For Anti-Trans Activists “Detransitioning” Is the New “Abortion Regret” Myth


By: Kieran Mailman

Many people – myself included – have written about how abortion stigma isolates and harms people who have abortions. Among the tools used to stigmatize abortion is the anti-abortion lie of “abortion regret,” which frames all abortions as physically and emotionally damaging. This framework has been repeatedly proven false with one extensive study showing those who have wanted abortions actually experience less regret than those who are denied abortions, and another showing five years after an abortion nearly all said it was the right decision. [1, 2] While everyone experiences different emotions after abortion, and anti-abortion stigma from family, society, or media can spark negativity around one’s own abortion experience, using limited cases of “abortion regret” to demonize all abortions does infinitely more harm than good.

Like their anti-abortion allies, anti-trans activists have also found an uncommon personal experience to exploit for their own gain: detransitioning. Detransitioning occurs when a person who was previously transgender returns to their gender assigned at birth; they may change their name and pronouns while also potentially ceasing any hormone therapies. Detransitioning can be permanent. Detransitioning can be temporary as well, such as when some people choose to do so briefly out of personal necessity – an example of this would be desiring safety in advance of spending time in a hostile environment. While there have not been many comprehensive studies on detransitioning, one thing that studies make clear is that detransitioning and regret are not the same. Respondents to one survey on detransitioning stated that their reasons for detransitioning were related to social pressure, discrimination, and lack of support – not regret. [3] Like “abortion regret,” detransitioning is much more complicated and uncommon than the opposition wants you to think; anti-trans sentiment from family, friends, and broader society can directly impact how a person feels about their transition, to the point where some trans people may feel that detransitioning is a better option than perceived social isolation.

In spite of this, anti-trans activists have weaponized both detransitioning as a concept and detransitioners themselves, using people who often felt they had no choice but to detransition to promote their hateful, violent agenda – just like the ‘pro-life’ movement has done to those who claim to experience “abortion regret.” Detransitioners have become props for anti-trans legislators during hearings with their experiences being used to promote legislation that bars trans people from accessing life-saving gender-affirming care. [4] Anti-trans activists have taken a complicated, personal experience and attempted to simplify it down to the parts that support their regressive demands, framing all aspects of transition as inherently harmful.

This one-dimensional view combined with the continued exploitation of detransitioners makes it clear that the anti-trans movement, like the anti-abortion movement, does not care about the lives of those it exploits. Like the anti-abortion movement, the anti-trans movement started by claiming it was “protecting children” before attempting to limit the bodily autonomy of adults and is actively working to criminalize providers in their war against vital health care. [5]

It is crucial that those of us fighting for bodily autonomy recognize that different facets of this fight are inherently linked – we cannot achieve reproductive freedom without trans liberation and vice versa. Our opposition has long maintained a united front, both against abortion and against trans rights; pro-abortion and pro-trans activists have to present a similarly united front in order to succeed.







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