Research shows less than 5% who medically transition detransition, not 80%

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A 2006 studies on transgender people showed that less than 1% of transgender people regret their decision and detransition. Another, more recent lobgitudinal study spanning 50 years from the 1960s to its recent publishing date found a 2.2% de-transition rate.

..so why the consistent messaging in politics and social media that over 80% of kids affirming to be transgender will desist, or detransition, settling back to the gender they were assigned at birth?

I suspect this misrepresentation is part of a strategy to leverage anti-transgender and anti-LGBTQ2+ sentiment to promote socially-conservative views for political gains. In this article, I will debunk the 80% detransition claims with evidence.

Reddit art from a comprehensive defense of trans people

Reddit art from: a comprehensive defense of trans people

In an online response to a Sunday Times inquiry on the matter, the UK-based Gender Identity Research and Education Society, GIRES, recently wrote that:

A review of multiple studies show that there is less than 1% of regrets, and a little more than 1% of suicides among operated subjects.

— GIRES response to Sunday Times inquiry, Feb 9, 2019

This is a remarkably different number than the 80% dessistance rate claimed by TERF activist Megan Murphy, parental rights advocate Kari Simpson, Orthodox Christian school trustee Barry Neufeld, extreme-right politician Laura Lynn Thompson, pseudo-science flinging Evangelical Christian pastor Paul Dirks, paradoxically transphobic Jenn Smith, and others ferociously critical of considering the protection of gender identity or expression a civil rights issue.

A Reddit article titled A comprehensive defense of Trans people compiles a number of studies related to transition, including around regret, mental health and wellbeing, and the evidence that speaks for affirmative care to help transgender and nonbinary people to live their best lives.

In its 2011 report on anti-LGBTQ2+ sentiment, Egale Canada writes that:

While youth who actually identify as trans are comparatively small in number, they are highly visible targets of harassment. Trans students may report experiencing particularly high levels of harassment on the basis of perceived sexual orientation because often trans individuals are perceived as lesbian, gay, or bisexual when they are not. The heightened sense of lack of safety at school experienced by trans youth is likely due to the rigid policing of gender conventions (male masculinity and female femininity), which can make trans youth highly visible targets for discrimination and harassment.

— Egale Canada 2011 report Every Class in Every School

Egale Canada study on anti LGBTQ2+ discrimination and prejudice: every class in every school
Egale Canada study on anti LGBTQ2+ discrimination and prejudice: every class in every school

The Egale study illustrates the vulnerability of Trans youth to anti-Transse sentiment. Keeping them even more vulnerable by refusing gender-affieming care when they need it brings real consequences.

A recent article in Medium touches on the part transphobic oppression in our society plays on the decision by some to give up on transition. See the tweet below for the original article.

It is widely accepted that transgender people who elect to access gender-affirming medical care exhibit a very low rate of desistance. Claims otherwise are unsubstantiated by peer-reviewed evidence.

“It is widely recognised and evidenced by global experts in this field that to withhold treatment is not a neutral option, and causes measurable and significant harm.”

–GIRES, Feb 9, 2019

Let’s not succumb to ideologically-motivated claims based on any one particular filter of the existing scientific knowledge base to make diaproven claims of large rates of desistance by people who access medicalized transition. We know far less than 5% of people who make the vert difficult choice to transition change their minds.

Changing definitions in research

Paychiatry and psychology now recognize that out-of-stereotype gender expression is not an indication of somebody’s gender identity but part of the natural diversity of expression and experimentation during development. This is not one body didn’t the American Psychiatric association’s Diagnostic and statistical manual, currently in its fifth edition (DSM-V), the point of reference about the human psychiatric condition in North America.

Old research uses Gender Identity Disorder (GID) from the DSM IV, in which you could get diagnosed with GID if you liked non gender-conforming activities. This is no longer the standard used for evaluating if somebody is transgender. A lot of the kids in that research would not be deemed transgender today. They wouldn’t magically “become trans” later.
Research following adolescents shows that they do not tend to desist.
The rate of regret is not zero, but it is extremely small, i.e., 2-5%, so should we make the other 98% of kids suffer just in case they are part of the 2% of the 1% of the population? Certainly not, especially when there is mo data showing that there is any actual problem.

The Gender Affirming working Group has published a website to help address some of this confusion.

All transgender adults were once transgender teens. When a youth’s gender identity is persistent, consistent, and insistent, they know who they are and we owe it to them to make sure they are supported. It’s critical for us all to work together and protect Trans youth from transphobia regardless of the justification its advocates use to leverage to drive it home.

150,000 Canadians are transgender, and 1.5 million Americans. If as reported 5% of the 2/3 who medically transition do in fact desist, this is 7,000 and 70,000 respectively in Canada and the US.

As always, individual stories of detransition are compelling and important facts about the existence of a phenomenon, it takes more than dozens or even hundreds of stories to show anything is amiss in how people transition.

Some interesting data from a survey on people who DO detransition can be found on this post in the detrans subredit

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