Why the detransition debate is a necessary evil

Why the detransition debate is a necessary evil

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Image for postSource: https://www.theatlantic.com/video/index/562988/detransitioned-film/

I recently read deeply into the detransition phenomenon. Here is a summary of my readings: https://medium.com/@danapham.au/common-themes-of-the-detransition-phenomenon-6d6c05fd0fcb. Detransition is the cessation or reversal of a transgender identification or gender transition, whether by social, legal, or medical means. The overarching common theme of the phenomenon in recent times is that there are much more female-to-male (FTM) detransitioners than there are male-to-female (MTF) detransitioners. Why is that?

This is just speculation, but it seems that more cisgender (non-transgender natal) woman are transitioning as part of an unconscious, unhealthy coping mechanism only to realise this later, then detransition as a result. And since women are demonstrably more communicative, detransitioned women are probably talking about it more than detransitioned men. Women here are using transition to deal with various sorts of unaddressed trauma, and seem to be younger overall in this context. Young women not over 25 who started transitioning at 15?18 years of age. Perhaps these younger women see gender transition as a means to escape perceived sex-based oppression, usually brought on by one?s own misogynistic and/or homophobic thoughts. You?ll probably find that the worst cases of this can be found in Iran, where gender transitioning is sanctioned, but homosexuality is criminalised.

Males generally have less freedom to express themselves in gender-nonconforming (GNC) ways ? a boyish female is more acceptable to the general social eye than a girlish male. As such, GNC (cisgender) males is more likely to think twice about gender transition. I vividly remember during my teenage years before my MTF transition, I overheard a girl at school wishing out loud jokingly that if she was a boy life would be easier for a variety of social reasons, whilst I was there too chicken to come out as trans. Indeed, men are shamed more strongly for stepping out the masculine role in any domain, which is why transmen generally face less discrimination than transwomen. Compounding this problem is that, men are less likely to communicate their issues, so maybe that?s why we don?t hear more MTF detransition stories.

Again, this is all just my speculation. Unfortunately direct, formal research into detransition is lacking, and professional interest in the phenomenon has been met with contention. But to be clear, detransitioning stories are a good thing and not something people should get in the habit of shaming. There will always be some people who want to use the trans phenomenon to delegitimise trans people as a whole. But in actual fact, the detransition debate legitimises the fact that there is a tangible, biological basis to being trans that cannot and will never be as simple as an arbitrary identity. Detransitioners show that not one person can simply choose to be trans. Trans people are born trans and typically find out during puberty or earlier. If you transition and you?re not trans, then unsurprisingly you?ll give yourself gender dysphoria. Let?s have more open debate!

As a libertarian, I get wary of the state getting involved in the parenting of children, when it?s the children?s parents who should be doing the parenting. However, those who criticise parents for supporting their gender dysphoric children transitioning should also not be surprised over the criticism of parents who don?t support their gender dysphoric children transitioning. Respecting parents? rights is a two-way street, since parenting isn?t an easy gig for anyone. With more open debate on trans topics such as detransition, it?s ultimately a parent?s responsibility to make the best judgement calls they can make for their children based on widely available information, and live with the consequences of their decisions, good or bad.

However, if I had to give advice to a parent of a trans child, I would tell them that I?m very blessed that my East Asian genetics didn?t masculinise me badly during my male puberty, but other transgirls haven?t been so lucky. Surgeries to manipulate secondary sex characteristics like facial feminisation surgery are painful and expensive. Again, I?ve been very fortunate to be able to pass in society as a woman without needing such surgeries, despite lack of access to puberty blockers growing up. However, passing isn?t about superficial looks. Passing, for transwomen, is about getting on with life in society as women without people reading you as men. Passing is about long-term safety and well-being. Being trans isn?t fantasy play, it?s a very serious matter, and fertility does not take priority over mental health (we?re all God?s children, nothing wrong with adoption or fostering).

Some FTM detransitioners argue that hormone replacement therapy has become too accessible, especially for young people, with many being able to get hormone prescription after just a couple of appointments. Perhaps it has become too accessible in some jurisdictions, however, I don?t think the real problem here is the availability of hormones. Rather, it is clear that misunderstandings about gender identity is what drove these women to feel like transitioning to male, seeing it as the only way to avoid the perceived negative connotations of womanhood/femaleness.

Perhaps we as a society have some residual sexism left to combat through free discourse and debate, to remove the negative social pressures and connotations that these women feel, and in doing so we can both reduce FTM detransitions, and the harassment and anti-trans social pressures felt by transwomen. Whilst some people detransition because transitioning genders wasn?t right for them, others detransitioned not because it wasn?t right for them, but because of reasons such as financial barriers to transition, and social rejection in transition. Science is iterative, with understanding changing as new evidence arises, but what does the current science have to say about such insidious residual sexism?

Humans are created following a male-female dimorphic template, a blueprint of instructions contained within DNA and genetics. Syncopated development in utero of the fetal sex and fetal brain gender can lead to miswirings, which originate in entropy and the mutations that drive species-level evolution. Hormonal profiles, namely testosterone and estrogen, are generated according to the gonadal development in utero, ie the sexing of the fetus yields hormone engines.

Hormone receptors are populated 6?8 weeks following fetal sexual differentiation. When hormone receptors differ from those expected by the gonad-driven hormonal profile, gender dysphoria arises. Gender stereotypes are the natural expectation or average response of estrogen acting on a ?normal? female and testosterone acting on a ?normal? male. Gender roles are a post-hoc analysis of observed gender stereotypes, and are used to discourage divergence from ?normal? gender identity as demonstrated by the experiences of (FTM) detransitioners. This manifests when society, unintentional or not, reinforces gender roles, which are ironically defined by naturally-occurring gender stereotypes.

Trans people (who wouldn?t detransition) are another natural consequence of living in a world governed by entropy, evolution, and mutation. Sex does not define gender; we are more than just chromosomes. So here?s the gender ?chicken and egg? riddle: are gender-stereotyped behaviors reinforced by society simply because they are the expectation/norm of the dimorphic human template, based merely on the way testosterone acts on the ?normal? male brain and the way estrogen acts on the ?normal? female brain? Or do they become the norm through the reinforcement of gender roles that are subconsciously created from our observations of naturally-occurring gender stereotypes? Feminists fought to abolish the latter, and rightfully so. But it seems the residual is still around to give rise to the detransition phenomenon.

There?s a difference in the manifestation of similar characteristics in women that are driven by estrogen acting on the female brain (gender stereotypes), and a woman being pressured into behaving in accordance with expected gender roles, defined by society through the projection of determinism onto gender stereotypes. The only reason people are forcing themselves into norms to begin with is out of the fear of society?s response, which ironically results from their misunderstanding of the natural, biochemical origin of human gender identity. Nature ?chose? to rebel by proxy through entropy (it can?t be helped). This is probably the most scientific explanation available at present for both the predominantly FTM detransition phenomenon and the harassment and anti-trans social pressures felt by transwomen. Perhaps we as a society do have some residual sexism left to combat through free discourse and debate to protect everyone, trans or cisgender, young or old, from regret.

In light of lack of direct, formal research, this is why the detransition debate is a necessary evil, and it doesn?t have to be a zero-sum game. In Australia, we have The Australian Standards of Care and Treatment Guidelines for trans and gender diverse children and adolescents. These are reasonable guidelines, which include the following:

?It is clear that further research is warranted across all domains of care for trans and gender diverse children and adolescents, the findings of which are likely to influence future recommendations? Every child or adolescent who presents with concerns regarding their gender will have a unique clinical presentation and their own individual needs. The options for intervention that are appropriate for one person might not be helpful for another? Clinical guidelines for the management of co-existing ASD and gender dysphoria have recently been developed?

When a child?s medical, psychological and/or social circumstances are complicated by co-existing mental health difficulties, trauma, abuse, significantly impaired family functioning, or learning or behavioural difficulties, a more intensive approach with input from a mental health clinician will be required. This form of psychological support should be undertaken by a skilled mental health clinician with expertise in child cognitive and emotional development as well as child psychopathology, and experience in working with children with gender diversity and gender dysphoria. This support requires an understanding of the child and their family through a comprehensive exploration of the child?s developmental history, gender identity, emotional functioning, intellectual and educational functioning, peer and other social relationships, family functioning as well as immediate and extended family support, in a safe and therapeutic environment?

Providing psychological care to trans and gender diverse adolescents requires a comprehensive exploration of the adolescent?s early developmental history, history of gender identity development and expression, emotional functioning, intellectual and educational functioning, peer and other social relationships, family functioning as well as immediate and extended family support? Managing distress during the assessment process can be difficult for adolescents and significant pressure is often experienced by clinicians from an adolescent who is certain of their need for treatment. This is often exacerbated by long waiting times to see clinicians who can provide treatment for gender dysphoria. Working with the adolescent to manage their expectations about progress and their distress is a necessity. Occasionally, counselling those who consider or do obtain hormone treatment from non-medical sources (e.g. online, via friends) on the risks of doing so should be undertaken whilst providing ongoing support and care to reduce vulnerability and risk?

An increased prevalence of disordered eating behaviours exists in trans and gender diverse adolescents, possibly due to a desire to adhere to the perceived ideals of one?s experienced gender? It is therefore important that the assessment of adolescents with gender dysphoria includes consideration of the possibility of co-existing eating disorders. It has been suggested that addressing an adolescent?s gender dysphoria may improve disordered eating behaviours..?

I don?t think it would hurt trans people to include the topic of detransition in these guidelines, but even so, these guidelines seem to strike a good balance that actively tries to prevent detransitions from arising. I?ve noticed that a lot of detransition stories that can be searched via Google are predominantly North American and European/UK, but barely any Australian stories. Is it just the case that Australia has a smaller population, or does Australia really have one of the best set of trans healthcare practices in the world today?

The World Professional Association for Transgender Health?s (WPATH) Standards of Care (SOC) doesn?t reference detransition, although the majority of WPATH surgeons support the inclusion of detransition guidelines in the next (eighth) edition of the SOC. Perhaps in the detransition context, the next SOC edition should emphasise the gender ?chicken and egg? riddle: are gender-stereotyped behaviors reinforced by society simply because they are the expectation/norm of the dimorphic human template, based merely on the way testosterone acts on the ?normal? male brain and the way estrogen acts on the ?normal? female brain? Or do they become the norm through the reinforcement of gender roles that are subconsciously created from our observations of naturally-occurring gender stereotypes? The pie doesn?t need redistribution, it just needs to grow to benefit both trans people and detransitioners.

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