Study Shows that Discrimination, Stigma, and Social Pressure Make Transgender People Regret Transitioning
“Regretters” and “detransitioners” are often used as show cases by anti-trans activists, as they believe they are proof of all trans people being mistaken about their identities. The fact is that the number of detransitioners is very long. European studies show rates of regret between 0.3 and 4 percent.
It seems the numbers i the US is slightly higher. A recent study made at Harvard Medical School reports that 13.1% of currently identified transgender people have detransitioned at some point in their lives.
However, the study also found that 82.5% of those who have detransitioned say that their decision was caused by pressure from family, non-affirming school environments, and increased vulnerability to violence, including sexual assault.
“These findings show that detransition and transition regret are not synonymous, despite the two phenomena being frequently conflated in the media and in political debates,” said Dr. Jack Turban, fellow in child and adolescent psychiatry at Stanford University School of Medicine and lead author of the study.
“For most people, it appears detransition is forced upon them. Our results highlight the extreme barriers transgender people in the U.S. face when trying to live their lives authentically.”
A growing body of literature shows that exposure to discrimination and stigma increases the risk of poor mental health outcomes among transgender and gender diverse people. But findings from “Factors Leading to ‘Detransition’ Among Transgender and Gender Diverse People in the United States: A Mixed-Methods Analysis” suggest that stigma and discrimination should also be understood as obstacles to safely living in one’s gender identity and expression.
Here are some of the reasons given for detransitioning:
- Pressure from a parent (35.5%),
- Pressure from their community or societal stigma (32.5%)
- Trouble finding a job (26.8%).
- Pressure from medical health professionals (5.6%)
- Pressure from religious leaders (5.3%).
- Fluctuations in gender identity or desire (10.4%)
- Doubt about their gender identity (2.4%).
Trans people assigned male at birth, having a nonbinary identity or a bisexual sexual orientation are more likely to detransition, probably because they find it harder to live up to the traditional gender roles expected by many.
So what can we learn from this? Well, it looks like the transphobia in the surrounding society creates the conditions that makes some trans people detransition. In other words: The anti-trans activists are reinforcing a cultural setting that creates the very phenomena they then use to invalidate trans people. It is a vicious circle, indeed.
The fact that the rates of regret seems higher in the US compared to some European countries may have cultural causes.
Are there any “genuine” detransitioners out there, i.e. people who truly believe they made a mistake as far as their real gender identity go? Yes, and they deserve our compassion and support. But the number is so minuscule compared to all the trans people who never regret transitioning, that they cannot be used as an argument against transgender identities in general.