Detrans Awareness Day 2022: A Q&A With Fourteen Detransitioners and Desisters

For Detrans Awareness Day 2022, we reached out to a few detransitioners and desisters who were willing to do a Q&A with us. This was a written interview completed online, including eighteen questions about transition and detransition. This page is a sampling of their answers to five of the eighteen questions.

Click on the name below any quote to read that person’s full Q&A. To read each person’s full Q&A, including many questions and answers not included in this summary, please click here for the directory. There is a great deal of wisdom in these interviews, and I highly recommend reading them in their entirety.

Fourteen women and men, ages 15 to 35, shared their thoughts with us. This group includes seven detransitioned women, three detransitioned men, and four desisted women. (In this article, we’ll use the term “detransitioned” for anyone who underwent medical intervention, such as taking hormones or having surgery, and “desisted” for anyone who socially transitioned but did not medically transition. People who socially transitioned and then re-identified with their birth sex sometimes also use the term “socially detransitioned”.)

Our interviewees started identifying as transgender as young as age eleven, or as old as age twenty-four. They identified as transgender for anywhere between two years and nine years, and for those who took cross-sex hormones, they were on hormones for anywhere from less than a year to more than six years. Five people in the group had some form of sex reassignment surgery, either mastectomy or genital surgery. All of these men and women are commendable for their courage in relaying their experiences to us, and permitting us to publish them. We hope that this will help others in the same situation feel less alone. We would like our audience to understand that if you feel that living as your birth sex will be physically or psychologically healthier for you, it’s never too late. Support is waiting for you if you are ready to reach out.

What were some messages about men and women, or about gender expression and sexuality, that you received in your early life, before identifying as transgender? What were your beliefs about those things?

Nine of our interviewees wrote that they felt discomfort as a result of being pressured to fit into stereotypes based on their sex. Others wrote that they were aware of gender stereotypes but didn’t attach importance to them, or that they were raised in a gender-neutral environment.

I was taught that the first humans were Adam and Eve (the myth where woman was born of man) and was indoctrinated into fundamentalist Christianity. I was taught that women were “womb-men” and that our purpose is to bear and raise children. I was forced to wear a dress and itchy stockings, and in the church, only men had positions of authority. I didn’t have strong female role models and even my mother told me that men were better than women. I saw how boys were allowed more freedom and agency.

Lauren, 29, USA 🡽

Emotions are the domain for women, a famous quote by my Dad. A highly homophobic environment both towards men and women. I was confused because I was same sex attracted and was extremely scared of being rejected by my family.

Ritchie, 35, UK 🡽

I wasn’t really taught about gender roles, especially not by my parents. My brother used to dress up in my princess dresses, I played with his toys, and that was fine. I guess it was when I went to secondary school, an all girl’s school, that things began to change. Anyone who didn’t fit the stereotypical girly girl type was automatically an outcast.

Sophie, 19, UK 🡽

I was raised to be whoever I genuinely was. I got piercings young. I’ve been dying my hair since I was 11. My family was very open to whoever I chose to be, and I greatly appreciated that. There were no “men’s roles” or “women’s roles”.

Allison, 20, St. Louis 🡽

What sources (friends, specific websites, specific social media sites, therapists, books, etc) did you rely on the most for information on how a person can figure out if they are transgender? What thoughts, feelings, or internal experiences did these sources say were evidence that a person is trans?

Eight people mentioned social media as a source of information on how to tell if a person is transgender. Four used Tumblr, and the rest used a variety of other sites. The next most common source of information was a therapist or psychiatrist: two people got information from their therapist, and two from their psychiatrist. Two people wrote that they had a romantic partner who was transgender and who tried to convince them that they were also trans.

Three people mentioned being told by others on social media that there is no specific symptom or experience a person has to have in order to be transgender. Two people were told via social media that people who aren’t transgender never wonder whether they are or not, and therefore if are wondering whether you are trans, you must be trans. Other things given as evidence that a person is transgender are: being a boy who is feminine-acting, being a girl who prefers boyish clothing, feeling that life would be better as the opposite sex, having mostly male role models as a girl, feeling uncomfortable in one’s body, and being a boy who had wished to be a girl at a young age.

Social media, and therapists. Social media said it was just like feeling weird in your body, therapists used the DSM.

Rose, 19, California 🡽

I used Tumblr and YouTube. The communities that I was a part of were accepting and affirming to an extreme degree. People commonly talked about how there’s no right way to be trans and how everyone is ‘trans enough’. There were essentially no requirements to being trans other than ‘feeling like a boy’, ‘not feeling like a girl’, feeling ‘gender euphoria’ while dressing a certain way, etc.

Emily, 21, Virginia 🡽

I relied the most on my gender therapist and random websites on the internet (can’t remember specific sites anymore). I strongly started to believe that I must be a woman, because my femininity was overpowering my masculinity so much. I didn’t knew about gender stereotyping back then and nobody explained it to me, so I was convinced being transgender.

Yuki, 27, Austria 🡽

Did you work with a therapist while considering transition, or during your transition? What are some things the therapist said or did that was helpful, and what was unhelpful? Do you think there is something that a therapist could have said or done that would have led to a better outcome for you?

All ten of the people who medically transitioned had discussed transition with a therapist before taking medical steps. Nine of the ten were formally diagnosed with gender dysphoria and approved for medical transition by a therapist.

Six detransitioners wrote that their therapist did not encourage them to think about the consequences of transition, or the possible underlying causes for their desire to transition. The most common remark was that people wished the therapist had encouraged some level of introspection about the decision to transition. No one wrote that their therapist did encourage introspection – the remaining responses were neutral or didn’t address that topic.

Three people mentioned that their therapist was aware that they had another serious mental health condition, including two (eating disorder and psychosis) that are known to cause people to feel uncomfortable in their body. For all three, the therapist did not address the possible connection between their mental health challenges and their desire to transition.

One detransitioned woman wrote that her gender therapist had privately believed that she was not transgender, but did not communicate this to her while acting as her therapist before and during the medical transition process, and only confessed it after she announced that she was detransitioning.

Saw therapists for other mental health issues and was immediately referred to a gender therapist the second I stated I was considering transition. Continued to see ED (eating disorder) therapist, who treated me but never addressed transition. Gender therapist didn’t say much. Just gave me a bunch of “evaluation” exercises. I think if she had challenged me more or genuinely said she didn’t believe I was trans (she admitted when I detransed that she had a feeling I wasn’t), I would have thought it through more.

Willow, 22, USA 🡽

Therapist disregarded diagnosed psychosis. I was scared about gatekeeping and tried my hardest to seem ok. Never questioned me apart from just staying on an AA which I knew was medically dangerous. Never challenged why I wanted bottom surgery so badly. Couldn’t admit I had internalized homophobia and misandry. I needed a genuine challenge and introspection. Too much affirmation and fear of offending. It would probably be best to only allow psychiatrists or psychologists to allow transitioning.

Karu, 23, Canada 🡽

Yes, the therapist was old school and seemingly did not leave the twentieth century. She had me read materials dating back to the eighties and had me socially transition for a year – “Real Life Experience” – before considering writing a letter for hormones. She had me watch surgery videos, which helped me to avoid surgery knowing how intense it was. At times she was very condescending and I got fed up with her and quit therapy. I saw a nurse practitioner later to go on T.

Lauren, 29, USA 🡽

I never told my therapists about being trans because I thought they would just tell me it was because of my sexual trauma and not take me seriously and I didn’t want to deal with that. That is what my mom said when I told her I was trans and it made me very angry at the time and although it ended up being true, I wasn’t ready to understand that and it made me feel like I was stuck, vulnerable, alone and like nobody would take me seriously.

Daisy, 23, United States 🡽

The therapists only affirmed me in my feelings and gave me space to vent. They did not offer any help in terms of helping me accept my birth sex. They believed the solution was to transition. A better outcome would’ve been if they tried to help me be okay with my birth sex (since that is what I wanted). It’s not “conversion therapy” if the person consents and wants that.

Hannah, 19, USA 🡽

A Note On Therapy

For people who are familiar with therapy, but not with the political landscape of gender therapy, it can be confusing to hear that therapists didn’t encourage introspection, or that they signed off on medication or surgery for a client whom they believed wouldn’t benefit from it. Training and resources for therapists working with gender-questioning clients overwhelmingly come from transgender advocacy groups, not neutral professional sources. These resources often warn the therapist that the usual building blocks of therapy – encouraging clients to see a situation from all angles and gently challenging their assumptions – should not be used with gender-questioning clients, because the client may find it invalidating. Instead, therapists are encouraged to give clients “space to vent” and a supportive environment to help them become more secure in their identity as transgender. This is known as “affirmation therapy”.

Conversion therapy laws, which were originally used to prevent conversion therapy on gay people, are sometimes interpreted as banning a therapist from encouraging a client to introspect on their beliefs related to gender identity. This applies even in cases where the therapist wants the client to think more deeply about medical decisions out of a sincere concern for their well-being, without any religious or political agenda. It also still applies in cases where the therapist sees red flags in the client’s decision-making process, such as believing that they must be transgender because they enjoy crossdressing. In some countries and U.S. states, a therapist may be hesitant to challenge that belief in a client, out of concern for violating conversion therapy laws. This is especially concerning because beliefs such as these – that enjoying the clothing, hobbies, or interests associated with the opposite sex means you are transgender – are common in social media spaces that focus on gender identity.

Major U.S. organizations such as the American Psychological Association also base their recommendations for gender-dysphoric clients primarily on input from transgender advocacy groups. They therefore tend to discourage therapists from challenging any beliefs a client holds about their gender identity, even if the therapist does not have an anti-transgender motive in doing so. European organizations are more mixed in their approach, with variation from country to country.

When did you first start to question your trans identity or consider detransitioning?  What factors do you think led you to no longer identify as trans?

There was no one consistent reason why people started to consider detransitioning. Two people experienced regret as a result of having sex reassignment surgery, and two others felt uncomfortable with some of the body changes brought on by cross-sex hormones. Three women recognized over time that they were lesbians, and embracing lesbian identity and community made them feel more comfortable living as women. Three people wrote in that they recognized an underlying reason for their desire to transition – trauma, internalized misogyny and homophobia, a need to fit in with a transgender partner and friend group – and this realization helped them decide to detransition.

Four people moved from identifying as transgender to identifying as nonbinary, before eventually fully detransitioning. The remaining ten detransitioned directly back to living as their biological sex.

Once I was 12, my “male” identity began to die, but I, still afraid of the concept of being female, started to identify as “non-binary”, which was certainly a sign that I was not truly transgender. I began to question if I were, all along, simply a lesbian or bisexual [I, as I have stated prior, am now a lesbian], and eventually forgot about my previous identities. The sole factor that led to my realization that I was not transgender was that I merely never was in the first place.

Cecil, 15, USA 🡽

Some time after my 27th birthday I learned about non-binary gender identities. I had a short non-binary phase and then heavily started to question why “gender” as a concept even exists. I hated taking HRT for over a year already and it made me feel sick, so I made the decision to stop this madness.

Yuki, 27, Austria 🡽

I started questioning the HRT (hormone replacement therapy) after maybe 3 years on T, and slowly decided to stop after 5 years total (continued for 2 years to not be distracted in my studies). Disidentifying has been a slow process for me. I will give some hints as to what happened: I felt assimilated into heterosexuality. I felt disingenuous to my past self. I was iffy about my chest hair. I felt very secure in my social position (steady partner, good friends). I found other butch lesbians. I learned about lesbian history.

Emma, 28, Northern Europe 🡽

This year. I really learned to appreciate my body and the little things that make womanhood so amazing.

Jade, 18, Virginia 🡽

What advice would you give to someone who is working on building a good life after detransitioning?

The two stand-out pieces of advice were to pursue healthy friendships and spend time doing activities that make you happy. We couldn’t agree more.

Love yourself. It’s corny, but after learning this important fact it should bring forth self love.

Jade, 18, Virginia 🡽

Make it not about gender.

Emma, 28, Northern Europe 🡽

Live what you enjoy. If, like me, you enjoy playing music, really focus on that and make it your comfort, especially while you’re readjusting to being your birth gender to everyone.

Sophie, 19, UK 🡽

Take it slow and do not rush to treat being detrans as another identity.

Ritchie, 35, UK 🡽

Heal yourself ❤ therapy! Therapy does absolute wonders with learning to love yourself again.

Allison, 20, St Louis 🡽

Whatever you need to do to make yourself happier, do it.

Rose, 19, California 🡽

 
 

Thank you for reading.

To learn more, please visit our resource directory.

Or, you can click here to read the full Q&As of all the women and men who contributed to this project.