Kallie Fell, director of the Center for Bioethics and Culture Network: We can all learn from the resilience of detransitioners

The trans medical process expert speaks with Voz Media about detransitioners, the difficulty of quantifying the number of people who regret their transition and her latest book: 'The Detransition Diaries'.

"What I've found with the detransitioners is ... this ablity and this characteristic of resilience," says Kallie Fell, executive director of the Center for Bioethics and Culture Network (CBC), after hearing dozens of testimonies from detransitioners. "These are people that have been really harmed by the medical community, by their peers or people they thought that they were their peers, medical doctors, so they're right to have a lot of maybe mistrust ... but we don't see that at all." She notes that "the ability to have been harmed and then moved on is something we can all learn from."

After writing and producing three documentaries on the problems of gender transition treatments, Fell set out to write a book, saying that "the beauty of books is you can kind of expand on what we do on the films."

"The Detransition Diaries," co-written by Fell and CBC founder Jennifer Lahl, explores the story of how gender-affirming care took over the medical field and tells the story of some of its victims: seven men and women who regret undergoing transition surgery. Reviewing the history of medicine is necessary, she assures, to establish parallels between current errors and those of the past, such as forced sterilizations and lobotomies. "In 'transgender medicine,' we feel that this is a perfect example of where [the] medical field has abandonded this [Hippocratic] oath, causing irreparable harm to children especially."

The numbers problem

One of the most frequent criticisms of the detransitioners' argument is the small sample of cases. The few cases that exist are not enough to establish a general rule, the argument goes. In an article in The Washington Post, for example, the author, Molly Hennessy-Flisk describes those who regret their transition as a "small minority" that has "gained prominence." After recounting the case of detransitioner Prisha Mosley, she says: "But as conservatives have mounted a concerted effort to limit trans and gay rights, particularly in red-state legislatures, a small minority of detransitioners like Mosley have gained prominence."

Another from NBC News says:

Trans advocates say some of the recent coverage around the topic portrays detransitioning as much more common than it actually is, fueling misconceptions about the gender transition process and painting trans people as just temporarily confused or suffering from a misdiagnosed psychological disorder. This misleading information, they say, can have serious real-world consequences, from misguided policy proposals to social stigma..

The article also adds: "While the information regarding how many trans people detransition is sparse, those who work with the trans community say it is uncommon."

Another article, from Slate, says:

Detransitioners may be a small group—even the highest estimates are in the hundreds, compared with an estimated number of transgender-identified people in the low millions—but they have been influential in pushing their denial that trans identity is real.

Even those who say there are few detransitioners acknowledge that it is difficult to quantify them. There seems to lie the consensus: more than whether there are few or many cases, there is little information.

"That is the million-dollar question," Fell acknowledges. Regretful trans people do not usually appear in demographic studies, she explains. Furthermore, most do not return to their doctor, which could leave a report of their change. However, she assures that there are metrics that, although unreliable, would demonstrate group growth, such as support groups on social networks. There is another factor that contributes to number obfuscation:

It can't be overstated how vilified by the trans community and even their physicians, how vilified they have been. They are often silenced, so we don't have a number.

"In my mind, though, it doesn't matter," she adds. "If one person, one child, two children are harmed by this, then we are doing it wrong to begin with. One person is too many, but unfortunately we don't have exact numbers."

The complete interview