This post was written for a general audience, so please share it widely.
Detransitioner Awareness Day, the second Saturday in March, has been designed to raise awareness of Detransitioners around the world. The average person on the street may not know what a detransitioner actually is as it’s not as common as the much touted ‘transgender’.
So, who exactly is a detransitioner? You know what? It’s not as easy to define as you might think because different people and different organisations seem to have quite different definitions of who exactly qualifies to have the ‘detransitioner’ label. We see a detransitioner as anyone who has identified as a transgender person and has decided to re-identify as their natal sex and matching pronouns.
Most of you would have probably heard the term ‘self-identification’ for a transgender person. This is the term given to anyone who decides to label themselves as transgender. It can be a person who goes to a doctor or therapist, or even a school social worker or counsellor and declares themselves as being the gender (or more precisely, the sex) opposite to or aware from their natal sex (the sex determined by their chromosomes at conception). The person can simply declare their status as transgender, and they are accepted as such. What path they chose to follow can then be varied, but they are still considered ‘transgender’.
Pathways of Transition
The pathways commonly used for a transgender person can be social, where they can change their manner of dress, hairstyle and behavior, or more recently they can continue their life in basically the same manner they’ve always been without even changing their appearance. Generally, of course, they do change their pronouns. They generally choose a new name, sometimes gender-neutral Kai, Sky, River, Storm, Ash, Charli, etc., being quite common, or more traditional sex-based names. Anything goes really.
From there, some of these transgender people go on to medicalize. For younger trans identifying children, this can mean the off-label use of puberty blockers, or cross sex hormones (Oestrogen or Testosterone) depending on their age.
Cross sex hormones make significant changes to a human body aesthetically and medically. While we won’t talk about all the changes in depth here, we’ll focus on the more identifiable changes. Transgender identifying men tend to develop breast tissue, their skin becomes softer, and they start gaining weight around hip and thigh area. Transgender identifying females who take testosterone experience other changes. First and most noticeably is the change in their voices. Within a few short months, their voices begin to sound very much like a prepubescent male with the pitch that varies greatly, they develop facial hair, mainly around the jawline and hair on their chests, abdomens and back. Their leg hairs thicken and lengthen as do their arm hairs. Unfortunately, too, they often develop skin issues such as acne which can become quite severe, often requiring antibiotics. In the case of both males and females, the changes are significant and could be quite uncomfortable to endure. These changes are enhanced the longer the person takes cross-sex hormones.
If the person is still not happy with his or her “gender transition” after taking hormones, the next step is surgery. ‘Top Surgery’ is a new name for a radical double mastectomy. Most surgeons opt to use a method that leaves carefully placed scars beneath where the breasts were previously. Trans identifying males can have breast implants to get their desired feminine shape more quickly. Some doctors claim that at this stage, the surgery can be reversed if the person changes his/her mind, but in reality, will breast implants ever equate to natural breast tissue when many of the nerves have been damaged?
Next along the gender transition path is ‘bottom surgery,’ which involves the creation of a neo vagina (or hole in the genital area) for the natal males, or various types of surgery to create an appendage that represents a penis for natal females. Some trans-identified females just want the look of the penile appendage to fill up their underwear; some want to be able to use a urinal standing up, while some want it all and go for the full effect with the hope of being able to do all of those things, plus sexual penetration. I won’t go into specifics here as it’s something that can be researched, but you should know that these surgeries are often unsuccessful and by looking on various social media platforms you can read about specific experiences and how disappointingly different the outcome can be from their expectations.
Unfortunately, lack of research into detransitioners have left us with no real definition, but if transgender identifying people can say they are transgender, so too should a person who decides to change back to their natal sex be defined as a detransitioner, right?
Process of Detransition
If you look on most social media platforms, you can find many brave souls who’ve decided to detransition back to their natal sex. I say brave simply because I believe it takes a very brave person to realise they’ve made a very public mistake and decided to change back to the way they were born.
Detransitioners are often ridiculed heavily on social media. Trans activists who are often very vicious tell these people that they were not transgender to begin with. Oh, the irony of self-definition. They’re basically saying a transgender person can declare themselves transgender simply because they say so, but they don’t allow this privilege to those who decide to change back.
It’s not just social media where the detransitioners are no longer welcome, once they lose their ‘transgender’ label. They’re often no longer accepted in the Rainbow Clubs at schools. Once praised for their bravery for becoming their ‘true, authentic selves’, many detransitioners have found themselves social pariahs of the rainbow circuit.
It’s not just the social impact of being cancelled from their former peers that is an issue for the detransitioners. Imagine a once feminine looking female having male pattern baldness or thick facial hair deciding that she’s made a bad choice and wants to go back to being ‘female’. This is not an easy fix. Imagine having a voice that forever sounds like a male voice and the consequences that brings. Detransitioner females find themselves in situations where people think they are cross dressers, because despite their looks being female, their voices remain deep and masculine. It also poses problems when having to make phone calls and verifying ID. Your name is a female name, but the voice sounds male. Imagine a male who’s had vaginoplasty or breast implants deciding he wants to go back to being ‘male’, not to mention the often significant impact these surgeries have on the basic health of a person, especially with phalloplasty which often causes a lifetime of urinary problems amongst other physical and psychological health problems.
Gender Clinics Close the Door to Detransitioners
You might imagine the obvious place for these people to go would be their gender clinics where they once sought help and received help so easily to transition to the opposite sex. Unfortunately, this does not appear to be the case once a person decides they want to go back to their original appearance. We’ve found that gender clinics mostly tell detransitioners that they are unable to assist them. Look on funding platforms such as Go Fund Me and you’ll see requests for help with breast reconstruction, or breast implant reversals, permanent hair removal and other surgeries and medical interventions to try and get back their lost bodies. Many also seek help with funding for speech pathology to try and fix their ruined voices, especially the case for females who’ve taken testosterone. A female getting her feminine voice back appears to have no easy fix, and neither does the restoration of hair on heads once they experience male pattern baldness. Many detransitioners face significant mental anguish wishing they could turn back time and never have started taking the hormones or having the surgery to start with.
Complex Feelings with Parents
The other issue that detransitioners often experience is the shame or humiliation of what they put their parents and loved ones through when on their transitioning journey. Many detransitioners talk about the cult like brainwashing they experience with trans activist and others who groomed them to begin their transgender journey. This often means the transgender identifying person abandoning their families as in many instances the family does not give them the immediate affirmation or praise that they get from the trans activists and their peers. Parents are then seen as transphobic or bigoted and frequently the transgender identifying person is told the family does not care about them anymore.
Many parents who have had children join the transgender pathway are very distressed at the detransitioner’s pain and anguish. Most parents are keen to support these detransitioners in some way. They’ve been through a long and difficult journey with their own children who they still love and they hate the thought that any child would feel anguish in reconnecting with their parents and loved ones. Young people can assume that parents have not made their own mistakes in their life journeys: we parents have, and we have all had to face the consequences of the decisions that have been made. Our specific experiences may be different, but we understand looking back and feeling heartache.
So, on this Detransitioners Day, I’d like to express our sincere appreciation for the brave detransitioners who’ve spoken up about their experiences. We’d like to express our deep sorrow for the pain that detransitioners and their loved ones have experienced, and we’d like to pass on a feeling of hope. We want to tell detransitioners that you are not alone! Yes, you have experienced all sorts of social and medical issues that we may not have experienced, but as parents of children who’ve transitioned, we want to be able to help you all.
There has been some research done into detransitioners by our friend Lisa Littmann who was responsible for defining the term Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria (ROGD). There are also others looking into ways we can help and one of the things I believe we need is a standard definition of who qualifies as a detransitioner? We need to investigate ways of being able to access the help detransitioners need medically and socially to change back to their ‘authentic selves’.
We have been asked to share a petition to help get more of an accurate idea of a detransitioners’ journey and the number of people who are affected. We want to make gender clinics accountable for the products they’ve peddled onto often vulnerable youth. The more stories we hear, the more medical mismanagement we see and we want to be able to try to fix that. This petition is completely confidential, it takes no personal details, but it allows the researchers to get a better understanding of what’s happening in the detransitioner community. https://detranscount.wixsite.com/website
For any detransitioners out there or transgender identifying people who might be considering detransitioning, please reach out to someone for help. Many of the parent groups of rapid onset gender dysphoric youth, would be happy to try and help. We have much to learn from each other. You are not alone in this process. If you’re considering contacting your families, as a parent, I can say I’d be overjoyed to have contact with my child under any circumstances.
We hope you find peace.