Like the ex-gay movement that rose to prominence in the early 2000s and then came crashing down as leaders recanted their “conversions,” the detransition movement is showing similar signs of a crack-up.
Ky Schevers is just one of the prominent voices of the detransition movement to reconsider her choice to reject her gender evolution and publicly denounce transition. She began her transition in college but ended it after coming to the belief that gender dysphoria was a false idea caused by misogyny and trauma, a theory she shared widely in interviews and online.
Now Schevers – who is transmasculine and uses she/her pronouns – has regrets about her place in the detrans movement. From 2013 to 2020, she regularly wrote and made videos about her detransition. She was featured in several major publications – even interviewed by anti-trans journalist Katie Herzog – to promote the idea that transgender identity isn’t legitimate and that gender dysphoria was a mix of internalized sexism and trauma response for her.
But now she’s speaking out against the movement she once supported.
“Trans people deserve access to support, and it makes no sense to shut down people’s access to medical transition just because some people end up detransitioning,” she told Slate.
The number of people reporting detransition is small. According to a study this year from UCLA’s Williams Institute, 1.3 million adults in the U.S. identify as transgender, or 0.05 % of the population. Another 300,000 youth, ages 13-17, do so, as well.
Of those who transition, about eight percent report detransitioning, according to a 2015 survey by the National Center for Transgender Equality, and most – 62 percent – of that eight percent said detransition was temporary. A 50-year survey in Sweden revealed about two percent of the trans population regretted undergoing gender-affirming surgery.
Schevers said the detransition movement she helped spark became overtly transphobic and repressive and left no room for doubt or questioning individuals.
While she came to believe her own gender dysphoria was in check, it came roaring back over time. “My sense of being a woman unraveled, and I was feeling more like a dude or a gender weirdo,” Schevers said. “But I was fighting against these feelings because I’d built a life in the detransition community, and I knew a lot of the other women in the community wouldn’t be happy with it if I came out as trans.”
The detrans movement assigns a variety of reasons to what they consider the false concept of gender dysphoria and provides attendant solutions to the non-existent problem.
Detrans promoters liken the urge to transition to drug or alcohol addiction, encouraging sufferers to avoid triggers and commit to abstinence, concepts adopted from 12-step programs. They characterize dysphoria as internalized misogyny stemming from a lack of self-love. One theory, known as “rapid onset gender dysphoria,” describes being transgender as a social contagion spread among adolescent girls online, like accusations of witchcraft among young women at the Salem witch trials.
Schevers says of her own dysphoria, “I tried to explain it in a radical feminist framework, and find the root causes, and do everything to make these feelings go away, and that didn’t really work. The only thing that did work to make them go away was accepting them. I had to make a move to accept them.”