and other social media platforms by surgeons who specialize in gender reassignment raises questions about the appropriateness of promoting such procedures, especially to a younger-skewing audience.

Because of the limits on pornography and nudity of social media platforms, most social media posts by gender surgeons are about female-to-male (FTM) mastectomies, the fastest-growing transgender procedure.

The American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) started separately tracking gender-affirmation procedures in 2015. That year, members reported doing 1,360 FTM procedures.

In 2020, the ASPS further separated procedures into additional categories. That year – when many surgeries were postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic – FTM mastectomies grew by 15%, with 8,548 procedures performed, a far greater number than for any other transgender surgery, and a sixfold increase in the number of procedures done in 2015.

‘Gimmicky,’ but building community

Surgeons interviewed for this article said they use social media primarily to connect with patients and to educate in a light-hearted way.

While Dr. Gallagher acknowledges that using #teetusdeletus is “kind of gimmicky,” she said she doesn’t view it as unprofessional because she is “using the words of the community I serve.” Many of her patients have seen a medical professional “who just didn’t understand what it is to have gender dysphoria, didn’t understand what it is to be trans, so going from that experience to somebody who uses the same language as the community uses can be quite a comfortable experience,” she said in an interview.

Dr. Mangubat, a Seattle-area plastic surgeon who has been doing mastectomies for trans male patients since 1988, said he tailors his TikToks to that group. He likes TikTok – which he started using in early 2021 – because it has rules against bullying, swearing, and pornography, he told this news organization.

“It’s really not ... advertising ... it’s a community-building platform,” said Dr. Mangubat. “If you build community, people will trust you, and if you provide good accurate information, then people will be safer,” he said.

But, “I’m not telling them to come to me,” he stressed.

He always appears in scrubs and doesn’t do music, doesn’t dance, and doesn’t post before and after photos, but he still gets thousands – or sometimes hundreds of thousands – of likes.

His mission, he said, is to answer the community’s questions. “We’re reaching patients that have had their top surgery, that are going to have their top surgery, that are looking for how to get top surgery, that are just starting on testosterone, that haven’t started on testosterone – it’s the whole spectrum of patients,” said Dr. Mangubat.


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