An analysis of striking, brand new data on detransitioners

Individuals Treated for Gender Dysphoria with Medical and/or Surgical Transition Who Subsequently Detransitioned: A Survey of 100 Detransitioners, by Lisa Littman, was recently published October 19, 2021 in the Archives of Sexual Behavior. The full text of the original article is available for free, and I recommend setting aside time to read it in full.

In summary, she studied 100 detransitioners who had specifically both transitioned and detransitioned medically (not just socially), via hormones, surgeries, or both. Here I will present a few of the most striking findings:

In Table 2: Mental health diagnoses and traumatic experiences prior to the onset of gender dysphoria we can see that more than half of natal females in the study had prior mental health diagnosis (only 40.7% answered “none of the above”) while a whopping 47.8% experienced a trauma less than one year before the start of gender dysphoria. In Table 7: Self-appraisal of past transgender identification, 44.9% of natal females expressed “What I thought were feelings of being transgender actually were the result of trauma” and 40.6% believed “What I thought were feelings of being transgender actually were the result of a mental health condition.” Further down the original article, in the section titled “Transition and detransition narratives,” we see that “Most participants (58.0%) expressed the gender dysphoria was caused by trauma or a mental health condition narrative which included endorsing the response options indicating that their gender dysphoria was caused by something specific, such as a trauma or a mental health condition. More than half of the participants (51.2%) responded that they believe that the process of transitioning delayed or prevented them from dealing with or being treated for trauma or a mental health condition.”

In Table 3: Transition reasons, we can see that more than half of natal females endorsed both of the statements, “I thought transitioning would reduce gender-related harassment or trauma I was experiencing,” and “I felt I would be treated better if I was perceived as the target gender,” while 71% endorsed “it made me uncomfortable to be perceived romantically/sexually as a member of my natal sex/natal gender.” This alone ought to stop us dead in our tracks. No one should ever be made to feel that they should have to dramatically alter their bodies in order to protect themselves from harassment, trauma, or other mistreatment. The fact that young women who felt this way were green-lighted through the medical system despite being driven by these motives is chilling evidence of medical abuse and neglect; in other words, malpractice.

Interestingly, in Table 3 we can also see that while more than half of natal females believed both “I felt I would fit in better with the target gender” and “I felt I would be more socially acceptable as a member of the target gender,” and fully three-quarters stated that “I wanted others to perceive me as the target gender,” less than half stated, “I saw myself as a member of the target gender.”

We also see in the article section titled Transition and Detransition Narratives, “One-fifth (20.0%) of participants expressed that they felt pressured by a person or people to transition,” while in the section below table 2, “More than a third of the participants (37.4%) felt pressured to transition.” The difference between these two numbers raises a concern that some youth feel pressured to transition, not by people they know, but by online communities.

Overall, we see that the majority of these girls and women did not actually internally feel like they were boys and men, but hoped that they would externally be granted greater acceptance, approval, and belonging by attempting to present themselves as such, while one out of five felt explicitly pressured. This, too, ought to stop us dead in our tracks. It supports concerns I and other clinicians have voiced about the role of social pressures in creating the exponential growth in ROGD among young women.

When we read statements such as one participant’s belief that “being a ‘gay trans man’ (female dating other females) felt better than being a lesbian, less shameful,” (Transition and Detransition Narratives section), we have to question what is happening in the online communities. We see from the section below Table 2, “Participants identified sources that encouraged them to believe transitioning would help them. Social media and online communities were the most frequently reported, including YouTube transition videos (48.0%), blogs (46.0%), Tumblr (45.0%), and online communities (43.0%) (see supplemental materials). Also common were people who the respondents knew offline such as therapists (37.0%); someone (28.0%) or a group of friends (27.0%) that they knew in-person. A subset of participants experienced the friendship group dynamics identified in previous work, including belonging to a friendship group that mocked people who were not transgender (22.2%), having one or more friend from the pre-existing friend group transition before the participant decided to transition (36.4%), and experiencing an increase in popularity after announcing plans to transition (19.6%) (Littman, 2018).”

Below table 3 we can read participants’ narratives about these social pressures: “My gender therapist acted like it [transition] was a panacea for everything;” “[My] [d]octor pushed drugs and surgery at every visit;” “I was dating a trans woman and she framed our relationship in a way that was contingent on my being trans;” “A couple of later trans friends kept insisting that I needed to stop delaying things;” “[My] best friend told me repeatedly that it [transition] was best for me;” “The forums and communities and internet friends;” “By the whole of society telling me I was wrong as a lesbian;” and “Everyone says that if you feel like a different gender…then you just are that gender and you should transition.”

Table 3 also indicates that 38.7% of natal males agreed, “I had erotic reasons for wanting to transition.” Interestingly, 38.7% is the exact same proportion of the natal male population that identified as heterosexual, as seen in the demographic breakdown found in Table 1. This number does not take into account bisexuality in male transitioners (25.8%). Only 6.5% identified as homosexual and 9.7% as asexual, meaning the remaining 83.8% of natal males are sexually attracted to females, while 16.1% of these males oppose gay marriage. (See the full table for the entire demographic breakdown.) While we cannot know what degree of overlap there is between participants who endorsed one statement or the other, these first two statistics being numerically identical (37.8%) lends credibility to the notion that a significant portion of male transitioners are autogynephilic: that is, sexually attracted to women, and turned on by the idea of being a woman. It also validates the concerns many women have raised about the presence of males in women’s bathrooms and locker rooms: more than four out of five are sexually attracted to women. There is no inherent reason that people who are sexually attracted to women should not be allowed in women’s spaces; this would discriminate against lesbian and bisexual women. However, 2015 statistics show that under 6% of women are sexually attracted to other women; females are, on average, equally physically strong as other females and therefore rarely capable of overpowering one another; more recent statistics show that 90% of sexual assault victims are female while 99% of perpetrators are male.

Table 5: Reasons for detransitioning shows that the number one reason for detransitioning endorsed by natal females was, “My personal definition of female or male changed and I became more comfortable identifying as my natal sex,” (65.2%.) This lends credibility to the “watchful waiting” approach and the need for these young adults to receive support accepting their body as it is, especially when taking into consideration the information described above from table 3. In the article section titled Transition and Detransition Narratives, “Several natal female respondents expressed that seeing other butch lesbians would have been helpful to them as shown by the following: ‘What would have helped me is being able to access women's community, specifically lesbian community. I needed access to diverse female role-models and mentors, especially other butch women.’”

More than half of natal females were concerned about the physical health impacts of transitioning and nearly a third experienced worsening physical health as a result.

In the article section titled Transition and Detransition Narratives, we learn more about the roles of internalized homophobia and misogyny: “nearly a quarter (23.0%) of the participants expressed the internalized homophobia and difficulty accepting oneself as lesbian, gay, or bisexual narrative by spontaneously describing that these experiences were instrumental to their gender dysphoria, their desire to transition, and their detransition,” while 7.2% endorsed internalized misogyny in their narratives.

Finally, following table 7, we read that “while 50.5% selected answers consistent with being both helped and harmed, 32.3% indicated that they were only harmed and 17.2% indicated that they were only helped. The majority of respondents were dissatisfied with their decision to transition (69.7%) and satisfied with their decision to detransition (84.7%). At least some amount of transition regret was common (79.8%) and nearly half (49.5%) reported strong or very strong regret. Most respondents (64.6%) indicated that if they knew then what they know now, they would not have chosen to transition.”

That the average participant spent several years living as the opposite sex and using corresponding medical treatments prior to detransitioning. Combine this with the knowledge that less than a quarter told their doctors that they detransitioned, indicating that beyond the scope of this study, we have limited data on how common detransitioning actually is. Now add in the fact that medical transitioning is rising exponentially. Based on this information, it is reasonable to assume that within the next decade, we will also see an exponential rise in detransitioning. Many participants felt mistreated by their doctors and therapists. It doesn’t take much of a stretch to believe, therefore, that we are about to see a wave of lawsuits.

Though I can’t promise I will get around to it, I am hoping soon to do a similar review of the recent Substack post from Parents with Inconvenient Truths about Trans, Transgender Medical Interventions: Impacts on the Brain, Part II. This article is full of significant information about the medical dangers of transitioning.