STUDY: Little known about detransitioners

Written by Genspect parent Derek Duval.

Although anecdotal accounts of detransition are rapidly mounting, there is a paucity of scientific evidence to describe the rate of and reasons for detransition. In Access to care and frequency of detransition among a cohort discharged by a UK national adult gender identity clinic: retrospective case-note review, published October 1 2021 by Cambridge University Press, the authors aim to quantify detransition among a cohort of 175 people who sought out medicalization at UK clinics in 2017 and 2018.

The authors ultimately provide the mildly stated conclusion that “detransitioning might be more frequent than previously reported.” They go on to provide substantial evidence that further study is needed and suggest that the methods for quantifying detransition are subject to several constraints.

R. Hall, L. Mitchell and J. Sachdeva

One noted limitation: “As data collection occurred for only 16 months after the most recent discharge, we may have underestimated the frequency of detransitioning. There is some evidence that people detransition on average 4 or 8 years after completion of transition, with regret expressed after 10 years.”

Also notable is that “more than one in five (21.7%) service users disengaged from the service and were discharged for non-attendance.”  Although it was beyond the scope of this study to examine this aspect, it is striking that more than 20% of those who had spent years on a waiting list to undergo medicalization dropped out, and no documentation exists to explain the reason(s). The authors address this, saying further study is required to understand “why service users disengage or rapidly seek re-referral post discharge, especially given the long waiting times at GICs.” Although rates of disengagement have not been correlated with rates of detransition, it does create some nagging questions.

A close reading of the study illuminates other troubling concepts, including how overwhelmed the UK health system is in trying to deal with the explosive increase in people seeking gender-related medicalization in the past decade. To address this, UK adult gender identity clinics (GICs) are attempting to streamline their service model without the benefit of well-documented stages of patient care from intake and assessment through treatment and longitudinal data of post-treatment outcomes.

The authors also conclude that “the traditional model of care in adult GICs is based on experience with older transwomen, not younger transmen or non-binary service users. There is a need to better understand the specific needs of this new younger generation of service users and shape services accordingly.”

We hope other researchers take to heart this urgent need for further inquiry and better understanding. It is imperative that we better understand detransitioners.

Image credit: Thiago Matos, Pexels

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