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There's a reason shows like Channel 7 Spotlight artificially overrepresent detransitioners in the media - to undermine the existence of trans healthcare
Forget the detransitioners, where are all the re-transitioners?
The Australian trans community watched on in horror this week as Channel 7 dropped the latest hit piece against young transitioners, a blatantly transphobic, dishonest “investigation” into the “controversial topics” of trans regret and detransitioning.
Even some of the trans TikTokkers included (without their knowledge) in the broadcast have spoken out against it, with Levi Day (who also points out that they’re 27, not a child, despite the implication of the story,) explicitly recorded saying “Obviously I think that kids deserve healthcare, whether they are trans or not,” and expressing a strong disapproval of the very concept of the piece. Channel 7 has since apologised to trans TikTok creator Grace Hyland for using images of her in the program which she says implied that she regretted transitioning.
But the composition of the show is interesting, not for what it talks about, but for who it chooses to exclude.
It relies on a similar rhetoric trick to the one that more open political transphobes use when they talk about their anti-trans views as being “women’s opinions” that are suppressed due to “misogyny”. Their argument intentionally disguises the more inconvenient reality that trans-exclusionary views are not only also damaging to some cis women and intersex people, but also, as 2020 research by the UK-based Equality and Human Rights Commision shows, less likely to be held by women and more likely to be held by men.
The truth is not only are detransitioners an extreme minority within the wider category of trans people, (only 5% of people who transition detransition according to research by Rowan Hildebrand-Chupp for the Sociological Review,) but we seem to focus on the most dramatic and outspoken anti-trans activists within the detransitioner community to the exclusion of everybody else.
In spite of this, it’s a well-known fact that most trans people who decide to detransition do not do so because they find out they’re “not really trans”. The rate of people who desist because they regret seeking gender affirmation care is only 0.4% of the 5% of trans people mentioned above. Rather, people usually detransition due to lack of support from their family or their community, low quality or poor access to gender affirming care.
True, some people detransition because they find out that the dysphoria that they believed that they experienced has come from something else, but these people are an extreme minority of cases within the equally extreme minority of detransitioners in general.
The problem isn’t that non-trans detransitioners are allowed to speak, or share their negative experiences with transitioning. The problem is they’re being cynically and artificially overrepresented in the media to undermine the very existence of trans healthcare in general.
Take the example of Ky Schevers, a re-transitioned former de-trans anti-trans activist who now identifies as trans masculine & non-binary (with she/her pronouns,) and fights against her former allies in the anti-trans activist space.
When Ky hears other anti-trans detransitioners speak now, she feels guilty. She believes she “set the stage,” for them by being among the first detransitioned anti-trans activists, and regrets her history of collaboration with “the people who were creating the oppressive conditions,” that led to the misogyny and trauma she experienced which made her ultimately want to detransition in the first place. But the fact is people like Ky are victims of anti-trans activists, who love-bomb, (an emotional abuse tactic where a victim is exposed to an overwhelming amount of affection or attention which eventually gives way to gaslighting, devaluation, and coercive control,) isolate and groom them into working against their own interests.
Re-transitioned former anti-trans activist Elisa Rae Shupe has a similar story. She describes experiencing blood clots and skin reactions from her estrogen patches, before publicly questioning her personal connection to femininity, falling into anti-trans activism, and inevitably detransitioning.
But unlike Ky Schevers, Elisa Rae Shupe was a late transitioner who was assigned male at birth, two things that she claimed had limited her utility to the anti-trans movement. She says that they mostly used her as a mouthpiece to promote their own opinions on denying gender affirmation care to neurodivergent adults, before eventually discarding her for her “autogynephilia”: an antiquated and transphobic medical diagnosis painting lesbian-attracted trans women as fetishists, that the transphobes she was working with encouraged her to get.
The manipulation and eventual abandonment of Shupe hints towards a deeper problem with the way that transphobes think about transgender allies. Transmedicalist activist Buck Angel has been aggressively misgendered by other anti-trans activists on Twitter before, as has Chloe Cole, who’s sometimes been erroneously identified as transfeminine for the effects of testosterone use as a teenager on her physical features.
Other detransitioners report a feeling of hostility in the anti-trans community to not just the idea of them ever re-transitioning, but also to the fact that they had ever seen themselves as trans at all. Comparisons are often made to the “ex-gay” movement: a decades-old, long discredited form of populist conversion therapy, which claimed that abstinence and prayer was the solution to same-sex attraction. Crucially, the biggest spokespeople for this movement have now largely disavowed it and come out as gay again themselves.
These are ultimately just the stories of the radicalized detransitioners of course. The more common stories about detransition rarely ever end up being told. Who would want to read a front page news story about a 23-year-old woman who cycles down her hormones out of fear, starts presenting male, only to decide that’s not for her and later, starts back up again? Or the story of a 25-year-old trans masculine person who can’t access their hormones regularly, doesn’t get gendered correctly anyway, and figures next time that they run out, that’ll be it?
The regular experience of detransition is entirely banal. Most detransitioners don’t want to take away trans healthcare either. In fact, the chances are that they rely on it themselves, either to reverse the changes made to their bodies by prior surgical or hormonal interventions, or because the hormonal dysphoria that may have led them to transition in the first place hasn’t gone away, and they continue with their medication in private.
It sickens me that so much anti-trans bias is allowed to pass in local media under the guise of “objectivity” or “simply asking questions”. The “questions” that the episode raises have well-documented answers that the people who’ve designed the episode have intentionally chosen to ignore. The truth about trans healthcare is entirely banal too: it’s healthcare, and ordinarily we’d understand with healthcare that just because something naturally happens to a human body, (such as cancer or an insulin deficiency,) doesn’t mean that it’s desirable to allow it to continue to affect them without treatment.
The unspoken assumptions behind the idea that a young trans person shouldn’t be allowed access to care because their body is already “healthy” is disgusting too. For starters, their body won’t become “less healthy” after surgery or hormones. Statistics clearly show that it usually will just be easier for them to live in it afterwards. When only 0.4% of the 5% of people who pursue transition detransition and regret it afterwards, it’s obvious our media is only using them to drum up prejudice against the trans community. The same tactics they’ve previously used to conjure up the spectre of the “dole bludger” to undermine anti-poverty activism, or spread the lie of “African gangs” in Victoria to demonise our immigrant communities in a failed attempt to help conservatives take control of the state. In no way should such naked bigotry either be ignored or tolerated.
So, the question I would ask the journalists responsible for the Channel 7 broadcast is, where are all your re-transitioners? Why are you focusing on a tiny group within a small minority of an already marginalised demographic to the exclusion of everybody else? Why are all your local detransitioners people who transitioned in adulthood? Why did you harass a specialist in youth suicide prevention, instead of interviewing someone actually involved in gender affirmation care?
If the answer is, because that’s who agreed to be on your broadcast, then congratulations. Your transphobic concept was the problem, and you need to change.
Mx Maddison Stoff (she/her) is a neurodivergent non-binary essayist, independent musician and author from Melbourne, Australia. She writes unapologetically leftist, feminist, & queer fiction set in a continuous universe which blurs the line between experimental literature & pulp sci-fi. Follow her on Twitter, Patreon, & Bluesky.
The making of a detransitioner - Xtra Magazine