I mentioned in my last “real” published piece that a lot of self-declared left leaning media outlets were seriously shitting the bed in their coverage of trans issues. As it turns out, one of the mother’s anonymously interviewed for one of the pieces I criticized–Katie Herzog’s “They Were Transgender–Until they Weren’t”–has echoed many of my concerns.
I didn’t pull this two-in-one-hundred ratio out of nowhere. I got it from the articles themselves, which both quote a Swedish study in which just 2.2 percent of transgender people experienced “transition regret.” That means the other 97.8 percent didn’t. Herzog cites a therapist who had worked with transgender clients for more than 20 years, who “knows of only one client who fully transitioned and then later detransitioned.” (Let me just restate that: One client in twenty years.) The program manager of the Seattle Children’s Hospital Gender Clinic told Herzog that they have “never had a patient fully transition and then transition back.” (Never? Never.) And both articles point out that the number of people who regret their nose jobs is eight times greater than transgender people who regret their medical transitions. It’s actually kind of bizarre how these authors carry on about the perils of transition while simultaneously citing statistics and quoting experts that illustrate the rarity of both transition regret and detransition.
Perhap the most troubling feature of both of these articles is that they are, strictly speaking, largely “true” (with the notable exception of the bogus 66-80 percent statistic). Yes, some people change their minds. Yes, peer pressure exists. Yes, transition is not without its risks and complications. These are all important points to make. What’s wrong here is that the choices the authors have made about what to include and not to include add up to a highly misleading whole, one that makes transition look a lot scarier and more controversial than it actually is. When you’re telling a story, everything hangs on which details you include and which ones you leave out. For example, Herzog and McCann both highlight the potential health risks of taking cross-hormones, but make no mention of the far greater health risks that transgender people face: The widespread lack of access to any kind of quality medical care, let alone health care that is responsive to the particular needs of transgender patients. They also makes no mention of the alarmingly high rate of suicide attempts among trans people (upwards of 40 percent; but this rate goes down when people are able to transition). I’d call suicide a pretty significant health risk, wouldn’t you? Nor do either of them mention the fact that research shows children who transition exhibit levels of psychological health indistinguishable from their cisgender peers. In pieces that purport to be represent balanced presentations of the pros and cons of supporting the transition of young people, surely this kind of information merits inclusion, no?
It’s a long read (cis journalists come up with a lot of bullshit!), but there is more here.