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Detransitioning Retransitioning- Q&A

What do people mean by detransitioning?

Detransitioning refers to when people who have already transitioned choose to return to their assigned genders at birth. The term “detransitioning” has become a loaded term that is often used to try to delegitimise trans people’s identities. Hence, it is very important to stress that it does not necessarily indicate an unsatisfactory or regrettable result. Rather, it simply refers to the small proportion of people who transition and then decide to go back to their assigned genders at birth.

Do many people regret transitioning?

It is important here to look at the evidence. Research has shown that fewer than 1% of trans adults report regret after undergoing gender affirming medical treatment and gender reassignment surgery (Bustos et al., 2019; Davies et al., 2019). Therefore, the overwhelming majority of trans people do not regret transitioning.

With regards to trans children and adolescents, some early research seemed to suggest that many prepubertal children who display gender nonconformity later revert back to their genders assigned at birth when they reach adolescence (Zucker and Bradley, 1995). However, this research has been criticised for being methodologically inadequate, as it did not distinguish trans identity with other forms of gender nonconformity and focused on gender nonconformity in prepubertal children rather than on gender identity in peripubertal adolescents (Temple Newhook et al., 2018). Accordingly, data on gender nonconformity in prepubertal children cannot be used to draw conclusions about the outcomes of medical transition in peripubertal adolescents.

Many studies have subsequently shown that the rates of regret are very low in trans adolescents who receive gender affirming medical treatment. Over 95% of trans adolescents do not regret medical transition (Brik et al., 2020; Cohen-Kettenis and van Goozen, 1997; van der Loos et al., 2022). Furthermore, research has shown that gender identity remains stable in the overwhelming majority of trans adolescents (Olson et al., 2022).

Although detransitioning is very rare, it is important to recognise that it does sometimes happen. People detransition for many reasons and it does not necessarily mean regret. It can mean that a person no longer identifies as trans or that they feel they are now a different gender to the gender as which they previously identified. It can also mean a person has decided this moment is not the right time for them to transition and they might plan to transition when they have more support. However, the most common reason for detransition is that a person cannot cope with the family and community support they have lost and with the transphobia they have experienced since transitioning.

Those who detransition or report regret deserve support and care. It is also important to remember that the fact that some people detransition does not make the experiences and identities of trans people any less valid and authentic.

Why do people detransition?

The reasons why people detransition are diverse and will depend on their personal and social circumstances. While some people who detransition do so because they come to realise that they are not trans, other people may detransition for other reasons. For example, some people may detransition because they are unable to access ongoing gender affirming healthcare or because trans identities are not accepted in their social environments. Therefore, detransitioning does not necessarily indicate regret about transitioning and does not necessarily indicate that the person is not trans.

Recent research has found that around 90% of people who return to their assigned genders at birth in the United States do not do so because of regret or dissatisfaction, but rather because of pressure from family, school, work, or society to conform to cis gender norms (Turban et al., 2021). The National Center for Transgender Equality found that the most common reasons for detransitioning were lack of support at home, problems in the workplace, harassment, and discrimination (James et al., 2016). Other reasons include exploring a different gender identity, unrelated health issues, and financial complications. Only 5% of people who detransitioned (0.4% of all trans people) did so because they felt transition was not right for them.

The situation is also aggravated by gatekeeping and combative attitudes in healthcare. In many countries, including the United Kingdom, trans people have to spend years proving they are who they say they are in order to access treatment. The financial, social, and emotional burdens this causes make detransitioning more likely even though the people may wish to continue with transitioning. Therefore, it is important to ensure that our clinical practices and our social attitudes support transition for all those who require it.

What do I do if I want to detransition?

Some people who transition later choose to return to their assigned genders at birth, sometimes discarding their clothes, their accessories, and their hormones. Some call this detransitioning, some call it retransitioning, and some call it "trying out my birth gender again."

If you feel like transitioning is no longer right for you, or if you have doubts or questions, then you can always talk to us. Our priority is to ensure that your journey is safe and right for you.

What happens if someone decides to detransition?

This question often arises among people who are not trans however, trans people often have different concerns and questions, which might include:

  • "Am I making the right decision for me?"
  • "How can I gain acceptance from my doctor, family, friends, colleagues, and neighbours?"

Being transgender is not easy. Our society can be unwelcoming of diversity and cruel to minority groups. While we believe that acceptance will eventually come for trans and nonbinary people, the current reality is that they encounter a lot of prejudice and hostility, just for being their authentic selves.

Detransitioning often receives significant media attention. Sometimes it is used to try to delegitimise trans people’s identities by insinuating "see! I told you so!", but this response fails to see the complexities of the decisions and the difficulties for the people making them. While some people who detransition do so because they come to realise that they are not trans, other people may detransition for other reasons. For example, they might choose to go back to their assigned genders at birth due to the challenges associated with transitioning or due to lack of social acceptance. It is important to understand that people pursue transition and detransition for diverse reasons.

At GenderGP, we understand the complexities of this process. We embrace the diversity and authenticity of people’s identities and experiences. We believe that all people should have the freedom to explore their identities and to make choices that align with their authentic selves. If someone chooses to detransition or to take a different path, we will be there with open arms and nonjudgmental support. Our mission is to ensure that every person we serve feels respected, acknowledged, and empowered.

How can I support people facing these dilemmas?

You can provide the best support by simply being there. Believe them when they say they are or are not trans and ask how you can support them in this challenging world. Educate yourself, listen attentively, and offer unwavering support. Remember, their happiness and wellbeing should always be a priority. Trans people already question and ponder enough on their own. Together, we can create a more inclusive and compassionate society.

Let us not fear detransitioning as a failure. Instead, let us focus on creating a world where acceptance, understanding, and compassion prevail. Together, we can celebrate the diversity of gender identities and foster an environment where everyone can authentically thrive.

References

  • Brik, T., Vrouenraets, L. J. J. J., de Vries, M. C., and Hannema, S. E. (2020). “Trajectories of Adolescents Treated with Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone Analogues for Gender Dysphoria”. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 49: 2611–2618.
  • Bustos, V. P., Bustos, S. S., Mascaro, A., Del Corral, G., Forte, A. J., Ciudad, P., Kim, E. A., Langstein, H. N., and Manrique, O. J. (2019). “Regret after Gender Affirmation Surgery: A Systematic Review and Meta Analysis of Prevalence”. Plastic Reconstructive Surgery Global Open, 19: e3477.
  • Cohen-Kettenis, P. T. and van Goozen, S. H. (1997). “Sex Reassignment of Adolescent Transsexuals: A Follow-Up Study”. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 36: 263–271.
  • Davies, S., McIntyre, S., and Rypma, C. (2019). “Detransition Rates in a National UK Gender Identity Clinic”. 3rd EPATH Conference: Inside Matters, 118.
  • James, S. E., Herman, J. L., Rankin, S., Keisling, M., Mottet, L., and Anafi, M. (2016). The Report of the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey. National Center for Transgender Equality.
  • Olson, K. R., Durwood, L., Horton, R., Gallagher, N. M., and Devor, A. (2022). “Gender Identity 5 Years After Social Transition”. Pediatrics, 150: e2021056082.
  • Temple Newhook, J., Pyne, J., Winters, K., Feder, S., Holmes, C., Tosh, J., Sinnott, M. L., Jamieson, A., and Pickett, S. (2018) “A Critical Commentary on Follow-Up Studies and ‘Desistance’ Theories About Transgender and Gender-Nonconforming Children”. International Journal of Transgenderism, 19: 212–224.
  • Turban, J. L., Loo, S. S., Almazan, A. N., and Keuroghlian, A. S. (2021). “Factors Leading to ‘Detransition’ Among Transgender and Gender Diverse People in the United States: A Mixed-Methods Analysis”. LGBT Health, 8: 273–280.
  • van der Loos, M. A. T. C., Hannema, S. E., Klink, D. T., den Heijer, M., and Wjepjes, C. M. (2022). “Continuation of Gender affirming Hormones in Transgender People Starting Puberty Suppression in Adolescence: A Cohort Study in the Netherlands”. Lancet Child and Adolescent, 6: 869–875.
  • Zucker, K. J. and Bradley, S. J. (1995). Gender Identity Disorder and Psychosexual Problems in Children and Adolescents. Guilford Press.
Updated on January 12, 2024

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