Response to Enquiry from Sunday Times

GIRES Statement

On 8th February, Nicholas Hellen, Assistant Editor (Social Affairs), The Sunday Times, again contacted the Gender Identity Research and Education Society (GIRES). Whilst we clearly cannot comment on individual cases, the enquiry was pertaining to an article to be released tomorrow regarding alleged cases of people who regret their transition.

Transition can be social and/or medical, and is very individual, normally taking place over months or years, and can entail any mixture of expression, external presentation, hormonal and surgical medical treatment. These changes are often done with support from clinicians experienced in this field, but lengthy waiting times for gender identity services can mean waits of many years before someone can access NHS services. Access to surgical interventions, unless paid for privately, typically entail wait times in excess of 5 years.

Regret is, however, very rare. A review of multiple studies show that there is less than 1% of regrets, and a little more than 1% of suicides among operated subjects.

A more recent study in Sweden – ‘An Analysis of All Applications for Sex Reassignment Surgery in Sweden, 1960 – 2010: Prevalence, Incidence, and Regrets’ (Dhejne, Öberg & Landén, 2014). – analysed all cases of legal and surgical sex reassignment in Sweden between 1960-2010, and found only 15 ‘regret applications’, a 2.2% regret rate.

As the transgender population become more visible, then so will the experiences of people who regret. We welcome additional research into this, whilst recognising that regret rates are substantially lower than for the majority of other types of surgical intervention.

It is also well documented in a multitude of international studies and as advocated for by the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) that affirmative support results in increased wellbeing and reduction of suicidality and self harm.

This article has usefully compiled a number of these studies, including those around regret, mental health and wellbeing, and the evidence that speaks for affirmative care to help transgender and nonbinary people to live their best lives.

It is widely recognised and evidenced by global experts in this field that to withhold treatment is not a neutral option, and causes measurable and significant harm.

GIRES does and will continue to advocate for improved access to support for transgender people, and the reduction of discrimination and prejudice which is proven to directly impact mental health and increase suicide and self harm risk.

GIRES believes that everyone should have the opportunity to live healthy and happy lives. In our work supporting transgender and nonbinary people, misunderstanding is still rife,  often exacerbated by the media portrayal of transgender issues, and the problems associated with accessing appropriate healthcare.

Most people’s lives will not be affected, nor will they have to overcome the many hurdles that are encountered everyday by trans people. We hope that this clarification will give some insight, and lead to greater acceptance and understanding.