Over this past weekend, we saw some worrying headlines and conversations online about trans and cis people whose exploration of their gender identity involves detransition.
So let’s start with the reality: most people who transition do so without any regrets. Detransitioning is very rare, but it does happen. A research analysis showed that of the 3,398 trans patients who had appointments at an NHS Gender Identity Service between 2016 and 2017, less than one per cent said in those appointments that they had experienced transitioned-related regret, or had detransitioned. However, just because people have detransitioned it doesn’t make the experiences and existence of trans people any less valid or real.
Detransition does not in and of itself mean regret. It can mean that a person no longer identifies as trans or feel they are now a different gender to the one they previously identified as.
This is a discovery that may not have been able to come without taking the path they did. It’s also worth highlighting that some statistics out there that look at rates of regret focus on whether a person regrets a specific surgery – not whether they regret transition.
What we know from the research is that those acknowledgments of regret are actually most often related to unsatisfactory surgical results.
We also can’t forget that Gender Identity services in Britain are hugely under-supported and under-resourced. Waiting times for appointments at these clinics can be up to two years and patients can be forced to travel hundreds of miles to be seen. The lack of funding to ensure trans young people, and those who may be questioning their gender, are given the high-quality care and support they have a right to expect is a serious problem that needs to be addressed.
We need to understand and respect that the reasons why someone detransitions are often complex and nuanced – contrary to what some in the media and online may say.
The most common reason for detransition is the person couldn’t cope with the family and community support they lost and the experiences of transphobia. Where others may detransition because they are unable to find a job or housing.
We know from our research that one in seven trans people (14 per cent) aren’t open about who they are to anyone in their family, while one in four (25 per cent) were discriminated against when looking for a house or flat.
Just look at the story of Kate Hutchison, a trans woman who detransitioned for a period of time due to transphobia. As Kate writes: ‘The only time I saw visible trans people were when they were the focus of nasty jokes in the media or sensationalist headlines. I would get the same abuse in the street, and I saw no empathy or understanding in society as a whole for trans folks.’
Unfortunately, there are no statistics out there that show many people choose to retransition once they have more support structures in place.
So anyone who is concerned about detransitioning should be equally concerned with challenging the transphobia that is rife across our society. And we can’t treat detransition as the end of person’s journey in exploring their gender identity, as many will choose to retransition at a later point when they are safe and supported.
Every person, trans or not, should have the space and time to explore who they are, and have the support to do so. Where this happens, it allows people to be happy, healthy and feel included.
The policing of people who don’t conform to gender norms and stereotypes doesn’t just affect trans people. The demonisation of tomboys, butch lesbians and feminine gay men, is deeply harmful and shows the extent that misunderstanding these conversations around gender identity can affect us all.
We are working towards building a world where everyone feels comfortable and able to grow, change and be who they are without fear of discrimination or abuse.
At such a vital time for equality, we need to challenge myths and misconceptions about detransitioning, so we can change the way people think and feel about trans people.
Everyone who believes in equality needs to come together and be fierce, vocal allies for trans equality. Our work will not stop until every LGBT people is accepted – no exceptions.