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Detransitioning usually means when someone who is or has previously identified as transgender goes “back” to identifying with or presenting as their gender assigned at birth. What this involves can vary from person to person. Some people who detransition stop taking hormones or seeking other types of gender-affirming healthcare. They might start dressing in a way that’s seen as more in line with their gender assigned at birth. If they changed their name or pronouns, they might change them back. But just like there’s no one way to be trans, there’s also no one way for people to handle detransitioning! It all depends on the person, their reasons for doing it, and their own feelings and needs.
Is detransitioning common?
It is very uncommon for someone who is transgender to choose to detransition. About 97% of people who choose to transition do so with informed consent and never experience any major regrets. Those who do have regrets may or may not choose to detransition. About 5% of people who choose to detransition (about 0.03% of trans people) do so because they felt like transitioning was the wrong choice for them. For most people who detransition, the decision is complicated!
Why might someone choose to detransition?
There are lots of reasons why someone might choose to detransition.
The most common reason why someone might detransition is lack of support. Unfortunately, being trans isn’t widely accepted everywhere in the world. Some people who come out as trans might risk losing their job, losing custody of their children, or other serious repercussions. Someone in this situation might not want to detransition, but feel like they don’t have a choice. They might detransition temporarily, and go back to transitioning when they have more support.
Another potential reason for someone to detransition is if they’re not happy with the gender-affirming healthcare available to them. This is rare, and most people who take hormones or get surgery to change their gender presentation don’t regret doing it. But there have been some cases of people detransitioning because they weren’t comfortable with how hormones or surgery affected their body.
Someone might also choose to step back from medical transition if they don’t have options that reflect their identity. For example, someone who’s nonbinary might not be comfortable with treatment that’s geared towards binary trans people. Sometimes they might stop certain parts of their transition in order to go from a binary trans identity to nonbinary, or vice versa. This can also be called retransitioning.
Finally, some people detransition because they realize that they no longer identify as trans. Some of these people might feel regret about having identified as trans, but not all do. Many see it as just another part of their life’s journey!
How might someone detransition?
Just like there are lots of reasons why someone might detransition, there are also lots of ways to go about it. For most people who do it, detransitioning is a process. It’s not a switch they flip on or off!
Some people detransition by stopping whatever gender-affirming healthcare they’re getting. This could include going off hormones, or cancelling surgeries. Some people who do this might take different hormones or other medications to reverse the effects of their previous healthcare. They might also go “back” to using the pronouns and name they used before their transition.
Sometimes people might make changes to their healthcare that include going off hormones, but not try to reverse the effects of their previous healthcare or change their name or pronouns. They might refer to this as detransitioning medically, but not socially. Or they might not consider it detransitioning at all!
If someone detransitions, does that mean they’re not trans anymore? Or that they never were?
Whether someone is trans or cis is up to them! Everyone is different, not everyone’s identity is or will stay the same over time.
Often, when someone detransitions (or retransitions), they still identify as trans. They just choose to explore that through non-medical options. They might also put medical transition on “pause” and go back to it when more support and inclusive options are available.
A smaller number of people who detransition don’t identify as trans, or don’t identify openly as trans.
Detransitioning is a complex personal choice. There might not be one reason why someone decided to detransition, and that’s okay. Just because some people detransition doesn’t mean that everyone who transitions will! And whether someone is detransitioning or not, it’s still important to respect their identity. That includes calling them by the pronouns and name that they’re comfortable with.
Does detransitioning mean that there’s something wrong with being transgender?
No. The fact that a small group of people choose to detransition does not mean there’s anything wrong with being transgender. In fact, some who have detransitioned point to the support they got as proof that it’s important to respect someone’s identity whether or not they’re trans!
In recent years, some have claimed that because people might detransition, there should be more restrictions on gender-affirming healthcare. A few people who have detransitioned have gone on to talk publicly about feeling like they weren’t given enough information about their healthcare or the effects that transitioning would have on their body.
It’s important to know that these people are a very small minority, and they don’t reflect how most transgender people or even most people who have detransitioned feel. Most people who take HRT or have gender-affirming surgeries spend a lot of time learning about the potential effects before they go ahead with it. Most reputable doctors who help people transition spend a lot of time talking to their patients about the transition process and what to expect. It is very unlikely that someone would start transitioning without knowing the potential risks! And, because most people who detransition do so because they don’t have enough support to keep transitioning, making it harder to transition makes detransitioning more likely, not less.
Because everyone is different, people can experience things like gender differently. And that’s okay! As long as it’s not hurting anyone, everyone should have the right and the freedom to explore their identity in ways that feel good to them.