Trans kid desistance studies are all bad
I’ve covered James Cantor’s list of trans kid’s desistance studies, misleadingly titled “Do Trans kids Stay Trans?” as for the most part it doesnt even look at trans kids, on Medium before. Here’s a link to that. I don’t want to rehash what I said in there too much, so if you want a deeper dive into that list feel free to check out that one.
In this article I want to quickly summarise the problems with the studies and then discuss what a good desistance study would need to look like and why.
So what were the problems we ran into when looking through the desistance studies touted by actual psychologists? First of all, most of the studies there were not about trans kids at all, they looked at gender non conformity — specifically “effeminate boys”. Usually this was within the context of homophobia and the pathologisation of being gay as a “deviant” or “discordant” act.
Secondly, the studies show that we know that a child who fits the diagnostic criteria for dysphoria might not necessarily be trans, but could be gender non conforming instead. Doctors in the clinics obviously factor this stuff in when making a diagnosis, however it means that answering the question “Do trans kids stay trans?” can’t be answered by looking at these kids. They were never trans to begin with. The closest to the question we can get is “do kids at gender clinics necessarily go onto transition?” to which the answer is obviously no. This is hardly a surprise.
Finally, the studies often make a point of following kids who desire transition, fit the criteria and have actually taken steps towards transition in some meaningful way, but they do not make a point of following the desisting group and finding out the reasons they desisted. This is worth doing because as most trans people will tell you, it wasn’t just like there was a switch flipped one day and we just knew. Somehow. Magically. We all had our own journey’s to understanding the pain we’ve been experiencing and discovering how to fix it.
For myself? I can remember feeling dysphoria from as young as 5 years old. I can remember when I googled how I was feeling on a laptop I got for Christmas in my bedroom when I was 14. I can remember finding the page on Wikipedia for Gender Dysphoria. I can remember working up the courage to talk to my doctor about it and then chickening out at the last minute. I can also remember finally taking the plunge and going to a gender clinic at 20. If a study didn’t follow me until post 20 — I would have been included as part of the desist group — and at the time I transitioned it was considered to be fairly early.
So with all that in mind, what would a good trans kid desistance study need to look like? Well first of all, it would not just look at any kid in a gender clinic — as we already know, not all of them will be trans kids. The child would need to have taken some meaningful steps towards transition, one study shows only 8.9% of kids in the clinics have socially transitioned. The desist rate will obviously be inflated if you’re counting those who never actually had anything to desist from. This alone would take care of the first two problems we ran into.
The third problem can be solved by following the child up to at least 30 and interviewing them properly to find out why they desisted. As we know from other detransitioners, sometimes the reasons for detransition aren’t because they weren’t really trans. It’s because society kinda sucks for trans people. Some of these even go onto retransition later in life.
Doing all of the above would actually answer the question “do trans kids stay trans?” No study I’ve seen gets even remotely close to this, and that’s why they’re almost all flawed as arguments that gender clinics are bad, or gender ideology is abusing our kids reeee!!!!