Doctors have failed them, say those with transgender regret


In a unique Zoom conference, a number of detransitioners enumerated the ways they said the medical establishment initially failed them when they transitioned to the opposite gender, and again, when they decided to go back to their natal gender.

The forum was convened on what was dubbed #DetransitionAwarenessDay by Genspect, a parent-based organization that seeks to put the brakes on medical transitions for children and adolescents. The group has doubts about the gender-affirming care model supported by the World Professional Association for Transgender Health, the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and other medical groups.

“Affirmative” medical care is defined as treatment with puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones for those with gender dysphoria to transition to the opposite sex and is often followed by gender reassignment surgery. However, there is growing concern among many doctors and other health care professionals as to whether this is, in fact, the best way to proceed for those under aged 18, in particular, with several countries pulling back on medical treatment and instead emphasizing psychotherapy first.

The purpose of the second annual Genspect meeting was to shed light on the experiences of individuals who have detransitioned – those that identified as transgender and transitioned, but then decided to end their medical transition. People logged on from all over the United States, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, the United Kingdom, Germany, Spain, Chile, and Brazil, among other countries.

“This is a minority within a minority,” said Genspect advisor Stella O’Malley, adding that the first meeting in 2021 was held because “too many people were dismissing the stories of the detransitioners.” Ms. O’Malley is a psychotherapist, a clinical advisor to the Society for Evidence-Based Gender Medicine, and a founding member of the International Association of Therapists for Desisters and Detransitioners.

“It’s become blindingly obvious over the last year that ... ‘detrans’ is a huge part of the trans phenomenon,” said Ms. O’Malley, adding that detransitioners have been “undermined and dismissed.”

Laura Edwards-Leeper, PhD (@DrLauraEL), a prominent gender therapist who has recently expressed concern regarding adequate gatekeeping when treating youth with gender dysphoria, agreed.

She tweeted: “You simply can’t call yourself a legit gender provider if you don’t believe that detransitioners exist. As part of the informed consent process for transitioning, it is unethical to not discuss this possibility with young people.” Dr. Edwards-Leeper is professor emeritus at Pacific University in Hillsboro, Ore.

Speakers in the forum largely offered experiences, not data. They pointed out that there has been little to no study of detransition, but all testified that it was less rare than it has been portrayed by the transgender community.

Struggles with going back

“There are so many reasons why people detransition,” said Sinead Watson, aged 30, a Genspect advisor who transitioned from female to male, starting in 2015, and who decided to detransition in 2019. Citing a study by Lisa Littman, MD, MPH, published in 2021, Ms. Watson said the most common reasons for detransitioning were realizing that gender dysphoria was caused by other issues; internal homophobia; and the unbearable nature of transphobia.

Ms. Watson said the hardest part of detransitioning was admitting to herself that her transition had been a mistake. “It’s embarrassing and you feel ashamed and guilty,” she said, adding that it may mean losing friends who now regard you as a “bigot, while you’re also dealing with transition regret.”

“It’s a living hell, especially when none of your therapists or counselors will listen to you,” she said. “Detransitioning isn’t fun.”

Carol (@sourpatches2077) said she knew for a year that her transition had been a mistake.

“The biggest part was I couldn’t tell my family,” said Carol, who identifies as a lesbian. “I put them through so much. It seems ridiculous to go: ‘Oops, I made this huge [expletive] mistake,’ ” she said, describing the moment she did tell them as “devastating.”

Grace (@hormonehangover) said she remembers finally hitting a moment of “undeniability” some years after transitioning. “I accept it, I’ve ruined my life, this is wrong,” she remembers thinking. “It was devastating, but I couldn’t deny it anymore.”


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