BDMRR Action 2021: We Need You

BDMRR Action 2021: We Need You

BDMRR stands for Births, Deaths, Marriages, and Relationships Registration. This is an Act in New Zealand law which sets out the legal aspects and requirements about the registration of Births, Deaths, Marriages, and Relationships. This includes the legal requirements for birth certificates, including changing the name or sex marker on a person’s birth certificate, due to marriage, civil union, or being transgender, for example.

There are a number of problems with the BDMRR law as it currently stands, which make it very hard for trans people to update the sex marker on their birth certificate – over 80% of trans people in Aotearoa NZ have the wrong sex marker on their birth certificate. 

In 2018 a Bill to change this law was developed, and has now been through a rigorous process including two Select Committee reports, robust examination of advice from officials, and public submissions. In 2021, the new Minister has sought further advice and has committed to pass it into law by late 2021 or early 2022. She is soon to release an updated Bill.

There is a BDMRR 101 Primer available here.

Take Action Now

In April 2021 Minister Tinetti said she is yet to decide whether the Bill will go back to the Select Committee for further submissions or straight to Parliament, where MPs will debate it’s contents.

Our professional opinion is that the Bill will probably go back to the Select Committee for further submissions. We should know this by June or July, and would probably have 4-6 weeks to make submissions. 

The Government has committed to pass this law and has enough votes to do so. Our concern is whether the 2021 version of the Bill will be stronger than it was before.

The BDMRR 101 Primer is essentially an example of a submission, though you could pick any of the points from the primer to talk about, or there may be other issues you would like to raise. You can also see previous submissions on this Bill below – both for and against the Bill.

You can see more information on how a Bill becomes an Act below, along with the contact details of MPs who you may wish to contact. 

Right now is the best time to learn about the issues, draft a submission, and be ready to make changes to it depending on what is in the 2021 Bill when it’s released.

It’s also a good time to put leaflets in your neighbors’ letter boxes, hand them out in the street, talk to people about why you support the BDMRR changes and self-determination for trans people, write letters to newspaper editors.

What you can do when the 2021 Bill is released

Once the Bill is released, we need transgender people and supporters to make submissions supporting legal gender recognition provisions that are based on self-determination. You can read our BDMRR 101 primer above – it has a lot of useful information to help you understand the issues, and be prepared to make a submission.

You can also see the rainbow community statement below, which was written just before the last version of the Bill was released in August 2018. It set out the types of legal changes that were needed and why. This statement was written by takatāpui, trans and non-binary people and organisations in Aotearoa New Zealand, and endorsed by a number of organisations and individuals, including former Human Rights Commissioners. It was written and published in a short timeframe, so it was not circulated broadly for people to sign on. 

Recommendations once the 2021 Bill is released

1. Support the need to change the current law

Many rightwing conservatives, fundamentalist faith based groups, and anti-trans campaign groups want to keep the current BDMRR Act, which requires trans people to have medical interventions and go to the Family Court before they can amend their birth certificate. These campaigns against the Bill are based on mis-information and harmful stereotypes of trans people, especially trans women.

It is critical that transgender people and supporters make submissions supporting the BDMRR Bill – so that trans people can change their birth certificates to match other ID documents.

A birth certificate is the only ID document that anyone born in Aotearoa can access which cannot ever be taken away from them. The more support for the Bill, the more likely that MPs will resist pressure to make the Bill weaker because of the campaign against it.

2. Suggest ways to improve the Bill

When the BDMRR Bill was released in August 2018, we saw that it needed significant improvements. The new Minister has said she is making changes to the 2018 version. When the 2021 version is released, GMA will provide its analysis about what is still missing – let us know your thoughts as well.

This initial response to the 2018 Bill (below) was sent to the previous Minister from a group of rainbow community organisations, explaining some of the changes needed. It’s been almost three years since that letter was written and our communities do not want to keep waiting for the next review of the law for any of these changes. 

Trans individuals, and groups such as Rainbow Path, have been lobbying for options for trans asylum seekers and Convention refugees who aren’t permanent residents to have official documentation with their correct name and sex marker. 

Our concerns include

The 2018 Bill only applies to people with a NZ birth certificate. Even the existing BDMRR Act allows permanent residents and citizens born overseas to use the current Family Court process to get a Declaration as to Sex with their correct name and sex / gender marker. The 2021 Bill should include an option for trans migrants that is a simple, administrative process, similar to that being introduced for trans people born in Aotearoa or being considered for asylum seekers and Convention refugees who are not permanent residents.  

The current law does not include a non-binary option for birth certificates.

It is important that sex markers can be updated by youth, regardless of age, and that sex markers can be updated more than once, as a person’s gender may change over time.


History of the Bill

2017 – 2018: The Bill went to the Select Committee in 2017, containing no changes to the current Family Court process. Yet, the Select Committee had just released a separate report saying the process for changing sex details on a birth certificate needed to change to be based on self-identification, in response to a petition started by Allyson Hamblett (below). The Government’s response to that Select Committee report also reinforced that the focus of the Select Committee’s review of the current BDMRR Act now included issues raised in the petition. 

Many people then made submissions to the Select Committee. Community submissions explained why changing the Family Court process was necessary, and how it should be done.  After hearing all the submissions, in August 2018, the Select Committee produced a new version of the Bill, introducing a simpler process for changing the sex marker on birth certificates without going to the Family Court. It was a huge improvement, though it still fell short of meeting trans and intersex people’s needs. A number of  community groups wrote a joint letter to the then Minister Tracey Martin, offering suggestions to improve some of the terms in the Bill, making it the same process as changing the sex marker in passports, and noted some gaps that needed to be addressed; such as legal gender recognition for asylum seekers and refugees. You can read that letter in section 2, above. 

2019 – 2020: The Minister at the time then “deferred” the Bill and instead formed a Working Group to recommend how the Family Court process could be fixed without changing the law. 

2021: The Working Group’s report was released on 29 April 2021, along with the Government’s response, below. The Working Group identified a vast array of problems with the current process and ways some of these could be improved – and made it clear that a law change was also needed. In her media release shortly after, Minister Jan Tinetti agreed, saying she intends to progress this Bill, with the hope of passing it in 2021 – “The Bill will enable people to self-identify their sex on their birth certificate without going to the Family Court. They will instead be able to apply online as they currently do for other identity documents, like driver’s licenses and passports.

Department of Internal Affairs overview, timelines, and reports.

New Zealand Parliament history of the Bill, related reports, and other papers including public submissions.

Rainbow Experiences Research

Rainbow Experiences Research

A new research report has just been released, Writing Themselves In 4, which takes an in depth look into the health and well being of rainbow young people in Australia.

Here we will report on some of the interesting findings, which may correspond somewhat with life in Aotearoa. There figures are for rainbow people only, and are not compared to the overall population.

Sexuality and Gender

Sexuality by gender

Overall, cisgender people identified overwhelmingly as bisexual, followed by gay. Transgender people overall identified as “something else”, followed by bisexual and pansexual.

Transgender women were most likely to identify as “something else” (29.2%), followed by pansexual or lesbian (23.6% each).

Trans men were most likely to identify as bisexual (30.3%), followed by “something else” (24.1%), then gay (15%).

Non-binary participants were most likely to identify as pansexual (21.1%), then bisexual (19.2%), then queer (17.1%).

Cisgender women were most likely to identify as bisexual (45.3%), followed by lesbian (19%).

Cisgender men were most likely to identify as gay (56.4%), then bisexual (24%).

Gender by sexuality

Lesbian people were most often transgender women.
Pansexual people were most often trans women.
Queer people were most often non-binary people.
Asexual people were most often non-binary people.
People who identified as “something else” were most often transgender women.
Gay people were most often cisgender men.
Bisexual people were most often cisgender women, or transgender men.

Lumping all genders with a particular sexuality together gives a false impression of who needs support

The above section gives us an important insight into how data needs to be collected and analysed.

Often data for lesbians is assumed to relate to cisgender women, but we see here that it is more likely to relate to transgender women. Likewise, data for bisexuals is usually assumed to relate to cisgender bisexuals, but we see here that it is most likely to relate to cisgender women and transgender men. We also see that data relating to asexual, pansexual, queer, and people who identify as “something else” is likely to specifically relate to transgender people, much more than to cisgender people.

Separating gender from sexual orientation (eg. “asexual cisgender women” and “asexual non-binary people”) is the only way to get an accurate picture of who is experiencing what, and where supports and resources are needed.


This section looks at harassment, including verbal, physical, and sexual harassment or assault.

Verbal harassment by gender

The study showed that verbal harassment was most often experienced by trans women at 71.2%, then by trans men at 63.3%, followed by non-binary people at 52.8%. For cisgender rainbow people, this was much lower, with 45% of cis men and 30.2% of cis women experiencing this.

Physical harassment by gender

Physical harassment was experienced most often by trans men at 16.8%, followed by trans women at 15.9%, and non-binary people at 13%. 12% of cisgender men experienced this, and 5.7% of cisgender women.

Sexual harassment by gender

44.8% of transgender women experienced sexual harassment, followed by non-binary people at 27.7%, and trans men at 23.2%. 21.1% of cis men and 20.8% of cis women experienced this.

Harassment by gender

Harassment by sexuality

Verbal harassment By sexuality

Verbal harassment was most frequently experienced by gay people (49.4%), followed by pansexuals (47.7%), then queers (46.4%). Lesbians experienced this the next most frequently at 44.2%, followed by those who identified as “something else” at 38.5%. Bisexual and asexual people came in lowest, at 33.8% and 32.6% respectively.

Physical harassment By sexuality

Physical harassment was highest equally for gay and pansexual people at 13.2%, followed by queer people at 10.2% and those who identified as “something else” at 10%. Lesbians followed at 9.5%, bisexuals at 7.2%, and asexuals at 5%.

Sexual harassment By sexuality

Sexual harassment was most common for queer people (27.4%), followed by lesbians at 25.3%, pansexuals at 24.2%, and “something else” at 23.5%. 21.9% of gay people experienced sexual harassment, followed by 21.4% of bisexuals, and 15.6% of asexuals.

Harassment on the basis of identity

Harassment based specifically on a person’s identity was a separate question.

Identity based verbal harassment by gender

Trans women topped the chart at 71.2%, followed by trans men at 63.3%, and non-binary people at 52.8%. Cis men and cis women experienced this at 45% and 30.2% respectively.

Identity based physical harassment by gender

16.8% of trans men experienced this, followed by 15.9% of trans women, 13% of non-binary people, 12% of cis men, and 5.7% of cis women.

Identity based sexual harassment by gender

44.8% of trans women experienced this, followed by 27.7% of non-binary people, 23.2% of trans men, 21.1% of cis men, and 20,8% of cis women.

Harassment based on identity, by gender

Harassment based on identity, by sexuality

Identity based verbal harassment by sexuality

This was most common for gay participants at 68.4%, followed closely by queer participants at 67.4%. Pansexuals experienced this at 63.4%, followed by lesbians at 60.6%, those who identified as “something else” (53.8%), bisexuals (50%), and asexuals (45.6%).

Identity based physical harassment by sexuality

Again gays experienced this at the highest rate of 21.4%, pansexuals at 20%, queers at 17.6%, “something else” at 15.7%, and lesbians at 14.5%. Bisexuals experienced this at 11.2% and asexuals at 10%.

Identity based sexual harassment by sexuality

Sexual harassment was experienced most commonly by queers at 36.4%, followed by lesbians at 31.9%. and pansexuals at 30.4%. Those identifying as “something else” followed at 30.3%, then gays at 28.9%, bisexuals at 27.7%, and asexuals at 21.7%.

Harassment at school by sexuality

Verbal harassment was most often experienced by gay people (25.6%), followed by pansexuals (24.7%), lesbians (21.7%), “something else” (22.1%), bisexuals (16.6%), and asexuals (12.6%).


Homelessness was most often experienced by trans women (41.3%), then trans men (39.3%), then non-binary people (31.8%). 19.4% and 19.3% of cis women and cis men experienced this.

By sexuality, homelessness was most likely to be experienced by pansexuals (31.4%), queers (28.8%), and “something else” (26.9%). 22.8% of lesbians, 21% of gays, 20.5% of bisexuals, and 19.3% of asexuals experienced this.

Psychological Distress

Much like in Aotearoa, rates of psychological distress were high due to stigma and discrimination, especially for trans people.

“Very high” psychological distress was experienced by 67.9% of trans men, 64% of trans women, and 63.7% of non-binary trans people. Cis women experienced this at 52.2%, and cis men at 34.1%.

By sexuality, pansexual (63.8%), lesbian (57.2%), and queer people (55.5%) were the most likely to experience “very high” psychological distress. This was also experienced by bisexual people at 52.8%, “something else” at 52.6%, asexual people at 48.1%, and gay people at 37.7%. “Low” distress was most commonly reported by gay people at 11.5%, those who identified as “something else” at 5.3%, and bisexuals at 4.9%.

Self harm

By gender, self harm was highest for trans men (85.8%), followed by non-binary people (76.1%), and trans women (68%), with cis women next (63.3%) and cis men last (38.6%).

By sexuality, pansexuals experienced self harm most commonly (74.3%), followed by queers (70.8%), and lesbians (68.4%). Bisexuals and “something else” came in just over 62%, and asexuals at 55.5%.

Suicide review

by gender

Suicidal ideation was most common for trans men at 92.1%, followed by trans women at 90.7%, non-binary people at 87.5%, cis women at 77.5%, and cis men at 67.6%.

A suicide plan was most common for trans men at 73.3%, followed by trans women at 61.3%, non-binary people at 58.4%, cis women at 44.9%, and cis men at 33%.

Suicide attempts were most common for trans men at 46.9%, followed by trans women at 40%, non-binary people at 34.8%, cis women at 22.7%, and cis men at 16.6%.

by Sexuality

Suicidal ideation was most common for pansexuals at 84.8% and queers at 83.1%. They were followed by lesbians at 81.5%, “something else” at 78.8%, bisexuals at 79.3%, asexuals at 75.4%, and gays at 68.8%.

A suicide plan was most common for pansexuals at 57,2%, followed by queers at 53.8%, lesbians at 50.1%, “something else” at 47.4%, bisexuals at 46.6%, asexuals at 42.9%, and gays at 37.6%.

Suicide attempts were most common for pansexuals at 35.1%, followed by both queers and lesbians at 30%, those identifying as “something else” at 25.6%, bisexuals at 23.5%, asexuals at 21.1%, and gays at 19.3%.

in the past 12 months

By gender, in the last 12 months, trans people had much higher rates of suicidal ideation, suicide planning, and suicide attempts than their cisgender rainbow peers.

Pansexual, queer, and lesbian populations also had higher statistics across all areas than their bisexual, gay, asexual, and other rainbow peers.

Supporting transgender people: online course

Supporting transgender people: online course

Gender Minorities Aotearoa is offering a free online course, Supporting Transgender People. This course is designed to increase your knowledge of issues affecting transgender people in Aotearoa, and to build your confidence in speaking about these issues and supporting transgender people. It is a 101 course and suitable for people with any level of knowledge on transgender issues.

The course takes 2 to 3 hours to complete, and is broken into 3 sessions. You can stop at any time and continue later by logging in again. There are links to further reading at the end of some sections – these are optional and are not included in the time allocation.

This course is suitable for families, friends, supporters, and professional development. A certificate of completion is issued at the end of the course.

What each chapter covers

By the end of chapter 1. you will be able to:

    1. Differentiate between gender, sex characteristics, and sex assigned at birth.
    2. Explain the meaning of words like transgender, cisgender, and non-binary.
    3. Talk about the difference between intersex and transgender.

By the end of chapter 2. you will be able to:

    1. Understand how stereotypes, prejudice, and discrimination interact.
    2. Distinguish between discrimination in public life and private life.
    3. Recognise the impact of discrimination across multiple areas of life.
    4. Recognise physical, psychological, emotional, spiritual, and social impacts of discrimination.

By the end of chapter 3. you will be able to:

    1. Name protective factors which assist trans peoples well-being.
    2. Identify ways to support trans people in your personal life.
    3. Identify ways to support trans people in their public life.
    4. Find more information.

Content warning: this course discusses stigma, discrimination, and violence experienced by transgender and intersex people. Some content may be distressing.

The Tindall Foundation

This course was made with support from The Tindall Foundation

Be an ally 101

Be an ally 101

In our “Be an Ally 101” we discuss how common trans people are, what their lives are like, how to support a trans person you know, how to support trans rights, and where to find out more.

This post is available in article, video, and booklet format. See the link in the footer for sharing permissions.

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Some supportive allies ask questions like…

– “How common is being trans in Aotearoa?
– “What are the issues for trans people?
– “How can I support a trans person who I know?
– “How can I be a good ally more generally?

How Common is Being Trans?

Trans people make up at least 1% of the population. The population of NZ is around 4.917 million, so at 1% the number of trans people in NZ is around 50,000. That means at least one trans person for every 100 patients, students, workers, or people in a community.

The Youth12 study (NZ) showed that 1.2% of school students identified as transgender.
The Youth19 study (of 7,721 adolescents) showed 1% identified as trans. 73% of these said they identified as transgender before age 14.
A recent GLAAD (USA) study also showed 1% of people identified as transgender.
The GLAAD study also showed that 16% of non-trans (cis) people knew a trans person in real life.

Issues for trans people

Public Life

Trans people experience extremely high levels of stigma and discrimination across all areas of public life including in education, employment, housing, accessing healthcare, goods and services, justice, sports and recreation, policy and legislative input, and other areas. This results in high levels of material hardship.

Examples include

13% asked inappropriate questions during a health visit in the last year.
1 in 5 are homeless at some point. This figure is 1 in 4 for non-Europeans.
46% of homeless trans people were discriminated against by landlords.
Only 14% participate in sports, vs 26% of the general population.
20% were disrespected or mistreated by a doctor in the last year.
Sex education does not include trans people’s existence.
55% of students are unable to access health care when they need it, vs 19% of cisgender students.
17% have experienced “conversion therapy” in a health setting.
1 in 3 avoid seeing a doctor when they need one, to avoid being disrespected.
23% of trans students are bullied at least weekly, vs 5% of cis students.
The median income is half the median income for the general population.
71% of homeless trans people moved at least once every 6 months on average in the last 5 years.
67% experience discrimination. 44% experienced this in the last year, vs 17% for the general population.

Private life

Trans people experience very high levels of stigma, exclusion, social isolation, and violence in their personal lives.

Examples include

59% of homeless trans people don’t contact their family to help find housing.
Two thirds of trans students “come out” while at school, but of those who do, only a third feel safe to come out to parents.
64% of trans students say at least one parent cares about them “a lot”, vs 94% cis students.
72% of homeless trans people first experienced homelessness as a teenager.
36% of trans people have been forced to have sex against their will – this is 3x the rate of women in the general population (11%). This is more common for non-binary people and adults. For disabled trans people, this figure is 7x the rate of the general population*
82% of homeless trans people say transphobia from housemates was a factor.
Only 32% of trans students feel safe in their neighbourhood vs 58% cis students

* Sexual violence figures are estimated to be severely under-reported for all groups

Mental health and well being

The pervasive stigma, discrimination, and violence which trans populations experience not only impacts on their physical and material well being, but also on their psychological, emotional, and spiritual well being.
Trans people experience high levels of distress, anxiety, depression, self harm, substance use, and suicidal ideation.

Examples include

57% of trans students people report significant depressive symptoms, vs 22% of cis students.
71% live with high levels of psychological distress, vs 8% of the general population.
Trans people use cannabis at 3x the rate of the general population.
26% of trans students attempted suicide in the past year, vs 6% of cis students.
57% of trans students have self harmed in the past year, vs 22% of cis students.
For trans people, substance abuse is linked to mental health and neurodiversity more often than disability or chronic pain.
79% of homeless trans people have a mental health condition, and 66% are neurodiverse.

Resilience and protective factors

Trans people are highly motivated, hard working, and care a lot about community and family. They are very likely to be involved in supporting others, volunteering, and community work. “Chosen family” are the main source of support for many trans people. Family, whānau, and friends are also important.

Examples include

62% agree they are proud to be trans, while only 14% disagree.
Connection to culture is a strong protective factor against suicide.
85% of disabled trans people socialise with other trans people online. Overall 74% of trans people do this..
Feeling connected to trans community is linked to better health outcomes.
Māori are more likely than most trans people to feel connected to their culture, to receive support from whānau after having experienced sexual violence, and to want to have a child or more children.
58% provide a lot of support for other trans people, and 56% feel connected to other trans people.
90% of trans people with housing instability contact friends to help them find housing.
62% of trans students are involved in volunteering, vs 54% of cis students.
Disabled trans people are more likely to be involved in political activism.
Strength of informal networks is a critical protective factor.
Safety is paramount to trans people, including when it comes to housing.
Those who are supported by their family/whānau have better mental health.

How to ally

Supporting a trans person you know

How to give the right support depends on your relationship to the trans person. You can find in depth resources at

Everyone: don’t “out them” as trans without their permission, don’t ask invasive questions. Do respect their pronouns and name, do listen to them.

Friends: be there for them, listen to them about what they need and how you can support them.

Health teams: provide accurate information, follow the National Guidelines for Gender Affirming Healthcare, use Informed Consent, and let the patient decide what they need.

Landlords: rent to them.

Partners: respect and care for them.

Families: let them know you love and support them no matter what. Fight for them when they need you.

School and work: provide a safe learning/work environment, deal with bullying appropriately.

Supporting the trans rights movement

Supporting trans rights means taking whatever space you have influence in and making it safe for trans people. You can find in depth resources at [see links below, the main menu, and our blog page].

Amplify trans voices: read/listen to trans people and share their perspectives, link to their content.

At school or work: ask if your school or employer meets the minimum legal requirements for a safe school/work environment.

Political advocacy: being a good ally means walking beside; not over or in front of. Take your lead from trans-led orgs, which are experts on trans issues.

In your community: talk to others about trans rights, share why you think it’s important. Consider trans people in everyday life.

Feminists and women’s rights groups: include trans women in making decisions, and discuss the facts – eg. talk about the trans pay gap, and bodily autonomy for trans people.

Scrap biological essentialism..

Examine your biases.

Talk to friends and family about trans rights.

Stand up against transphobia when you see it.

Remember intent =/= impact.

Find out more

Learn about recognising transphobia, being a supportive family, healthy relationships, and more, at

Sources for statistics

Gender Minorities Aotearoa (3,000 contacts a year across NZ)

Counting Ourselves (2019).

Youth19 (2021).

Where Do You Sleep at Night? Transgender Experiences of Housing Instability and Homelessness (2020).

Detransition or Retransition Support

Detransition or Retransition Support

What is detrainsition or retransition?

A small number of people affirm a transgender identity (sometimes referred to as “coming out of the closet”), and later realise they aren’t, or decide to affirm a cisgender identity again.

They may have a change of gender identity – affirming that a cisgender identity is the one that feels best for them, or they may simply decide to outwardly take on a cisgender identity while inwardly maintaining a transgender identity (“go back into the closet”).

Sometimes those who affirm a cisgender identity after having affirmed a transgender one are referred to as “detransitioners”, “retransitioners”, or someone who has “detransitioned” or “retransitioned”.

“People are said to retransition or detransition if they affirm a cisgender identity after affirming a transgender one. Although gender identity does tend to evolve, to some degree, throughout a person’s life, detransition is relatively rare—particularly for those who have engaged with medical or surgical gender affirmation.” Elizabeth Boskey, PhD.

What’s the difference between ‘detransition’ and ‘retransition’?

Usually “retransition” is the term that acknowledges that gender identity is a journey of exploration, and that it is possible to transition to a transgender identity or a cisgender identity multiple times.
The word “detransition” is most often used by anti-trans campaigners, who wish to stop people from accessing gender-affirming healthcare – either to affirm a transgender identity or a cisgender one.

Both words are used in this article, to help people find it when they search the internet.

No matter what kind of transition journey a person is on, it is important to have appropriate healthcare and supports.

Why do people retransition?

A 2015 survey of nearly 28,000 people, carried out by the National Center for Transgender Equality (USA), showed that 8% of respondents reported ‘detransitioning’. Of those who detransitioned, 62% said that they only detransitioned temporarily.

The most common reason for re/detransitioning was pressure from a parent.

0.4% said they detransitioned after realising that particular transgender identity didn’t feel right for them.

Conversion therapy

Conversion therapy (or transphobic bullying) by parents, schools, therapists, faith community leaders, or other adults is not OK. If you need to talk, you can get in touch with us. If you need immediate crisis support, contact a crisis line – there is one linked below. If you are experiencing pressure to retransition or detransition from a parent, GMA has resources to help your family be more supportive.

In the recent article Detransition as Conversion Therapy: A Survivor Speaks Out, a trans man and ex-detransitioner wrote:

“Ideologically motivated detransition is conversion therapy. It tries to convince trans people that our sense of self is false, that we can’t have happy or satisfying lives as trans people. I can see now that I wasted years of my life trying to fix a part of myself that was never broken and suffering needlessly in the process. I presented myself as a detransition success story but the truth is that detransitioning did not work for me and was an act of self-denial and rejection.”

Exploring genders

Exploring gender can be important, empowering, fun, and liberating. Regardless of age, the freedom to choose how one expresses their gender is an important human right. If a person explores being a different gender, and later decides it’s not for them, there is no reason why they should be made to feel shame, regret, or that there is something wrong with them.

This includes people who transition, for example, from “female” to male, then later realise they are non-binary. It’s perfectly OK to try out different genders before settling where one feels most at home.

It is healthy and OK to be whatever gender you are – whether you are transgender, or not.
You deserve to explore, express, and be yourself. There is no “wrong way” to be who you are.

Staying safe

Temporary re/detransition is relatively common, because it is so hard to be out in the world as a transgender person; due to stigma, discrimination, and violence. Many people retransition or detransition for a period of time after initially “coming out” as trans, in order to stay safe – whether this is at work, at home, or out in society generally. Most commonly, this is due to pressure from a parent. Most people who retransition or detransition eventually transition back to a trans identity when it is safe for them to do so.

Permanent retransition or detransition is much less common, but is usually also due to stigma, discrimination, and violence. International research has consistently shown that less than 1% retransition or detransition because they simply realise they were wrong about being trans.

“We can’t treat detransition as the end of person’s journey in exploring their gender identity, as many will choose to retransition [to a transgender identity] at a later point when they are safe and supported” – Stonewall UK.

Whatever the reason, respect a persons gender – it is OK to be trans, and it is OK to have tried out being trans at some point in one’s journey.

Retransition rights

Whether a person retransitions or detransitions temporarily or permanently, they deserve the same right to bodily integrity, autonomy, and accurate identity documents. GMA advocates for retransitioning people to have access to respectful and appropriate healthcare, including further hormone therapy and gender-affirming surgeries if necessary. For example, a retransitioned person who has had an oophorectomy may require estrogen therapy, and must be allowed to access this.

GMA also advocates for the ability to change the gender marker on birth certificates more than once – if a person has changed it and wants to change back, they should have the right to do so.

Bodily integrity, autonomy, and human rights are important for all people.

Social stigma

Most of the social stigma for having retransitioned is stigma for having transitioned in the first place. It is transphobia being misdirected at those who once identified as transgender, but no longer do.

All trans people and retransitioned people deserve to live free from transphobia, stigma, discrimination, and violence.

Medical regret

Research shows that the “rate of regret” for people who have undergone gender affirming medical treatments is below 1%, and is most commonly regret due a lack of support from families and communities, though some occasional (not complete) regret is due to poor surgical outcomes. (Smith, Van Goozen, Kuiper, Cohen-Kettenis 2005, M Landén, J Wålinder, G Hambert, B Lundström 1998).

One study over several decades showed 2.2% of participants experienced some form of regret for medically transitioning, however the rate of regret lessened over time, perhaps as medical procedures improved (Dhejne, Arver, Oberg, Landén 2014). However, recent longitudinal studies found that none of the participants expressed regret over medically transitioning (Krege et al. 2001, De Cuypere et al. 2006).

In a study of 22,725 patients who had undergone gender affirming surgeries, only 22 patients experienced regret on the basis of a change in gender identity. (Danker, Narayan, Bluebond-Langner, Schechter, Berli, 2018).

This study concluded that:

“Regret after gender-affirming surgery is an exceedingly rare event. Reasons for regret or detransition are diverse, ranging from change in gender identity to societal and relationship pressures to post-surgical pain. It is not uncommon for detransition to be associated with surgical complications.”

Whether a retransitioned or detransitioned person regrets past treatments or not, they deserve access to the healthcare they currently need – which may include further hormone therapy and gender affirming surgeries.

Pressure to retransition or detransition

Messaging throughout society puts pressure on young people to be the gender they were assigned at birth. This includes messaging that promotes cisgender (non-transgender) people as normal, and does not give the same positive message about transgender people.

There is also more overt transphobic messaging in many films and other media, with transgender people often portrayed in a negative light.

Many public places do not have gender-neutral bathrooms, dresses and skirts are usually designed to fit only cisgender women’s bodies, some schools refuse to let trans students wear the uniform that fits their gender, and there are sometimes pressures from healthcare providers as well, with a recent NZ study on 1,178 trans people showing that 17% of trans people had experienced conversion therapy in a healthcare setting. Trans people are routinely discriminated against in education, employment, housing, and other areas.

Fundamentalist faith based groups, anti-trans campaigners, and ultra-right (conservative extremist) groups promote misinformation aimed at frightening families into pressuring their young people to detransition.

Another article Detransition Awareness Day: Inconvenient Truths and Community Building talks about the ways that the narrative on detransition are constructed to attack transgender people and undermine retransition:

“We created a community that often encouraged people to use their trauma to attack the trans community and trans healthcare […] Transphobic radical feminists were the first to use detrans women. Later on transphobic parent groups, conversion therapists, right-wing Christians and other anti-trans groups would also seek to harness detrans women.

“Transphobic people latch onto to detrans people because to them detrans people are proof that transitioning and living as a trans person is harmful. Therefore they have an investment in detransitioned people’s suffering rather than their healing and happiness. They have an investment in detrans people viewing transition as “irreversible damage”. If a person harmed by medical transition can get all that they need to heal and have a good life, they are no longer so useful in proving the inherent harms of transition. Rather, they show that the problem is access to resources and competent medical treatment.

There is so much pressure – both political and personal – to retransition or detransition. But whatever the reason for retransitioning or detransitioning, the supports needed by the individual are very similar to the supports needed by those transitioning to a transgender identity: access to appropriate medical care, accurate identity documents, and the freedom to express their gender however they see fit.

Get support

If you are struggling with gender, being pressured to retransition or detransition, or are unable to access gender affirming retransition or detransition medical care and need information or support, get in touch with us.

We support your right – no matter what the reason – to retransition or detransition, and to have access to appropriate medical care, identification documents, and support.