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Activism Must Not Abandon Adult Detransitioners

“Transitioning children is child abuse, but adults can do what they want.”

If you’ve taken part in any online gender discourse or witnessed the recent hearings in the United States addressing legislation restricting the sterilization and mutilation of minors, you’ve almost certainly heard someone make this statement.

The argument that gender “transition” procedures for minors are unethical because children are incapable of consent is undeniably strong and highly likely to change hearts and minds. Preventing impressionable youth from becoming victims of a predatory medical and pharmaceutical industry should be one of our top priorities, and it has motivated unlikely allies to unite for the cause.

Bills proposing bans or restrictions on “gender affirming care” for minors have been introduced in 21 US states this year, following pioneering regulations in Florida passed last November (1). Testimony from detransititioners, individuals who have experienced the horrors of the gender industry firsthand, most likely influenced the decision in Florida and other states, such as Utah, which are moving forward with similar legislation. However, most detransitioners who have testified in support of restrictions to pediatric gender care were adults when they transitioned, and this has been used to discredit them (2). Often, adult detransitioners are told that children cannot consent to gender procedures, but adults can, and that they need to take “personal responsibility” for their choices.

But just because someone is over the age of 18, does this mean she is automatically able to give consent to irreversible, experimental drugs and surgeries? What if she wasn’t given accurate information regarding the risks of a treatment, or the scope of possible risks wasn’t known at all due to poor-quality “science” supporting the treatment? What if there was a strong social incentive or even pressure from the medical personnel involved to pursue a certain treatment option? These conditions would preclude any rational person from being able to provide consent, let alone someone suffering from debilitating mental illness, which is far more common in trans-identifying people than in the general population. According to a 2019 study, of 10,270 trans-identifying patients, 58% had at least one psychiatric diagnosis, compared to just 13.6% of the general population, with the most common diagnoses being clinical depression and anxiety (3). A 2020 Italian study on the prevalence of personality disorders in transgender patients found that nearly half of the participants met the criteria for a personality disorder, a rate 5 times higher than in the general population. Borderline Personality Disorder was found to be the most common (4).

We are now witnessing increasing numbers of detransitioners reporting that they were not properly informed by their providers about the serious health implications of puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones, or surgeries. In a recent survey of 237 detransitioners, just 18 percent considered themselves to have been fully informed (5). The evidence supporting transition procedures is very weak, with most studies recognized to have a moderate to high risk of bias, and they rely on ideological presumptions - that gender identity objectively exists, and that “transgender” is a coherent category of people (6). Some individuals who choose to transition are aware that serious health complications are possible, but they have been convinced that the alternative is suicide, a false dichotomy. In light of this, it becomes clear that true informed consent is impossible for this medical experiment.