I’ve written many times about the “detransition myth”, the oft-repeated and thoroughly debunked claim that most trans kids who go through medical transition then change their minds. The short version: anti-trans groups tell you that 80% of trans kids detransition; the actual numbers show that 80% of gender non-conforming kids aren’t trans. Those kids aren’t given any medical treatment whatsoever.
It doesn’t stop the bullshit, unfortunately. The weekend papers were full of it once again this week, prioritising scaremongering nonsense from anonymous “concerned parents” over actual facts.
Wouldn’t it be great if the newspapers had some real numbers to work with?
Over the weekend, the various medical experts that comprise the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) had a conference. This is important, because it’s the WPATH guidelines that (eventually) inform the healthcare trans people are given. They’re a serious bunch.
One presentation analysed detransition rates in the Nottingham gender clinic, a very large provider of trans-related assessment, counselling and healthcare. Of the 303 trans kids studied, how many do you think detransitioned?
It should be easy. If there’s an 80% detransition rate, you’d expect to see 242 people detransitioning.
The actual number?
From the study:
Only one person of the 303 reviewed made a detransition (0.33%). They later transitioned again.
There were two other detransitioners, but they withdrew before ever attending the clinic. But even if you take them into account, the real world detransition rate was 0.99%.
The “why” is as interesting as the “how many”. Detransition wasn’t because the patients realised they weren’t trans. The patients said they couldn’t continue because their families were unsupportive: things were just too difficult.
Unlike the newspapers, I’m going to point out the flaws in the numbers I’m using to make my point. It was a study over one year, it’s just one gender clinic, and over time you’d expect more people to revert to their original gender presentation because as I’m the first to admit, this shit is hard. Forums are full of stories of people who came out and attempted transition only to retreat because their lives were so spectacularly shit due to lack of familial acceptance and the prejudice of others. Eventually they re-transition, but it’s often many years later.
I would expect the actual numbers over a longer period to be higher than 0.99%.
However, the numbers do correlate with others: the numbers from private trans health providers, many of whom can’t name a single case of permanent detransition; the surgical regret rate of 2% among gender confirmation surgery patients (that’s the kind of regret rate many surgeons can only dream of. It’s much higher among, say, cosmetic surgery providers); the many studies that show trans kids with supportive families living happier lives and the ones with unsupportive families living miserable ones.
One of the reasons detransition rates are so low is because we already have a cruel but effective way of weeding out people who aren’t serious or who aren’t strong enough to cope. It’s called the NHS. The system is so overloaded and waiting lists are so long that the supposed “fast tracking” you read about in the papers is a process that can take two or three years just to get to an initial assessment, with another couple of years of assessments.
What’s fast about that?