man operating a surgery

Transitioning, detransitioning, and regret: The real deal behind transgender surgery.


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Unless you’ve been living under a rock in the United States, it has been virtually impossible do drown out the political noise coming from the Right regarding transgender medical treatment, especially with regards to minors. One of the key talking-points they have been pushing is the notion of regret later in life and reversing the procedure, called detransitioning. Most of us just don’t have the time to dig into the data and research the veracity of the claims on the Right and Left. Instead, the Associated Press did an explainer on the topic that’s pretty handy as a primer. If you want to dig deeper after, that’s on you.

According to the AP article, transgender medical treatment typically begins with puberty-blocking medication, which temporarily halts sexual development to give young people time to mature emotionally and mentally before making a decision about pursuing permanent treatment. Sex hormones like estrogen or testosterone are then offered, followed by transgender surgery such as breast removal or augmentation, which is sometimes offered in mid-teen years but more typically not until age 18 or later.

While some reports suggest an increase in the number of youth seeking transgender medical care in recent years, updated treatment guidelines from the World Professional Association for Transgender Health indicate that evidence of later regret is scant. A review of 27 studies involving almost 8,000 teens and adults who had transgender surgeries found that on average, only 1% expressed regret, and a small number of them went on to detransition or have reversal surgeries.

Comprehensive psychological counseling before starting treatment, along with family support, can reduce the chances of regret and detransitioning. Detransitioning means stopping or reversing gender transition, but it does not always include regret. Some teens who detransition “do not regret initiating treatment” because they felt it helped them better understand their gender-related care needs.

Detransitioning is rare, according to Dr. Michael Irwig, director of transgender medicine at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. Recent increases in the number of people seeking transgender medical treatment could lead to more people detransitioning, but that’s partly due to a shortage of mental health specialists who can provide adequate counseling.

Dr. Oscar Manrique, a plastic surgeon at the University of Rochester Medical Center, has operated on hundreds of transgender people, most of them adults, and has never had a patient return seeking to detransition.

Ultimately, regret and detransitioning are relatively uncommon among those who undergo transgender medical treatment, but comprehensive psychological counseling before starting treatment and family support can further reduce the chances of regret and detransitioning. With proper support and guidance, transgender individuals can make informed decisions about their medical treatment and live happy, fulfilling lives.

WORDS: Scientific Inquirer Staff.

IMAGE CREDIT: Vidal Balielo Jr.

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