Author: Jaylin Schell

The Trans Youth Desistance Myth

The Desistance Myth is the debunked idea that 80–85% of youth experiencing gender dysphoria will no longer experience it in adulthood. It is often used in anti-trans arguments, from reducing healthcare access to justifying conversion therapy.

The paradigm of “desistance” was introduced in a series of papers from 2008–2013, especially:

  • Drummond et al., 2008
  • Wallien and Cohen-Kettenis, 2008
  • Steensma et al., 2011
  • Steensma et al., 2013

The methodology for all of these papers is flawed.

They Used the Old Definition of “Gender Identity Disorder (GID)”

This definition has several issues, notable that, in children, desire to be another gender is not a diagnostic requirement. This caused youth to be labelled as “desisters” when they weren’t trans in the first place.

Participants With Subclinical GID Were Included

In several papers, participants who didn’t completely meet the criteria for GID were included in the research. These youth didn’t even meet the researchers’ own metric for being trans, so it’s unsurprising when they “desist.”

Medical Transition was Required for “Persistence”

Not all trans people seek out medical supports as part of their transition. However, these papers assume otherwise, labelling those who don’t take hormones or pursue surgery as “desisters.”

Those Who Couldn’t be Reached for Follow-Up Were “Desisters”

In these studies, participants were contacted twice, several years apart. Participants that couldn’t be reached for the second interview were considered “desisters,” despite no effort to investigate this missed interaction.

How Should We Think of Gender Identity in Youth Instead?

  • We should trust that trans youth know their identity best and believe them.
  • We must understand that gender is fluid and may change over time.
  • When considering medical supports, doctors should ensure the benefits outweigh the risks. (And with puberty blockers, there are few risks.)

Sources

  • Gender Dysphoria Affirmative Working Group. n.d. “Desistance Articles and Critique.” Accessed July 7, 2021. https://www.gdaworkinggroup.com/desistance-articles-and-critique.
  • Tannehill, Brynne. 2016. “The End of the Desistance Myth.” The Huffington Post, January 1, 2016. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/the-end-of-the-desistance_b_8903690.
  • Newhook, Julia Temple, Kelly Winters, Jake Pyne, Ally Jamieson, Cindy Holmes, Stephen Feder, Sarah Pickett, Mari-Lynne Sinnott. “Teach your parents and providers well.” Canadian Family Physician 64(5): 332–335.
  • American Psychiatric Association. 2000. “Gender Identity Disorder.” In Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th ed, 576–582. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association.
  • American Psychiatric Association. 2013. “Gender Dysphoria.” In Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th ed, 452–459. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association.

The original papers that were behind the desistance myth were also consulted. If you choose to read them yourself, do so cautiously and with a critical mind, as the authors use insensitive language regarding transgender people and their research methods have many flaws.

  • Drummond, Kelley, Susan Bradley, Michele Peterson-Badali, Kenneth Zucker. 2008. “A follow up study of girls with gender identity disorder.” Developmental Psychology 44(1): 34–45. https://doi.org/10.1037/0012-1649.44.1.34.
  • Wallien, Madeleine, Peggy Cohen-Kettenis. 2008. “Psychosexual Outcome of Gender-Dysphoric Children.” Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry 44(12): 1413–1423. https://doi.org/10.1097/CHI.0b013e31818956b9.
  • Steensma, Thomas, Roeline Biemond, Fijgje de Boer, Peggy Cohen-Kettenis. 2011. “Desisting and persisting gender dysphoria after childhood: A qualitative follow-up study.” Clinical Child Psychology and Psychiatry 16(4): 499–516. https://doi.org/10.1177/1359104510378303.
  • Steensma, Thomas, Jenifer McGuire, Baudewijntje Kreukels, Anneke Beekman, Peggy Cohen-Kettenis. 2013. “Factors Associated With Desistence and Persistence of Childhood Gender Dysphoria: A Quantitative Follow-Up Study.” Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry 52(6): 582–590. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaac.2013.03.016.

Letter in Support for Banning Conversion Therapy in Regina

Regina City Council first brought up the discussion of banning conversion therapy in April 2021, where Council debated writing a letter of recommendation for the federal Bill C-6. Over the next several months, the motion included an amendment to draft a municipal bylaw that would ban conversion therapy in Regina, modeled after a similar bylaw in Saskatoon.

The debate surrounding this motion included a great deal of transphobia, homophobia, and other discriminatory views by guest delegates. Many of these anti-2SLGBTQ speakers were from outside Regina, and often from outside Saskatchewan.

The draft bylaw is to be presented and debated in July 2021. This will likely result in the return of the anti-2SLGBTQ speakers and their hateful rhetoric. Some city councillors also expressed unjustified concerns about passing a conversion therapy ban.

If you feel passionate about banning conversion therapy and you would like your voice heard by Regina City Council, use our letter of support and our step-by-step guide to reach out to your councillor.

Step 1 — Find your city councillor

Use the wards map on the City of Regina’s website to find which ward you live in and which councillor represents you.

Step 2 — Fill out your contact information

On the City of Regina’s councillor contact page, select the ward where you live and the councillor who represents you. Fill in your name, address, phone number, and email address. While some of this information isn’t mandatory, it helps to convince councillors that you are a real person who does live in Regina.

Step 3 — Add the letter body

Copy and paste the following into the “Your Message” box. Please read it in its entirety and ensure that you agree with its message. Feel free to change it in any way you think is best.

I am writing to express my support for the bylaw to ban conversion therapy, which would list conversion therapy — a harmful, coercive practice masquerading as a form of “therapy” — as a prohibited business.

Following the evidence-based decisions of other municipalities — including Saskatoon, Calgary, Edmonton, and Vancouver — prohibiting conversion therapy affirms the human right to self-determination and non-discrimination based on gender, sexual orientation, and gender expression as presented in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Prohibiting conversion therapy at the municipal level is particularly important, as it can mitigate the adverse health effects caused by conversion therapy and act as a symbolic stand against hatred toward the 2SLGBTQ community.

In a 2019 compilation of research on conversion therapy by Dr. K. Wells at MacEwan University in Alberta, Conversion therapy in Canada: The roles and responsibilities of municipalities — the author conveys both the seriousness of the health impacts of conversion therapy and the necessity for action at the municipal level. As Wells notes,

“Rates of attempted suicide by LGBT young people whose parent tried to change their sexual orientation were more than double (48%) the rate of LGBT young adults who reported no conversion experiences (22%). Suicide attempts nearly tripled for LGBT young people who reported both home-based efforts to change their sexual orientation by parents and intervention efforts by therapists and religious leaders (63%).”

He further notes that “it is clear that no one can actively provide informed consent for such a harmful, deceitful, and dangerous practice.”

In addition to mitigating these serious health impacts, the report notes that over 20,000 people have been subjected to conversion therapy in Canada, necessitating action at all levels of government. Municipalities who have successfully banned conversion therapy cite many rationales, both practical and symbolic, including:

  • Promoting the physical and psychological well-being and equality of 2SLGBTQ persons;
  • Protecting vulnerable citizens from dangerous, deceptive, and abusive practices; and
  • Restricting and preventing harmful, unscientific, and ineffective practices from occurring.

It is my belief that Regina residents will benefit from the implications of a bylaw to ban conversion therapy, and I strongly encourage the city to take evidence-based action on this important human rights issue.

Step 4 — Press submit

Complete the CAPTCHA and press submit. You’re done! Thank you for participating in this important civic process and for your support of the 2SLGBTQ community.

Open Letter to the Saskatoon Board of Police Commissioners

Two weeks ago TransSask was invited by Saskatoon’s Board of Police Commissioners, who provide general oversight for Saskatoon Police Services, to attend a virtual meeting with them today on June 10th as part of their strategic planning. TransSask elected to not attend this meeting.

Yesterday we did however submit a letter to address the key points the meeting was intending to discuss. As this was after RSVP deadline, we are unsure whether this letter was read today. We have decided however to publish this letter on our website.

In addition to a series of meetings, the Board is taking feedback from June 10th to August 5th. If you would like to provide feedback, you can do so via the Board’s website.

To Commissioner Mairin Loewen, Commissioner Jo Custead, and the Saskatoon Board of Police Commissioners,

We thank you for the invitation to participate in your Community Conversations session. As we’re currently in the midst of our strategic planning and capacity-building work to serve our community members directly, I’m afraid we must decline. I would ask that you please present these answers in our stead.


#1 – What is the biggest challenge facing your community/neighbourhood when it comes to public safety?

When it comes to public safety, the issues facing the trans, two-spirit, non-binary, and gender diverse communities are many. But the key to many of these issues is that our communities face living in a society that is fundamentally transphobic, and especially for our BIPOC community members, a society that is fundamentally racist.

We frankly do not have good overall statistics data when it comes specifically to the safety needs of trans communities. As just one specific example, when it comes to hate crime reporting, as pointed out by Egale Canada, there is “little to no data collection on this topic; which continues to look over gender minority communities like trans, non-binary, gender diverse, and gender non-conforming people. That of which, exacerbates the lack of information and underreporting within these communities.”

According to a report by Trans PULSE on the “Health and well-being among racialized trans and non-binary people in Canada”, in the five years prior to the study (2019), “72% of racialized respondents had experienced verbal harassment, and 49% had experienced sexual harassment. In the same time frame, 41% of racialized respondents had been physically intimidated or threatened, and 23% had experienced physical violence. 1 in 3 racialized respondents had been sexually assaulted” during the study’s timespan.

 

#2: What are the top policing values you would like to see created and/or strengthened in our community?

According to Saskatoon Police Service’s own website, the values they stand by are Honesty, Integrity, Compassion, Fairness, Commitment, Respect, and Professionalism. Our organization does not find fault with these ideals. However, we would ask that the Saskatoon Police Service do a thorough and public accounting of the ways they may have failed to meet these ideals and concrete actions that you will be taking to address them.

Again according to the same report by Trans PULSE, there is “a profound mistrust in police and the legal system among racialized trans and non-binary people…73% of racialized trans and non-binary respondents worried about being stopped or harassed by police or security because of who they are”. The report goes on to note that in emergency situations, 1 in 3 racialized survey respondents avoided calling the police and only 1 out of 5 expected to be fairly treated by police and the court system if they were ever physically assaulted.

This mistrust has been earned through failings of police services throughout North America and within Canada, such as the death of a Black trans woman after being taken into custody by Toronto Police on October 26th, 2020, as reported by CBC News. As further noted by the report, the woman was then misgendered by police in their statement following her death.

Our organization frankly does not have an answer to how this trust can be re-earned or even if it can be.

 

#3: How can your organization contribute to strengthening a culture of community safety in Saskatoon?

TransSask contributes to a culture of community safety by supporting and advocating for our trans, two-spirit, non-binary, and gender diverse communities. Part of our advocacy work requires us to be critical of the institutions of power—of which the Saskatoon Police Service is—that have caused direct harm to our communities.

In our dealings with the institutions of power, we face both micro-aggressions and direct violence for simply existing as who we are. The history of this violence is not short, nor is it purely a historical fact. It is the current reality for many in our communities.

While we acknowledge that individual members of the police may seek to make their communities safer in the course of their work, we are skeptical that community safety can be achieved through the means of modern police forces.

 

We hope these responses have been helpful as you develop your strategic plan. We do apologize if you find any of these responses lacking detail or concrete solutions. The truth is that detail and concrete solutions take a great deal of funding and resources that marginalized organizations frequently do not possess. For example, on the federal level, 2SLGBTQ organizations currently are slated to receive $15M for three years, while at the local level, the Saskatoon Police Service received a budget of $98.8M for 2020.

To properly contribute to these conversations and to perform the work required to enact meaningful change, we cannot do so while so under-resourced and requests to perform this work for free only stretches our resources further.

In recognition of this resource disparity, we would ask that the suggestions and contributions of the member organizations that did take the time to attend today’s meeting are taken to heart and properly prioritized as they deserve to be compensated for their efforts to achieve a safer Saskatoon.

Sincerely,
TransSask Support Services