More people regret having children than having gender-affirming care, study finds

Two parents holding the hand of a child.

Transition-related regret is considerably lower than that which follows having children, abortions and even knee surgery – despite what some right-wing pundits would have you believe.

Research collated by the American Journal of Surgery and published on 23 April, collected data from three medical research databases which examined the regret rates for plastic surgery, major life decisions and vital surgical procedures.

A total of 55 articles examining regret after plastic surgery were included.

Various studies have already revealed that the detransition rate among groups that undergo social or medical transition is typically less than one per cent. A 2019 report for the European Professional Association for Trans Health found that, in a study group of almost 3,400 people, only 16 – just 0.47 – experienced some form of regret.

By comparison, the latest research showed that up to 47 per cent of people who underwent some form of breast augmentation surgery experience some regret, while 19.5 per cent regretted bariatric weight-loss surgeriy: a procedure that modifies the digestive system to speed up weight loss.

Furthermore, it is believed that about seven per cent of people who have children also experience some kind of regret.

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The study’s authors concluded that when comparing regret after gender-affirming surgery to regret after other surgeries and major life decisions, “the percentage of patients experiencing regret is extremely low”, which seems to contradict policymakers who use detransitioners as a way to minimise the rights of transgender people as a whole.

“Some people seek to limit access to gender-affirming services, most vehemently gender-affirming surgery, and use post-operative regret as reason that care should be denied to all patients,” the researchers said.

“This over-reaching approach erases patient autonomy and does not honour the careful consideration and multi-disciplinary approach that goes into making the decision to pursue gender-affirming surgery.”

So-called think tanks, political organisations and lawmakers around the world have used detransition to justify mitigating the rights of access to trans healthcare.

In the US, state legislatures have imposed gender-affirming care bans, particularly for under-18s, with several citing transition-related regret for their decisions – despite major medical organisations supporting the use of gender-affirming care as an option to combat gender dysphoria.