The phenomena of trans people pausing, ceasing or reversing medical or social transition — typically and incorrectly grouped under the term detransitioning — is a politically charged one. Detransition is also often used — also incorrectly — as a synonym for “regret” and used to justify bans or restrictions on treatment.
The data is complex and inconsistent, but rates of cessation of medical transition are very low and represent a very small number of the trans population.
The reasons why a person would stop or reverse their gender transition are varied, ranging from pressure from family, financial or employment difficulties, medical conditions, abuse due to their trans identity, lack of social support, desiring to have children, religious or political beliefs to dissatisfaction with their transition.
A minority of those who detransition do so upon realising they are not trans after all.
Detransition can involve one or more of the following:
- Stopping, pausing or reversing gender-affirming hormone therapy (e.g. someone taking masculinising hormones if they were previously on feminising hormones)
- Returning to a gender presentation and pronouns aligned with a person’s birth sex
- Using a previous name or their birth name
These are all deeply personal decisions, and not everyone who makes these decisions might consider themselves to have detransitioned.
At other times, some trans people who have transitioned may temporarily detransition to present as their birth sex in contexts like:
- meeting relatives who are unaware that they’re trans
- travelling or working in certain parts of the world
- meeting job requirements
- or fulfilling conscription-related obligations.
Both detransitioning and retransitioning are valid choices. As long as a person knows and has full knowledge of the risks and effects, they should have the autonomy to detransition or retransition independent of social and familial pressures.
Detransition is not synonymous with transition regret
Some people detransition without regretting transition. Others regret transition but do not detransition.
Transition regret is rare, especially when it comes to surgery. A January 2023 study of 1,989 trans patients in the US found that only 0.3% regretted surgery and requested a reversal. Regret rates for hormone therapy are higher but difficult to quantify, as many trans and non-binary people intentionally choose to only be on hormones until permanent changes (such as voice changes or breast growth) have taken effect. Others pause treatment in times of financial difficulty, or even detransition until they are more financially stable.
Some who detransition but experience no regret may feel that their transition helped them better understand themselves or their gender-related care needs, or gave them valuable perspectives that they are grateful for. In other cases, they may have experienced a shift in their understanding of their gender – such as realising they are non-binary, or that they do not experience much body dysphoria and are content with living as their gender without medical intervention.
Conversely, there are trans people who regret transition but do not detransition. This regret may stem from the financial, social and emotional difficulties associated with living as a trans person, or even realising that they were wrong about their identity and that transition has instead given them gender dysphoria.
Nonetheless, they may find the idea of detransitioning to be even harder, especially if transition has alleviated their gender dysphoria. Others who realise they are not trans after all may feel that they have come too far to turn back, and may have built up a life in the meantime that they are happy with and do not wish to lose.
Regret may also disappear when a trans person experiences greater acceptance in their lives.
About two-thirds of those who stop transitioning eventually transition again when the initial barriers – like lack of family or social support, or financial difficulty – have been resolved.
Like detransitioning, forms of retransition can also be fairly varied – such as reverting to a chosen name or restarting gender-affirming hormones.
Healthcare for detransitioners
People who opt to reverse their transition require the same kind of healthcare offered to those wishing to transition. The medical interventions available will work just as well in reverse, but some changes from initial transition are permanent or cannot be reversed, or require surgical correction.
Read more here: Healthcare for detransitioners