Detransitioning Happens, But Cannot Be Exploited To Push Transphobic Agenda

By Nitika on June 30, 2021

If you are unfamiliar with the word ‘transgender’ or what the letter T stands for in LGBTQ+, transgender people identify with a different gender from the one that was assigned to them at birth. Like most of the LGBTQ+ community, the trans community continue to face discrimination in every sphere of life, sexual violence, physical assault, bullying and even criminalisation.

One might expect to feel some kind of liberation in living your truth. But for a young trans person, this realisation is often followed by depression, suicidal thoughts, anxiety, stress, eating disorders, low self-esteem and other disorders.

According to the National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health, more than half of the youth identifying as trans or non binary have seriously considered suicide. It is important to note that this survey is pertaining to American youth, there is not enough or recent data available to ascertain the situation in India.

Transitioning is the process of people changing the way they look so that they feel true to their identified gender and are perceived that way by the rest of the world. That being said, transitioning can mean different things for different people. Some may choose to transition socially, while others may transition medically. Or they may not do any of these.

There is no ‘right’ or ‘acceptable’ way to transition. Coming out to your family and asking people to use your preferred pronouns is transitioning. Dressing or grooming yourself to match your gender identity is transitioning. Getting hormone therapy or hysterectomy is transitioning.

Not choosing to medically transition doesn’t make a trans person’s identity any less valid. After all, sex reassignment surgery and other medical procedures are expensive and may not be accessible or covered by health insurance.

Some trans people wait to transition, simply because they don’t have the necessary support system or finances. Even though there is no age limit when a person can medically transition, it does become difficult later in life.

So can a person transition and realise they no longer associate with their trans gender? Yes, a person may choose to detransition. Detransitioning is social, legal or medical reversal of transgender identification.

However, not identifying with trans identity is not the only reason why people detransition. There are several reasons that may influence this decision, many of which are out of their control.

As previously mentioned, the trans community is subjected to relentless physical, mental and emotional abuse by society. Without access to a strong support system and other resources, they may succumb to this abuse and suppress their identity.

Moreover, finding a job, fair workplace treatment, housing and other basic necessities as a trans person is not easy. What if they are not having an identity crisis, but rather crumbing under the incessant abuse and pressure that comes with being trans? They might not have any option but to detransition to their cisgender just to make ends meet.

At times, trans people may not be satisfied with surgery results and develop body dysmorphia, making them consider detransitioning.

While detransitioning happens, it’s very, very rare. Even though there is a lack of research and data on detransitioning, some groups are exploiting few cases that come to light to push their transphobic agenda.

In particular, Alt-Right Nationalists and Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminists (TERFs) are using detransitioning cases to invalidate trans identity. TERFs participate in excluding trans women from women’s spaces, opposing transgender rights and other transphobic acts. They are manipulating detransitioning to fit their own narrative that trans people are just confused or suffer from a misdiagnosed psychological illness.

And this ideology is hurting the trans community as well as people who detransition. Those who detransition may be labelled as traitor or shunned by the trans and LGBTQ community.

Also it is imperative to highlight that there is no data available in regards to people who chose to retranistion when they receive suitable support and resources. This is a logical possibility that cannot be disregarded.

So what can we do to support the trans community? Providing them with ideal medical, surgical and mental health services known as gender-affirming care is a good place to start. Trans people not only face discrimination in workplaces and public spaces, but have been also pathologized by the medical profession.

Are you a parent or guardian of a child questioning their gender identity? You cannot dismiss it as a ‘phase’. When teenagers are expected to make decisions about going to college, which is likely to put them in significant debt, they should be allowed to make decisions about their identity.

Create a safe, supportive and accepting environment to help them come in terms with their gender identity. If they want, you should allow them to transition socially. Make an effort to call them by their new chosen name and pronouns. Furthermore, if your child is prepubescent, you can discuss puberty blockers. This can buy them some time to solidify their gender identity. It is always helpful to seek guidance from trans support groups.

For some, their identity becomes clear even before they hit puberty, while others may start exploring gender identity later in life. It’s an ever evolving process. Let us lead with empathy and show actionable support to the trans community.

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