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Regret About Transitioning: When Trans Teens Have Second Thoughts

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Regret can be devastating. This is especially true for kids who regret transitioning to a different gender. Children and teenagers who take medical steps to change gender but later have second thoughts face difficult dilemmas. Some teens attempt to detransition. Yet hormones and surgeries lead to lasting physical and emotional effects.

Debates about trans kids and gender identity have ramped up. Businesses that support trans rights face boycotts, often sparked by Pride Month messaging. As of June 2023, 19 U.S. states have enacted laws restricting access to “gender-affirming” health care for minors.

Americans who embrace the LGBTQ movement seek to empower people of any sexual orientation or identity. Others are pushing back against what they call a harmful movement. They say peer pressure regarding gender identity is confusing vulnerable young people.

The debate about trans kids involves important questions. Are minors old enough to make life-altering decisions about their own bodies? Are doctors rushing children into gender-affirming health care? What if kids later regret the steps involved with transitioning? Is detransitioning possible? Is it successful?

Parents and church leaders should stay informed so they can have discussions with kids.

The Debate About ‘Gender-Affirming Care’ for Kids

Teens with gender dysphoria may take hormones or puberty blockers to transition. Some have surgery to change their appearance even further. Experts say counseling and screening are essential, but many fear that isn’t occurring. Some teens describe having easy access to prescriptions for estrogen or testosterone. Others say doctors “medicalized” their cases too quickly.

“My [gender] dysphoria collided with my general depression issues and body image issues,” says a young adult who transitioned but later had second thoughts. “I just came to the conclusion that I was born in the wrong body and that all my problems in life would be solved if I transitioned.”

Another teen who regrets transitioning describes seeing all the support trans people receive on social media. “The amount of praise they were getting really spoke to me. Because at the time, I didn’t really have a lot of friends of my own.”

Although parents must give consent for minors to receive medical treatment, parents face pressures too. Some say they gave the go-ahead because they feared their teens would self-harm otherwise.

When Transitioning Regret Hits Trans Kids

According to most statistics, the number of people who regret transitioning is fairly low. But now that more people are seeking gender-affirming care (and at younger ages), cases of regret might also increase.

Dr. Erica Anderson, a clinical psychologist who’s also a trans woman, says, “I’m concerned that the rise of detransitioners is reflective of some young people who have progressed through their gender journey very, very quickly.” She added, “When other issues important to a child are not fully addressed [before transition], then medical professionals are failing children.”

Teens who later regret transitioning may end up with permanently altered bodies. Hormones affect bone structure and development, and surgeries such as mastectomies aren’t reversible. “I literally lost organs,” says one teen about the transitioning process she now regrets. “I can’t stay quiet…and [need to] to share my own cautionary tale.”

Dr. Anderson says, “Some of my colleagues are worried that conversation about detransitioners is going to be more cannon fodder in the culture wars. But my concern is that if we don’t address these problems, there will be even more ammunition to criticize the appropriate work that I and other colleagues are doing.”