- Elie Vandenbussche
Detransition-Related Needs and Support: A Cross-Sectional Online Survey
The aim of this study is to analyze the specific needs of detransitioners from online detrans communities and discover to what extent they are being met. For this purpose, a cross-sectional online survey was conducted and gathered a sample of 237 male and female detransitioners. The results showed important psychological needs in relation to gender dysphoria, comorbid conditions, feelings of regret and internalized homophobic and sexist prejudices. It was also found that many detransitioners need medical support notably in relation to stopping/changing hormone therapy, surgery/treatment complications and reversal interventions. Additionally, the results indicated the need for hearing about other detransitioners’ experiences and meeting each other. A major lack of support was reported by the respondents overall, with a lot of negative experiences coming from medical and mental health systems and from the LGBT+ community. The study highlights the importance of increasing awareness and support given to detransitioners.
In recent years, there has been an increasing interest in the phenomenon of detransition. Many testimonies have been shared by self-identified detransitioners online and detrans communities have formed on social media. This phenomenon started to attract the attention of scholars, who have emphasized the need for research into the specific needs of this group (e.g., Butler & Hutchinson, 2020; Entwistle, 2020; Hildebrand-Chupp, 2020). A few case studies have been conducted in order to explore individual experiences of detransition (Pazos-Guerra et al., 2020; Turban & Keuroghlian, 2018). The latter studies highlighted the complexity of detransition experiences but did not provide sufficient data to assess the general needs and characteristics of detransitioners. The current study aims to explore this issue in more depth and to serve as a basis for future research on the phenomenon of detransition.
To date there has been little agreement on a definition of the word “detransition.” As explained by Expósito-Campos (2021), this term has been used interchangeably to refer to what he perceives to be two distinctive situations: in the first, the detransitioning individual stops identifying as transgender; in the second, they do not. It is therefore necessary here to clarify exactly what is meant when writing about detransition.
In this paper, I will be using the following concepts: “medical detransition,” “social detransition” and (male or female) “detransitioner.” Medical detransition refers to the process of ceasing/reversing the medical aspects of one’s medical transition. This might include stopping or changing hormone therapy and undergoing reversal surgeries, among others. Likewise, social detransition refers to the process of changing/undoing the social aspects of one’s social transition. For example, it might include presenting oneself as one’s birth sex again, changing one’s post-transition name or going back to using the pronouns associated with one’s birth sex.
The term “detransitioner” will be used here to refer to someone who possibly underwent some of these medical and/or social detransition steps and, more importantly, who identifies as a detransitioner. It is important to add this dimension, because the act of medical/social detransition can be performed by individuals who did not cease to identify as transgender and who do not identify as detransitioners or as members of the detrans community. Furthermore, some individuals might identify as detransitioners after having ceased to identify as trans, while not being in a position to medically or socially detransition due to medical or social concerns. As Hildebrand-Chupp (2020) puts it: “[B]ecoming a detransitioner involves a fundamental shift in one’s subjective understanding of oneself, an understanding that is constructed within these communities.” (p.802). More qualitative research should be conducted in order to better understand how members of the detrans community define themselves and make sense of their own detransition process. However, this goes beyond the scope of this study.
The creation of support and advocacy groups for detransitioners in recent years (e.g., DetransCanada, n.d., Detrans Voices, n.d., The Detransition Advocacy Network, n.d., Post Trans, n.d.) testifies to the formation of a detrans community whose members have specific needs. Scholars and clinicians have recently started raising concerns around the topic (e.g., Butler & Hutchinson, 2020; Entwistle, 2020; Hildebrand-Chupp, 2020; Marchiano, 2020). However, little research has been done specifically into the characteristics of this seemingly growing community.
Two informal surveys conducted by detransitioners (Hailey, 2017; Stella, 2016) have explored the demographics and (de)transition experiences of members of online female detrans communities. These will constitute interesting points of comparison in the discussion section of the current research.
The purpose of this exploratory study is to offer an overview of the current needs of detransitioners from online detrans communities, which will hopefully serve as a useful basis for further experimental studies around the topic of detransition. The current research primarily seeks to address the following questions: What are the current needs of detransitioners? What support is given to detransitioners in order to fulfil these needs?