They’re women who, in their teens, realized that they were actually men, socially transitioned to the other sex, and then underwent hormone therapy to change their bodies, faces, and voices to become transgender men. After varying amounts of time, however, they all realized they had made a big mistake, stopped testosterone therapy, and “detransitioned” back to being who they were before.
By their own accounts, they had been adamantly trans in their teens. “I was the student trying to get a professor fired because he wouldn’t allow they and them to be used for a singular person in my papers … I threatened my parents and friends with suicide. It became part of my identity to be suicidal. I screamed at my parents about this, even though I knew I wasn’t going to kill myself.” One went by the pronouns xe and xer and flew into a rage if she was misgendered. Once they had transitioned, and felt miserable nonetheless, they felt that this too was just part of being transgender.
How typical are these responses? We can’t tell, because in the U.S., it’s close to impossible to get an empirical grasp on it. The Reddit group for detransitioners has over 6,000 members, which might be indicative — but certainly some of that number includes observers and people merely questioning their transition. Clinical research on this topic is scant and tenuous. Even in Britain, where the NHS keeps statistics, and where there is only one center devoted to treatment of transgender kids (the Tavistock Centre), there’s no data on detransitioning.
The pressure on parents to give puberty-blocking drugs or cross-sex hormones to gender-dysphoric kids or teens is also intense. “Do you want a happy son or a dead daughter?” is the usual formula, deploying statistics on suicide among transgender people.
All the women I spoke with who detransitioned now date women or don’t date at all. Their transition was based entirely on how they felt at the moment, which they now regard as a false signal about their long-term identity. Which prompts the question: How much of the extraordinary surge in transgender girls is related to their discomfort with being a lesbian? What role does homophobia play in enabling transition?